British Columbia

Online project highlights needs of B.C.'s 1 million caregivers

More than one million British Columbians are sole caregivers to a family member in need — and many end up sacrificing their own health looking after a loved one.

Stories for Caregivers connects people with resources they might not know exist

Dr. Yvette Lu looks at ways for caregivers find practical solutions to improve their lives in the online project Stories for Caregivers. (Stories for Caregivers)

More than one million British Columbians are caregivers to a friend or family member in need — and many end up sacrificing their own health looking after a loved one.

A recent report from B.C.'s Office of the Seniors Advocate found that more than 30 per cent of caregivers are feeling distressed in their role and unable to keep up.

Dr. Yvette Lu, a family physician, is part of a new online project to connect family caregivers — who are often untrained and unpaid — to resources that they may not know exist, from community programs to online learning networks.  

"A lot of caregivers are experiencing caregiver burnout," she said. "In addition to physical and mental burnout, they can have financial issues, as well."

Many caregivers don't self-identify as such, Lu told Stephen Quinn, host of CBC's The Early Edition.

"Someone might just see it as taking care of their mom or taking care of their daughter or their husband but they might not actually realize that they are a caregiver and can access caregiving support," she said.

'You feel like you are not alone'

Stories for Caregivers is a series of web stories and videos highlighting the experiences of those looking after a loved one at home.

"When you hear other people's stories as a caregiver, you feel like you are not alone and you can build a community for yourself," Dr. Lu said.

She said she hopes the website will raise awareness about caregiving and point caregivers in the direction of support and resources.  

One of the episodes of the series focuses on the strain caregiving can take on relationships. Tom and Sarah, pictured above, go on a day get-away in Squamish as one way of rekindling romance. (Stories for Caregivers)

Lu described the story of Tom, who was caring for his wife Sarah, who has multiple sclerosis, and trying to work full time.

He would wake up at 5 a.m. help his wife Sarah, work a full day, and continuing caring for her late into the night when he returned home.  

"He was getting very burnt out," Lu said. "In addition, because he's her caregiver, they were losing their husband-wife relationship. It was affecting their marital bond."

Small actions, like Tom and Sarah's day trip to Squamish shown in one of the episodes, can get the ball rolling to make changes, Lu said. 

"Sometimes what caregivers need, what all of us need, is just a jump-start to take care of ourselves," she said.

There are more than one million caregivers in the province providing 80 per cent of the care for a family member or friend, according to the Family Caregivers of British Columbia.  

With files from The Early Edition.