A new group has formed in Sooke to offer support for individuals who are acting as volunteer caregivers for friends, family members, and others in the community.
The group is part of the larger, non-profit Family Caregivers of B.C. and is a first for the community.
“We’re meeting once a month to provide support to people who are looking after others, whether that is in the home, in a care home, or elsewhere,” said Ina Shaw, the facilitator of the new group.
Shaw has first-hand experience with being a caregiver as, at the age of 56, she has already been caring for her disabled husband for 20 years.
“The purpose is to provide support to caregivers, connecting them with services in the community that can help them provide the care and, perhaps more importantly, to give them advice on how to keep themselves healthy,” added Shaw.
The latter point is extremely important, she said, as caregivers can easily become emotionally and physically exhausted with the challenges of providing care to loved ones.
Lacie White, the caregiver support and engagement lead for Family Caregivers of B.C., explained some of the challenges that caregivers face but was quick to point out that the work is also very rewarding.
“Everyone’s situation is unique, of course,” said White.
“There’s a reciprocity that takes place as caregivers offer their help but at the same time are reaping rewards that are sometimes hard to define but that are definitely there. The secret is to also take care of yourself as you provide these supports. If you don’t, you really aren’t doing anyone any favours.”
Marlene Schlotterbeck, a member of a similar caregiver group in Saanich, observed that she is a living example of someone who very nearly hit rock bottom, trying to provide care and support to two very dear friends.
“Eileen and Vern have been friends for 40 years and when they went into Beacon Hill Villa, I was visiting with them daily and helping them with navigating the medical system and other assistance. Vern is 98-years-old, and if he got sick I was sometimes there for 12 or 14 hours a day,” said Schlotterbeck. “But in November, I pretty much hit rock bottom and came down with pneumonia.”
That’s when she joined the caregiver support group and started taking some advice on how to handle the stress of being a caregiver without damaging her own health.
“I now do Tai Chi and breathing exercises and it has helped a lot,” she explained.
The Sooke chapter of the caregiver’s group meets at Sooke Yoga and Wellness at 7650 Sooke Road on the first Tuesday of every month between 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and there is no charge to join or attend the meetings.
Additional information on the Caregivers of B.C. can be found at familycaregiversbc.ca or by calling the support line at 1 877 520 3267.