Online Exclusive: Caregivin’ Ain’t Easy

A growing number of Calgarians are providing caregiving assistance to senior family members or friends under the escalating strains of work and family pressures and a University of Calgary professor is concerned these burdens are increasing to they extend that they impede their ability to look after those they love.

University of Calgary social work professor Dr. Daniel Lai is leading the Manor Village Senior’s Caregiver Research Study to address this growing issue. The study is in partnership with the United Way of Calgary and Area.

The study will take the form of telephone interviews by over a dozen U of C students from different departments, in hopes of interviewing at least 2000 Calgary family and non-family caregivers.

“The goal of the study is to examine the effect that care giving for seniors has on a caregiver’s financial, work, life-balance, and health situation,” said Dr.Lai.

The duties for the caregivers range from intensive bedside care, which includes bathing, feeding and household chores, being a social companion, to directly overseeing certain financial and legal affairs, Lai explained. Some of the difficulties placed upon the caregiver include the additional out-of-pocket fees, not having adequate support services, and giving up work hours and appointments.

They also face the challenges of work restraints, and role conflicts that increase stress between family and work responsibilities, said Lai.

“There needs to be an increased understanding of what is affecting family care givers by corporations and employers,” said Lai.

According to Manor Village Life Centres vice-president operations Nicolle Blais, the number of senior residents at the life centres is increasing, and she believes the study will identify ways to help family caregivers meet the growing demands of the city.

“[The Manor Village Life Centre] encourages the resident to participate as much as possible [and] provides a loved one a community where relief comes to the caregiver,” said Nicolle Blais.

The study targets those 35 years or older providing non-paid care to a friend or relative 65 years or older. One of the major hurdles facing the study is trying to find people willing to take the time and energy out of their already busy life to take part, noted Lai.

But, Lai believes listening to caregivers is very important to help increase awareness.

“The more data that we have is useful to [help] understand the needs [of a caregiver] and for policy changes,” said Dr. Lai.

Dr. Lai would like to see the results of the study go to community groups, such as Alzheimer’s Society, and for it to be accessible to the public. More importantly, he would like to see the results in the hands of the decision-makers in Calgary and Alberta.

“We want to address the inadequacy of the home care environment by providing more pressure to the government,” said Dr.Lai.

For more information about the study, or to help conduct telephone interviews, contact study coordinator of the study Phyllis Luk, at 220-8869.

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