Anne Dawson hates calling the caregiver who comes into her home twice a week to provide respite care “a worker.” Anne, 51, views her mother’s caregiver as someone who does more than just the physical work of caring for her mother Rose, 81, diagnosed with dementia.
“One year, she brought card-making items and helped my mom make a card for me,” says Anne. “And I really treasure that because it was the last time Mum was able to write. So [the caregiver] sees us as a unit. She helps with the emotional care as well, not just the physical.”
Rose’s caregiver is provided for free under the Caregiver Support Programme provided by the Saint Elizabeth Foundation. The programme provides free respite care to families where the caregiver and the person being cared for live together, and for those who cannot afford to pay for respite care. It also provides free training and education sessions delivered by health care professionals that emphasize health and stress management, injury prevention, holistic care, caregiving instruction and free instructional resources designed specifically for caregivers. It also publishes *The Caregiver Compass*, which provides information for family caregivers that is available for free download on their website.
“None of this work would be at all possible without the generous support of all donors, be they large corporations or individuals,” says Louise Murray, Director of Charitable Programmes. “The individual donor is powerful in its way. It gives the individual the opportunity to give back to their community and also feel empowered that they are having a direct effect on the care provided in their own communities.”
A registered charity operated through Saint Elizabeth, the Foundation is a not-for-profit home and community health care organization with operations across Canada. It began assisting informal caregivers in Ontario in 2007, then in Victoria in November 2009. Since then, it has provided 1,838 hours of donated care and 576 visits in Victoria alone. Currently, 350 clients are served by the programme in Victoria, the majority of them seniors, says Kim Duffus, Saint Elizabeth’s Regional Director.
The programme has just received funding to expand into Vancouver, and Duffus believes it will fill a niche for Mainland clients too.
“There is no doubt that the need is there,” she says. “I anticipate we will see it take off quite quickly in Vancouver. We will be going out and educating people about the programme this month.”
Carol Louis is a nurse supervisor in Victoria who has been working at Saint Elizabeth for three years. She says the benefits of the programme are visible.
“You can see that the people who we’re providing the care for — their family members — are so relieved. They can get respite even when they can’t afford it.”
Anne and her mother live together in Victoria. While Rose’s caregiver does provide Anne with a chance to get out and run errands, meet friends and simply have a bit of a break, Anne says the caregiver also suggests ways to make time spent with her mother enjoyable.
“When my mom was not very well and I was worried she was not able to get out, the caregiver suggested that she help to set up a garden on the deck, since I can’t always get out to the garden centres myself. She does really try to make it a pleasant time for Mum and for me as well.”
Part of Louis’s job is to assess families who request fee-free respite care to determine their eligibility and how many hours of monthly care for which they qualify. The maximum number of hours for which a family can qualify is 32 hours per month.
Louis matches client and caregiver by looking at a variety of factors: diagnosis, the client’s interests, if a male or a female caregiver is most appropriate, or if there is any cooking or other specific activities involved. She says they try to send the same person all the time to create continuity in the client’s life.
The caregivers at Saint Elizabeth are qualified home support workers who are graduates of programmes like the Community Health Worker programme at Camosun College in Victoria. They work with both Saint Elizabeth’s paying and fee-free clients.
Louis says families “are so thankful and appreciative that it’s available.”
Anne agrees. “I’m really very happy with Saint Elizabeth. They’ve been so great to us – and for us.”
SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE MAY 2012