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Supporting Caregivers During COVID

WEB Size Caregiver Stock.jpgCowichan program is there for those who go above and beyond for loved ones.

We’ve all seen the videos and photos of families clustered outside the window of a senior in a long-term care home or hospital.

A grandmother, an uncle or aunt, perhaps a sister or brother lies in a bed while their loved ones hold up signs to the glass, hoping to show they’ve not been forgotten. It’s one of the tragic and emblematic scenes of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And while being denied that closeness of family is a tragic necessity in this time, we cannot forget that some of those family members on the other side of the glass are caregivers, and continue to struggle despite the pandemic to make sure that their loved ones get the help they need.

Before the pandemic, being a caregiver in B.C. was already a struggle. With 31 per cent of caregivers saying they don’t know if they can keep doing it, B.C. showed the highest rates of caregiver distress in Canada.

But there are supports for these supporters.

The United Way-funded program run by the Cowichan Family Caregivers Support Society provides information, connections and emotional support for caregivers like Gail.

In her late sixties, it was just a few weeks after her retirement party that her older sister had a stroke. Gail did not hesitate in becoming a caregiver.

“Well, here is my first retirement project!”

Gail’s sister moved into her home, and they began working on rehabilitation. But things soon became rough.

Gail was unable to sleep well and had begun to give up on her interests while doing everything she could to support her sister. Then a friend referred Gail to this Cowichan-based support society.

She was able to share her story and her frustrations with staff, and gain a new perspective on her caregiving. She grew to understand that the experience would be a journey and that she had to remember to take care of herself as well as her sister.

She also learned that she was not alone. Getting help from the program with health care system navigation, learning about social programs available to her and her sister, engaging in social opportunities and caregiver education, Gail was able to expand her support network and make her caregiving journey more sustainable.

We cannot let caregivers work in isolation. Programs like this one help caregivers get connected and reduce burnout.

During COVID, the challenges that caregivers face have only gotten greater, with social isolation and the closure of various services. But programs like this one continue to be there for these caregivers in our communities, who shoulder the burdens of our sick and our seniors.

United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island directed funding to this program through the federal government’s Emergency Community Support Fund. But support from United Way means more than funding – we provide community development, communications and administrative support, research, expertise and real partnership to make these programs as impactful as possible. 

Your generosity is what keeps caregivers going. They need your help now more than ever.

If you can, please consider donating to United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island, and help your community.