Nova Scotia

Caregivers Nova Scotia offers relief for families taking care of loved ones

A provincial organization dedicated to helping unpaid caregivers says there's an urgent need for its services, but many people still don't know it exists.

Department of Health program provides support for people caring for ageing, disabled family members

Maggie Roach-Ganaway, left, and Brenda Tomie say Caregivers Nova Scotia helps people feel less alone when dealing with ageing family members. (CBC)

A provincial organization dedicated to helping unpaid caregivers says there's an urgent need for its services, but many people still don't know it exists.

Caregivers Nova Scotia, which is funded by the Department of Health and Wellness, provides support for those looking after loved ones.

Maggie Roach-Ganaway, support co-ordinator, says the non-profit organization is following the department's philosophy of trying to keep those who need care in their own homes.

She says standard home care and visits from the Victoria Order of Nurses alone are not enough.

"One of the things that struck me was, without unpaid caregivers, 98 per cent of the people with home care services in place still would not be able to stay in their homes safely without an unpaid caregiver being there," she said.

Roach-Ganaway says the organization provides services such as stress management, advice on safe medicine and one-on-one counselling for unpaid caregivers.

Brenda Tomie of Sydney has looked after her 96-year-old mother for 20 years at home. Her mother is legally blind and almost deaf.

Tomie says she felt isolated and at her wits end until she went to a workshop run by the agency.

"You don't know if what you're doing is right and you don't know if anyone else has this problem. Then you go into one of these meetings and everybody has that problem," she said.

Roach-Ganaway says most people come away from meetings feeling the same as Tomie.

She says it's a great sense of relief knowing that they are not alone.

"You're doing it all right, you just have to take care of you."

Roach-Ganaway says Caregivers Nova Scotia does extensive work with unpaid caregivers looking after parents with dementia.

She also points to families with children who have autism and parents of adult children with schizophrenia.

She advises anyone interested in the agency's services to go to the website.