By Amy Stephenson
The Scarborough Centre for Healthy Communities (SCHC) has been operating since 1977 offering a basket of support services to the community. However, many aren’t aware of this gem just around the corner.
Speaking with Joanne, the Community Caregiver Wellness Coordinator, I was able to learn more about the work being done for caregivers at SCHC. While we often think of the patient first, approximately one in four Canadians are caregivers. SCHC recognizes the duties caregivers and care partners face and looks to support them. Joanne highlighted the broad range of services offered for those in a caregiving role.
Who is a caregiver?
“Ordinary people doing extraordinary work, ” Joanne said. A caregiver or care partner is a person who provides support to another faced with a limited capacity – age-related issues, disability or chronic health concerns. Carers are family, friends or neighbours – there is no age requirement to provide care; young carers, adult children, spouses and peers can all support others. Many of us don’t recognize caregiving, but consider it our duty as a child or spouse.
Recognizing the title and what it means encourages individuals to access important support. As they say at the start of every flight, you need to secure your own air mask prior to helping another. Joanne and her team work to raise awareness so caregivers can identify themselves and access support. They work to ensure that those in caregiving roles are able to access the tools available.
How are caregivers impacted by their title?
Often caregiving is done in addition to roles outside of existing duties. These additional duties lead to feelings of closeness with their loved one, strong ties, and a sense of fulfilment. However, the title also means balancing existing work and personal demands, leading to feelings of being overwhelmed or burnt out.
What support is available?
SCHC strives to provide care and support to all members of the community, not least caregivers/partners. They offer specific programs to empower, educate and connect those in caregiving roles. The Caregiver Wellness Team, of which Joanne is a part, is comprised of professionals from diverse professional and personal backgrounds. They facilitate support groups, one-on-one counselling, education events, health and wellness workshops and more for caregivers. There are services in English, French and Tamil. A strength of SCHC is it’s an inclusive and holistic approach. As a multi-faceted network of services SCHC can connect residents with meals on wheels, adult day programs, transportation services and respite, based on individual needs.
What is respite?
Respite means giving caregivers an opportunity to step away and take a break. Having time for yourself can be challenging when you’re constantly putting the needs of others first. This time can be essential to catch up on sleep, get some me time, and participate in activities to promote well-being.
What do you wish residents knew?
Be aware of identifying yourself as a caregiver and of your own well-being. The earlier you can recognize the role, the quicker you will be able to access tools to help. The more you know, the better you will be able to support your loved one.