Becoming a family caregiver – Ashley’s story

Becoming a family caregiver – Ashley’s story

At Elizz, our motto is “Family caregivers are everywhere. We see you”, and our mission is to equip all family caregivers, at whatever stage of the caregiving journey, with the information they need to feel confident in their skills, and validate their contribution towards the people they are caring for.

Canadian caregiver statistics

  • Currently, there are 8.1 million family caregivers across Canada
  • That’s nearly 30 per cent of the Canadian population
  • Family caregivers contribute an estimated $25 billion in unpaid caregiving work each year

On top of the caregiving duties they perform each day, 75 per cent of family caregivers are also in the workforce and 42 per cent of caregivers are helping more than one person. As well, 58 per cent of Canadians who do not currently identify as a family caregiver expect to be one in the near future.

I feel honoured that I will be able to care for people who spent so many years caring for their children and parents. I want to uphold the tradition, but know services like Elizz will be what I rely on to keep going.

That’s just a brief snapshot of what the Canadian caregiving landscape is like now, and in the near future.

Q&A with Ashley

One person, whose story is shared below through this Elizz Q&A, fits most of the demographics mentioned above and is one of our own.

Ashley, a nurse and case manager at Saint Elizabeth, the non-profit organization that powers Elizz, is in her early 30s, married, and self-identifies as a future caregiver for six members of her family. No matter what stage of the caregiving journey you’re on, Ashley’s story may be one that you can identify with.

Q: Who do you expect to be caring for in the future?

Ashley: I’m currently providing health-care guidance to our parents (hers and her husband’s) for grandparents who each have multiple ailments, and all parents will be heavily depending on my information and knowledge and care when they require it themselves. I have promised my maternal grandparents and my parents that they will remain at home as long as possible, even if it means me moving in with them or them moving in with myself and my husband. I frequently say I am not a caregiver, but I am in the early stages. My parents are beginning to experience health concerns and I am constantly educating them on these concerns.

Q: Do you experience any pressure around becoming a family caregiver? If so, what are they?

Ashley: Absolutely. Being a nurse, I am the go-to for advice on what the next steps are. We have grandparents with multiple ailments, and while I am not the active caregiver to them, I am definitely guiding the caregivers. I’ve also promised my parents that they will stay at home until they pass because that’s what is tradition in our family. Since marrying my husband, I know I’ve also taken on that responsibility within my husband’s blended family.

Q: How do you feel about someday becoming a full-time family caregiver?

Ashley: I’m nervous because, while my husband’s parents are local, my parents and grandparents live 10 hours away. I’ve already begun planning on getting my parents to southern Ontario before they are in need of a more frequent caregiver, in hopes to make that transition smoother. The problem with this plan is that they won’t leave Timmins until my grandparents have passed, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my parents will remain in good health while my grandparents are still with us. If I’ve learned anything in my job, however, it is that things rarely go according to plan. It’s a waiting game that may land me in Timmins one day, far from my job and my husband.

Q: You mentioned the distance that you have to travel between your parents and grandparents. What is the toll all of that travelling is taking on you?

Ashley: Right now, it is an emotional toll. I do a lot of telephone advice, but wish I could attend appointments. A lot of times, my parents come home from doctor’s appointments and forgot to ask things that I recommended they ask, and they say, “Well, you could have been at the appointment if you were here.” My grandparents in Timmins also have significant health concerns. Fortunately, my mother and aunt are caregivers to them and are helping them manage, but when I visit, I learn of things that are simple fixes to everyday health challenges that a nurse notices, but not until you see the problems for yourself.

Q: In what ways has knowing you’re a future caregiver shaped your decision-making?

Ashley: As mentioned, planning ahead for moving my parents sooner. I’m also prepared to have to take a leave from my job, and travel home if my grandparents needed me urgently. This requires a lot of advanced financial planning. Future caregiving is always in the back of my mind, influencing already complex decisions such as buying a house; two-storey homes are not ailment-friendly!

Q: Do you feel that you have the tools and support necessary to become a family caregiver? Or at least know where to acquire them when you become a regular family caregiver?

Ashley: I do, but only thanks to my role as a case manager [at Saint Elizabeth]. Without my years of researching health care services, I’d feel so lost. I can appreciate the overwhelming stress experienced by caregivers who aren’t in the healthcare field!

Q: Is there anything you’d like to add about being a future family caregiver?

Ashley: I feel honoured that I will be able to care for people who spent so many years caring for their children and parents. I want to uphold the tradition, but know services like Elizz will be what I rely on to keep going. I know it will be a long journey, but I know that it will make my parents and grandparents happy and that is all I could ask for.

Conclusion

While Ashely’s circumstances are uniquely hers, a lot of her concerns about future caregiving are mirrored by the 58 per cent of the population who expect to become a family caregiver in the near future. Ashley’s medical background is an asset that not a lot of family caregivers, current or future, have at their disposal.

Whether you’re anticipating being a caregiver sometime in the future, or you are currently entrenched in caregiving duties, or your caregiving journey has come to an end, knowing what stage of the caregiving journey you’re on will help you find strategies to cope with the situation you now face.

If you were to pinpoint your position on the caregiving journey, where would you be?

Take the Elizz 5 LifeStages of Caregiving to find out.  

Elizz, the place to go for all things caregiving, is powered by the not-for-profit organization Saint Elizabeth Health Care.

If you feel you will soon be a future caregiver or you are in the process of becoming a family caregiver, Elizz is here to help. Elizz offers online support services for caregivers as well as for those in your care.

You can also speak to someone at Elizz directly by calling 1-855-Ask-Eliz (275-3549).

 

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