Open hearts. Honest conversations.

Episode 5: Family Caregivers

Valerie’s guest is Janet Quenneville, the manager of our Caregivers Connect and Caring Connections for Seniors program. Janet has been working with the Agency for more than a decade, and brings an incredible wealth of information, knowledge, and experience. She has worked extensively with caregivers and seniors in our community, building and supporting many of our programs and services.

In this episode Janet and Valerie talk about something that millions of Canadians are engaged in every year; taking on caregiving for an older friend or family member. Whether its driving your grandfather to his doctor’s appointments, or providing full time care for an aging spouse, the role of caregiver is often overlooked and sometimes under appreciated. We’ll discuss the many tasks a caregiver might take on as well as the symptoms of and remedies for caregiver exhaustion, and also, so importantly, some ideas about where to turn to for support.

There are many complicated aspects of taking on this role of caregiver, many of which might feel like a rejigging of a lifelong relationship; as an adult child caretakes for a once robust parent, or as a spouse steps into the tasks their loved one may have done with pride for decades. We’ll touch on that as well. And, we’ll also consider the joys of caretaking.

If you are currently a caregiver for an older adult or realizing you could be stepping into this role at some point soon, we hope you’ll recognize yourself in this conversation. Our Caregivers Connect program is a way for you to reach out and meet others on this same journey.
Ultimately, we want you know that you are not alone, and that there is help and support available.

Show Notes:

  • A family caregiver is a relative or friend who provides care and support to someone living with chronic disease, disability, mental health, or age-related challenges. 
  • There are currently 1.1 million caregivers in the province of British Columbia. 
  • Anyone can find themselves in the role of caregiver; it’s a role that most people will take on at some point in their lives.  
  • As an unpaid role, the family caregiver tends to be largely overlooked and underappreciated.
  • While most caregivers (64%) spend less than 10 hours a week on caregiving responsibilities, 1 in 3 seniors caring for a spouse spend more than 30 hours a week caregiving.  
  • Typical daily tasks include grocery shopping, meal preparation, looking after finances, providing transportation, liaising with healthcare professionals, housework, and personal care. 
  • While many find the experience of caregiving to be rewarding, caregivers also often report an increased level of stress and a decline in their overall health.  
  • The level of stress tends to increase with the number of hours spent caregiving.
  • For someone with Alzheimer’s disease, behavioural changes may occur. If the person you are caring for becomes agitated or aggressive, it may be that they are over-tired, in pain or experiencing too much noise or confusion. Watch for early signs and deal with the cause before the behaviour begins. If the behaviour persists, seek medical guidance. 
  • The care role often tends to blur boundaries, leaving the caregiver with a feeling of being always on alert, which in turn can lead to exhaustion and/or burnout. 
  • Signs of caregiver burnout may include overwhelming fatigue, feelings of hopelessness, irritability or anger, difficulty coping with everyday things, trouble sleeping, depression or anxiety. 
  • To maintain wellbeing and avoid caregiver burnout, check out community resources and reach out for support. Join a caregiver support group to connect with others who have had similar experiences. Reach out to agencies that provide support specific to the condition or disease your loved one is facing. Find ways to nurture yourself and take care of your own emotional wellbeing. Set an intention each day to actively look for moments of joy. 
  • If you have become a caregiver for someone with whom you’ve had a difficult relationship, follow the above steps to avoid caregiver burnout, avoid arguing, step away and take deep breaths if you feel anger coming on, seek counselling and know your limitations. Find gratitude for the good things in your life.
  • There are many ways to support caregivers in your life. You could: reach out to let them know you’re there for them; listen without judgment or trying to fix things; suggest a way you could help, and learn about resources available in their community and share them with the caregiver.   
  • If you’ve just begun this role, or if you’ve been caregiving for some time, know that you’re not alone. Reach out to join a caregiver support group where you can share the challenges and joys along the caregiving journey.  


We would love to hear from you!

If you have questions about this podcast or suggestions for our future podcasts.

Email us