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A lifeline for seniors and their caregivers

Barbara and Bill have been married for 62 years.

In recent years, their ability to take care of themselves has decreased. Bill has vascular dementia, which means he isn’t capable of handling the tasks he used to manage when he was in better health. Barbara and Bill’s daughter, Heather, has stepped in as caregiver, and she manages much of their daily lives.

"My role as a caregiver covers many different areas. From transportation, to driving them to appointments, to assisting them with banking, to assisting them with grocery shopping and meal preparation —to really everything that’s involved with living independently in your own home."

Every Wednesday, Barbara and Bill attend a local social program to keep them mental stimulated and physically active, as well as connected to other seniors. This also gives Heather one day each week where she doesn’t have to worry.

Barbara, Bill and Heather’s situation is not unique.

United Way’s research shows an estimated 3.3 million Ontario residents provided support to a family member, friend or neighbour in 2012. Almost one-third of caregivers reported providing care for people with problems associated with aging.

This time of life can be extremely difficult for many – but with the support of a community, it is possible to provide vital supports that help seniors stay independent, connected, and ultimately healthy – for longer.

Barbara and Bill moved to Ottawa after they retired so they could be closer to family. This meant starting a social circle from scratch. Without a network of friends, they found themselves less and less active in the community.

Now that they attend the Good Companions seniors’ centre, a United Way partner, they have a group of friends, and a routine connection to social and recreational activities.

Caregivers: an essential part of the support system for seniors

Heather knows that community programs for seniors are not only integral to her parents’ health and independence, but also to her own well-being. Heather started caring for her parents not long after she retired, and she values the time she has to herself.

"By having mom and dad come to the Good Companions, it’s one day a week where I know that they’re going to be looked after, and that it’s a free day for me that I can do other things."

Dementia is one of the diseases that is particularly challenging for caregivers.

The Alzheimer Society of Ontario notes that caregivers of family members with dementia provide 75 per cent more care than other caregivers and report nearly 20 per cent higher levels of stress. This has important implications for the future, as the number of people living with dementia in Canada is projected to almost double by 2031.

Photo courtesy of LoveOttawa

A commitment to community solutions

United Way East Ontario, which works in communities of Prescott-Russell, Ottawa, Lanark and Renfrew Counties, is committed to ongoing research and evaluation that fuel smart investments in a strong network of social, recreational, and peer programs. Together with support from our donors, we can improve the health and well-being of seniors and their caregivers.

"This program is invaluable to our community because there are a lot of people like mom and dad that need the assistance, that need the socialization, and need to be a part of a community that they wouldn’t necessarily have if they were just staying in their home."




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