by Heather Parnell

Many seniors want to live in their own homes for as long as possible. Familiarity and routine can be an enormous comfort. Living independently can be reassuring as well as gratifying.

Family members and friends step up to help out and a sort of balance is achieved and maintained. But time does march on. All situations are fluid and changing. Eventually, more help is required and desired. Seniors and their families find themselves increasingly caught in a loop of tasks and dependence with no relief that feels right in sight.

Add a pandemic to the mix and a tiring set of circumstances quickly turns desperate, with repercussions felt throughout the family dynamic.

Even for seniors living in residences, during the confinement phase, isolation and lack of stimulation reared their ugly heads. Most residences were meticulous about keeping residents physically safe — but many suffered psychologically.

The wish to keep seniors in the family fold intensified during this unprecedented time. But families were — and remain — torn between caring properly for ageing family members — and taking care of themselves as well. What’s more, for caregivers who are part of the Sandwich Generation (caring for parents in addition to children still at home), ensuring a productive routine and lifestyle is much more complex and stressful. In fact, according to a 2015 Benefits Canada study, caregiving costs the Canadian economy $5.5 billion in lost productivity annually. 2.9 million Canadians are working caregivers and while the majority believe caregiving is rewarding, there’s evidence that this responsibility is taking its toll. Respondents stated that the most negative drawbacks are fatigue (69%), stress (69%) and sadness (59%). And this study was before COVID-19 ravaged our communities and changed life as we know it for the foreseeable future.

Help is needed: to care for seniors, provide respite for family caregivers, and offer well-deserved peace of mind. Professional caregivers must be devoted to putting the needs of seniors and families first.

This requires not just professionalism and training — but true understanding, compassion and the willingness to never lose sight of the devotion these members of our communities deserve. There is a place for a service that bridges the gap between barebones support and removal to a complete assisted living facility.

That bridge is built on skill, certainly, but also empathy, dedication, service, and humanity.

Let’s start building these bridges. Let’s recognize and take care.

Heather Parnell is the owner of Gold Squad, a family and friends run team of professional caregivers. You can reach Heather at gold-squad.com

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