Changing plans to take a “caregiving detour” to care for a friend or family member is not uncommon these days—a staggering 25% of us in Canada are caring for a loved one on a full or part time basis. And believe me, every one of us, at one moment or another, is or will be feeling the heat coming from the additional responsibilities.
Often, we’re on our own, managing as single parents, or bouncing back from a mid-life divorce when the call comes. Some carers are newcomers to Canada who are worrying about their elder’s well-being at the same time as learning their way in a new country and trying to navigate a vastly different and by many accounts, complex, healthcare system.
When someone needs us for short or long term, our lives go on hold, indefinitely and regardless of what else was going on in our lives. It might be a fall, an unfortunate diagnosis or help needed to recover from an operation that starts to rock the boat. Suffice it to say, activities planned, career moves, dealing with a housing challenge or other family matters suddenly take a back seat.
Few of us have the “person needing care” formula built into our agenda’s and time management planners so its sudden arrival comes as a big, bold interruption. But as with other bumps in the road, or “detours”, the onus is on us to find an alternate route which may, or may not, be well sign-posted.
Caregiving is a journey of discovery with precious moments, new ways of doing things to understand and skills to be mastered. It’s a time for patience and doing what it takes to pull out all the stops. It requires creativity, tenacity, backbone and the ability to bring together all of the resources we can muster.
Caregiving is, for most of us, a labour of love and, as one caregiver I spoke to recently suggested, “I expect things to be a mess. I expect interruptions and I know that I’ll have to wade in on a regular basis, come what may. Stress happens. But, I’m coping because I’ve learned to make resiliency my standard of care.”