© Courtesy of Family Caregivers of British Columbia
“Until my dad’s stroke. I had no idea what a caregiver was,” said Aaron, the oldest of three siblings who live with their single father, George. When George suffered a stroke, it sent the well-oiled machine of the family routine spiralling. Aaron saw that his father’s recovery was taking a toll on him and stepped up to become the family caregiver.
A family caregiver is a family member or friend who gives unpaid care to an adult with a physical or mental health condition, chronic illness, or frailty due to aging. Stories like Aaron’s are not unique—60 percent of family caregivers are in this demographic, and there are over one million unpaid family and friend caregivers in British Columbia. Fortunately, resources are available to support family caregivers in the transition, the difficulties, and every other aspect of the caregiving process. When you identify as a caregiver, you take your first step in the journey. The earlier you accept help, the easier that journey will be.
Aaron contacted Family Caregivers of British Columbia (FCBC), a registered charity committed to supporting family and friend caregivers, for support and found a treasure trove of resources that made his transition to caregiver that much easier.
“It wasn’t until I contacted the BC Caregiver Support Line that I was able to let my worries out,” Aaron recalled. “They helped me organize what to do next and provided direction on how to navigate the healthcare system.”
Caregiving is not about socioeconomic status or gender. Men are increasingly finding themselves in the caregiving role, and it is far from an easy one. FCBC staff are trained to listen with compassion and help caregivers navigate their journeys. With their support, Aaron found that every question he had and some he didn’t realize he had were answered without judgement.
“There are so many things I hadn’t considered—like figuring out how to get financial assistance as a caregiver. We also got to talk through the ins and outs of private and public home support.”
Aaron shared that the most surprising aspect of FCBC’s services was the access to the Family Caregiver Support Groups. While he was initially hesitant to attend, he gave it a try and found that after the first meeting, a big weight was lifted from his shoulders. There are many emotions that come with being a caregiver, from guilt to grief and loss to anger. There is power in the joy, comfort and wisdom of being in a community of caregivers who understand what you are going through.
“I know I can call anytime, as things change, and they will help me through whatever is happening at the time. For now, I’m doing my best to look after my own health. The support group I attend is a completely safe space where people understand me and what I’m going through.”
You don’t have to do this on your own. Join the Caregiver Community and find helpful tools and resources at the Caregiver Resource Center: www.familycaregiversbc.ca. Increase your resilience, learn new skills, and find support. We are here for you.