'Don't go at it alone': Online group hopes to support caregivers amid COVID-19

Thousands of caregivers across the country are separated from their loved ones due to COVID-19. Emma Whitehouse has helped create an online support group for caregivers in Waterloo region and Wellington County.

Caregiver Connections Waterloo-Wellington provides info, resources for caregivers

Caregiver Connections Waterloo-Wellington was created in October 2019 to provide resources and an outlet to people who are taking care of a loved one, but has morphed into an online support group during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Alexander Raths/Shutterstock)

As families across the country continue to practise physical distancing, and in some cases self-isolation, many caregivers are left trying to figure out how to best to support their loved ones during the pandemic.

An online support group for caregivers in Waterloo region and Wellington County is hoping to meet that need.

The Facebook group Caregiver Connections Waterloo-Wellington was created in October 2019 as a platform for caregivers to support one another by sharing resources and information and tips on how to navigate the healthcare system.

Now, the group has shifted its focus to ways caregivers can support one another during the pandemic. 

"During times like these, during a global pandemic, I think it's safe to say that caregiver stress is likely at an all time high," said Emma Whitehouse, project lead for family caregiver education and training at St. Joseph's Health Centre in Guelph and one of the creators of the online group.

The group is for anybody who is providing care to a family member, friend, partner, or neighbour, she said.

"Supporting the caregiver themselves is vitally important," she said, noting caregivers should take the time to tend to their mental health and wellbeing.

She adds caregivers should reach out to local resources if they can or check out the Ontario Caregiver Organization for information on how to stay connected with loved ones during COVID-19, as well as access to a 24/7 helpline. 

Whitehouse says there's been more focus on caregiver mental health in recent years, but more can be done to help.

'Don't go at it alone'

If a caregiver is looking after someone with COVID-19, Whitehouse says, "don't go at it alone."

Whether that's calling a family doctor, calling Telehealth Ontario or reaching out to healthcare providers a person is already in communication with, it's important to reach out, Whitehouse says.

She hopes Caregiver Connections Waterloo-Wellington can also be a place caregivers can turn to for information, but also be a platform to share their experiences.

"During times like these, it's exponentially more important to make sure people are getting the information they need because it's changing so rapidly and changing everyday," she said.


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