Practical resources to help family caregivers in the midst of caring for someone

Caregivers and experts working together to cultivate independence

The independence and abilities of the person in your care can directly impact both your wellbeing and your role as a caregiver. Some of the factors that can affect caregiver strain include:

  • The number of hours spent caregiving
  • How prepared the caregiver is for caregiving
  • The type(s) of care being given
  • How much the care recipient is able to do without help (such as shopping, bathing, or dressing)

When possible, enhancing the ability of the person in your care to live as independently as possible benefits not only the person receiving the care but those providing care as well. There is a tendency for caregivers to do more than may be necessary and create dependency as a result. It’s important for you to foster and encourage the person you’re caring for to be as independent as possible.

You do not need to do this alone. It is the main goal of both physiotherapists and occupational therapists to see that the individual(s) in your care live with the most independence as possible. They are an invaluable resource for caregivers to leverage for support in cultivating independent living.

Physiotherapists are recognized experts in the area of physical rehabilitation and are essential members of the health care team. Their primary goal is to promote optimum health and optimize an individual’s physical ability to remain as independent as possible through setting achievable goals and action plans. These physiotherapy plans for independence may include:

  • Exercises and training to improve walking, climbing stairs, and transferring;
  • Training to improve one’s balance and coordination;
  • Manual therapy to improve one’s range of motion; and
  • Conducting fall prevention assessments and making home safety recommendations.

Occupational therapists assist people to solve the problems that affect what they need and want to do. They teach skills for the job of living. Their primary goals are to promote independence, maintain ability, develop skills, promote health, and restore the function needed for the individual to complete their daily activities. In addition, occupational therapists also:

  • Assess cognitive ability and teach skills to better cope with cognitive impairments;
  • Assess home safety and develop fall prevention strategies;
  • Provide techniques to reduce pain and manage stress;
  • Assist in accessing community resources; and
  • Assess and make assistive device recommendations.

Caregiver collaboration with occupational therapists and physiotherapists

When collaborating with occupational therapists and physiotherapists, you may be consulted during the assessment to provide relevant information regarding the individual needing care. Having this information on-hand during the appointment will speed up the process of getting the person you’re caring for the help that they need.

As a caregiver, you might also be asked to participate in a number of ways in the program such as:

  • Establishing goals and interventions
  • Physically supporting the individual
  • Implementing strategies and/or recommendations
  • Tracking progress and motivating the individual to remain consistent with the program

In turn, occupational therapists and physiotherapists will provide you with the necessary education and training that you need in order to support the individual.

Caregiver exercise

As a caregiver, reflect on the ABILITIES of the person you are caring for and take a minute to write them down. Are there opportunities for them to be more engaged and involved in their everyday care and activities? Remember that what is considered easy for one individual may not be easy for another so try to be realistic and when possible, include the person you are caring for in establishing goals and new routines.

Consider co-creating an action plan that helps you and the person in your care to take simple and actionable steps towards one goal. It is important that this is a mutually developed goal and the plan is realistic and attainable. Don’t forget to celebrate the successes along the way!

Additional Resources

For more information about both occupational therapy  and physiotherapy and how they can benefit those in your care, please visit the following websites:

The Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists

The Ontario Society of Occupational Therapists

The Manitoba Physiotherapy Association

Physiotherapy Alberta College + Association

The Physiotherapy Association of British Columbia

For inspiration, information, and opportunities for those with disabilities, be sure to also check out The Abilities Foundation.

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