I represent the riding of Scarborough-Agincourt on the Federal level of government. Most importantly, I would like to first take this opportunity to thank the paid and unpaid caregivers for the amazing work that they have been doing during these times. I have been a strong advocate for the topic of caregiving and specifically for ageing in place in my role as co-chair of the Liberal Seniors Caucus. Ageing in place is a commitment included in our Fall Economic Statement and our Throne Speech and is something that we are working on.
One of the impacts of the pandemic, is that it has raised caregiving to the forefront, not just in Scarborough but across Canada. We tend to think caregivers as being part of the sandwich generation of Canadians caring for both children and their elderly parents. Caregiving can exist in other forms as those who care for those who are physically and mentally challenged, of all ages and spouses caring for each other.
Currently, I provide some care for my mother. Being part of the sandwich generation, in the beginning, it felt like I couldn’t squeeze in one more thing in my schedule. I knew I had to find the time, so I worked it into my schedule and now it has become routine. I get a grocery list text from her every Friday night, do her shopping Saturday morning and take her on a walk. We try to walk somewhere new every time so that she can be mentally stimulated. During this pandemic, she has been confined to her home, so it has been important to her mental wellbeing to keep her active as well. The time I spend engaging with her and watching her face as she sees a new bird or new scenery has been invaluable.
Caregiving is difficult because you have a dual role of caregiver and daughter, you want the time you spend with the loved one you are caring for, but you also want to make sure that they don’t think it’s a chore; like a duty or obligation. My mother and I were walking in a park, when she saw a dog and mentioned that I am walking her just as others are walking their dogs, but I just had to walk her once a week. It broke my heart to hear her compare our walks to that and to almost articulate that she is a burden on us. When you give, you actually receive more and the silver lining in this pandemic has been that I can spend more time with my mom and I am learning new things about her that I previously did not know about.
My mother, like many others doesn’t ask for help unless she really needs it, so my first advice is to take their requests seriously. Another piece of advice I would like to give is to continually update yourself on public measures and get the vaccine when it is your turn to protect your loved ones.
Caregiving is a difficult experience, and you cannot shoulder the burden on your own. Therefore, it is important to reach out to family members, or friends and accept help. It is also important to reach out to the community to avoid caregiver burnout. There is respite available in the community that you can access. There are Federal supports you can access as well as a caregiver including the Home Accessibility Tax Credit, the Canada Caregiver Credit, and the Canada Recovery Caregiver Benefit.