Compared to previous generations, Canadians are living longer and healthier lives. In fact, seniors are projected to represent 23% of Canada’s population by 2030. That’s over 9 million people1. While today’s seniors are enjoying a higher quality of life, it also means that Canadians are facing new challenges. These include financial security, supportive housing, and advanced care for seniors. 

With an ageing population on the rise, a third of working Canadians are providing some form of care to another person – in most cases, an elderly family member2. Each caregiver’s experience is unique, and many factors shape the type of care that is given. If you are considering becoming a caregiver, or know someone who is, here are 7 things you need to know before starting your caregiving journey. 


Reflect on your responsibilities

Many Canadians work full-time jobs, raise children, and have other responsibilities. Adding caregiving to the mix may not be realistic for everyone. Before committing to long-term caregiving, consider the level of care the person needs. Are they independent enough to perform daily tasks, like getting dressed and bathing? Do they risk injuring themselves without constant supervision? Providing full-time care isn’t feasible for most people. Sharing responsibilities with other family members or outside agencies can make it much more manageable. 


Determine your level of financial comfort

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, Canadians collectively spend over $6 billion on care-related costs for ageing parents3. This number jumps to $30 billion if we include missed work. Financial strain is not uncommon, but it can have a big impact on mental health.

When coupled with stress related to factors such as limited training and education, uncertainty about the future health of the care recipient, inability to manage competing demands, and manageing one’s own health, the impact that financial strain has on the mental wellbeing of caregivers may be immense. (CMHA)

If your parent or care recipient has limited retirement savings, you may need to work out how much you can reasonably contribute out-of-pocket. Creating a monthly budget is an effective way to determine what’s realistic for you, without sacrificing your own financial well-being. 


Identify the best living arrangement

Living at home

Many seniors chose to continue living at home. It’s where they feel most comfortable and independent. However, their home may require adjustments to make it more accessible. They may also require regular visits from a professional or family caregiver. If your care recipient is independent for the most part, this might be the best arrangement. 


Living with a family member

Living with a family member can provide seniors with the care and companionship they need. If your care recipient requires help with daily tasks and non-skilled healthcare support (like administering medication or meal preparation), this could be a great option. 


Living in an assisted living community

Seniors who are relatively independent may benefit from the assistance provided in these communities. Support with meals, bathing, dressing, and transportation ensures the resident receives the assistance they need, while enjoying daily social activities, exercise, and more. 


Living in a nursing home

If your family member requires 24/7 medical supervision and assistance, a nursing home is often the safest option.


Make a list of daily activities

To determine how much support a care recipient might need, create a list of activities of daily living (also known as ADLs). Identify which ADLs they need support with and which they can do themselves. Are there recurring activities you need to plan for? Will you be helping them with each activity, or can you share the responsibilities with someone else? Here are common ADLs that seniors need support with:

  • Functional mobility, such as getting in and out of bed

  • Planning, preparing, and eating meals

  • Picking appropriate clothes and getting dressed

  • Personal hygiene, such as brushing their teeth or shaving

  • Washing and bathing

  • Using the bathroom

  • Taking medication

  • Manageing their finances

  • Doing groceries and shopping for necessities

  • Caring for medical devices

  • Cleaning and household chores

  • Caring for pets


Prepare for difficult interactions

When the caregiver and care recipient’s well-being is on the line, tensions can run high. To prevent and manage conflict as effectively as possible, it’s essential to plan ahead. Here is how you can be proactive and address common points of friction.

  • Lack of privacy when sharing a home

When a care recipient is living with a family member, privacy can become a challenge, especially as many Canadians are now working from home. Implement respectful boundaries by creating space for everyone. Be transparent about which rooms are private (your bedroom, workspace, or children’s bedrooms) and which spaces are for sharing (kitchen and living areas). 

  • Disagreements between siblings 

When caregiving responsibilities are shared between siblings, arguments are bound to happen. Be clear about how care duties will be shared and divided. A calendar with assigned care dates or a list of daily activities can help keep everyone informed.

  • Lack of cooperation from the care recipient

Before you let feelings of resentment surface, consider your care recipient's capabilities. Are there things they can do alone? How can you adapt daily activities to give them a sense of independence? Try including them in decisions about their health and well-being (if possible) or give them options, so they feel more involved.


Prioritize your well-being

It’s not uncommon to feel trapped, lonely, exhausted, stressed, scared, or frustrated. If these symptoms sound familiar, you may be experiencing caregiver burnout:

  • Isolation from loved ones

  • Loss of interest in hobbies 

  • Changes in sleep pattern, appetite, or weight

  • Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness

  • Increase in irritability

  • Physical and emotional exhaustion

Being proactive about your well-being not only makes you a better caregiver, but it also ensures your physical and mental health are not at risk. Here are easy ways to take care of your well-being on a daily basis:

  1. Schedule meals at consistent times to avoid skipping them.

  2. Keep a water bottle within reach to avoid dehydration.

  3. Develop a sleep routine that works for you.

  4. Connect and share your feelings with loved ones.

  5. Accept or ask for help when it’s needed.

  6. Be kind to yourself if things aren’t going as planned.


Learn about resources in your area

There are tons of resources for Canadian caregivers who are stressed, exhausted, or simply need a break. Here are a few places you can turn to for support: 

  • Virtual and in-person support groups allow caregivers to share their emotions and experiences with others in similar situations.

  • Adult day centres and community centres offer a safe environment where seniors can enjoy social activities, and you can feel confident your loved one is in good hands. 

  • Respite services provide caregivers with short-term relief by sending support to their home, or welcoming the care recipient to a healthcare facility or day centre. 

If your loved one is living with a specific health condition, contact the dedicated national or local organization for information about caregiver support. Here are some examples, among many: 

Regardless of where you are in your caregiving journey, it’s important to focus on patience, compromise, and well-being. Acknowledge when you need help. Friends and family can offer a great support system, but sometimes speaking with a professional is necessary.

Ask your employer if you have access to mental health services, like Dialogue. Dialogue’s team of specialists can also provide you with information about conflict resolution, family dynamics, and eldercare. 

Make wellness a priority today.

Learn more about family care



Topics: Health and Wellness