Caring for Elderly Parents: Stress Management for Caregivers

Written by Rosa Park
Last updated on: Mar 24, 2024

As our loved ones age, their needs may change, requiring us to adapt and provide the support and care they deserve. Caring for elderly parents can be a profoundly rewarding experience, providing a sense of fulfillment and an opportunity to give back to those who have cared for us. 

However, it also presents significant challenges and can take a toll on the caregiver's mental health.

Caregiving is a demanding task and this reality is more widely recognized in certain regions of the world. In various European countries, for instance, there are more comprehensive support networks in place. These include government subsidies, as well as provisions for paid family and medical leave specifically designed to assist caregivers.

Unfortunately for Canadians, much of the duty falls on the immediate family members to care for their elderly loved ones. According to recent research data, one in four Canadians of working age is a caregiver, with an estimated 5.2 million working people aged 19 to 70 providing unpaid care to family and friends as of 2018. More than half of these caregivers are women. The study also found that most caregivers worked 30 or more hours a week at a full-time job.

Recent demographic estimates from Statistics Canada suggest that the population aged 65 and older is growing fast, with the largest cohorts of baby boomers currently reaching age 65. By 2050, the 85-and-older population could reach more than 2.7 million people, as the last cohort of baby boomers turns 85. This demographic shift is likely to increase the demand for elder care and put pressure on caregivers in Canada.

Mental Health of Elderly Parents

Comorbidities, or the co-occurrence of multiple chronic conditions, are linked to a higher chance of depression in adults over middle age. Older adults with chronic diseases like heart disease, arthritis, or diabetes often face this compounded challenge. These overlapping conditions tend to worsen depression symptoms and diminish life quality.

Research shows that having several chronic diseases escalates the likelihood and severity of depression, particularly in middle-aged individuals. Interestingly, while older adults generally exhibit more depressive symptoms, middle-aged adults are at a heightened risk. Despite these findings, clinical diagnoses of depression are comparatively lower across both age groups.

For example, conditions such as Parkinson's or Alzheimer's are at a higher risk of developing mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and cognitive impairment. These disorders can have a significant impact on the quality of life of both the aging parent and their caregiver.

Mental Health Care for Caregivers 

Caregiving in Canada can be a challenging experience for many individuals. Here are some of the challenges faced by caregivers in Canada:

  • Emotional and physical stress: Caregiving can be emotionally and physically demanding, leading to stress, anxiety, and depression. According to a study, 38% of caregivers express symptoms of distress, anger, or depression, and 21% feel unable to continue their caring activities.
  • Financial burden: Caregiving can be expensive, and many caregivers face financial challenges. In 2016, caregivers of people with dementia in Canada paid an estimated total of $1.4 billion in out-of-pocket costs.
  • Balancing work and caregiving responsibilities: Many caregivers in Canada struggle to balance their full-time jobs with caregiving responsibilities. A University of Alberta study found that over 5.2 million people across Canada struggle with balancing their full-time jobs with caregiving. 
  • Lack of flexibility in employment: Employed caregivers often face a lack of flexibility in their employment, making it difficult to structure their paid work around their caregiving responsibilities.
  • Lack of recognition and support: Caregiving is largely invisible to others, typically lacks social recognition, and goes unpaid and unmeasured. Caregivers often feel unsupported and unrecognized for their contributions.
  • Lack of training and education: Many caregivers do not have the necessary training and education to provide the best care possible for their loved ones.

Stress Management Techniques for Caregivers

Caring for elderly parents while juggling other responsibilities can be overwhelming. Prioritize self-care and develop stress management techniques that work for you. Engage in activities that bring you joy and help you relax, such as exercise, meditation, or spending time in nature.

Reach out for support when needed. Join support groups or seek counseling to share experiences with others who understand the challenges you face as a caregiver. You cannot pour from an empty cup, so taking care of yourself is crucial to provide the best care for your parents.

Maintaining Personal Relationships and Work-Life Balance

Do not neglect your personal relationships and work-life balance while caring for your parents. Communicate openly with your loved ones about your caregiving responsibilities and the additional demands on your time. Seek their understanding and support.

Discuss flexible work arrangements with your employer if needed. Many companies offer options such as remote work or flexible schedules that can help you balance your caregiving responsibilities with your professional commitments.

Support for Caregivers in Canada 

While there is a lack of support available for caregivers supporting their elderly parents in Canada, there are some resources available to help caregivers.

  • Tax laws: The Canada caregiver credit is a non-refundable tax credit that provides tax relief to caregivers who have a dependant with an impairment in physical or mental functions.
  • Employment laws: Caregivers have the right to request flexible work arrangements, and employers are required to accommodate these requests to the point of undue hardship.
  • Social support programs: The Canadian government provides social support programs for caregivers, including the Canada Caregiver Credit, the Compassionate Care Benefit, and the Employment Insurance Caregiving Benefit.

In conclusion, caring for elderly parents requires patience, understanding, and commitment. By addressing their physical, mental, and emotional needs, practicing practical daily care, navigating healthcare and financial matters, and balancing your own life, you can provide the best care possible while also taking care of yourself. 

The journey may have its challenges, but with love and support, you and your elderly parents can navigate this chapter of life together.

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About the Author

Rosa Park

Rosa Park is a versatile content creator, videographer, and photographer with a rich history of producing engaging narratives. Rosa's expertise spans journalism, documentaries, and social media content creation. Her work has included collaborations with renowned brands and organizations, showcasing her creativity and adaptability in the media industry. Rosa studied Journalism at Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University).