HomeMedicine By SpecialtyGeriatrics and AgingCaregiver support services improve access to health care resources

Caregiver support services improve access to health care resources

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Caring for both your children and your elderly parents? You are not alone. More than one in five working Canadians belong to the “sandwich generation”, where the dual responsibilities of caring for both children and parents often leads to stress and burnout. Being a family caregiver can be a rewarding and fulfilling responsibility but also a challenging one if caregivers feel overwhelmed and do not know where to find help.

“Family caregivers may have a difficult time organizing support services and assistance because services that can make caregiving more manageable are not centrally organized and are sometimes hard to locate,” says Nicole Beben, Executive Director of the Saint Elizabeth Care to Know Centre. “Family members often become caregivers suddenly. Caregivers tell us that getting support early on helps the transition from feeling helpless to feeling empowered.”

Saint Elizabeth’s Caregiver Compass is a free online information and support resource for caregivers which aims to simplify the overwhelming amount of information available and helps people find their way when they are not sure where to turn. The Compass provides readers with an overview of the types of supports or resources they may need including: important information on government support programs, tips for managing finances, end-of-life care and more.

Ask Elizabeth Help Line
Front line staff can find it difficult to help their clients and their families find appropriate services and support. “Saint Elizabeth service staff encounter family caregivers every day in their work providing home care services,” says Natalie Strouth, an Information Specialist and RPN with Saint Elizabeth. “Responding to a need we saw with our own frontline staff, we created a specialized telephone hotline called Ask Elizabeth which connects patients, family caregivers and even health care workers with suggestions and next-step information on where to access health care services and supports.”

“Working as a nurse for Saint Elizabeth, I am often asked about everything from accessing social services to options for treatment,” says Strouth. One recent call to the Ask Elizabeth line came from a woman whose friend was receiving cancer treatment and she didn’t know how to arrange in-home overnight care.  Ask Elizabeth staff assisted her with information about the services provided by Community Care Access Centres, and connected her to a caregiver respite program.  Staff also connected her with a local cancer support centre, information on government benefits, and medical transportation services.

Ask Elizabeth staff answer questions around chronic disease management; access to services like transportation, meals on wheels, adult day programs as well as other support services and health care information.

Patients and caregivers have found the Caregiver Compass and the Ask Elizabeth hotline invaluable when faced with the challenges that are part of a health care journey. The Caregiver Compass is available free online at www.caretoknow.org/flash/compass. The Ask Elizabeth hotline can be reached at 1.877.787.SEHC (7342) or via online chat at www.saintelizabeth.com.


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