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Canada is experiencing a demographic shift. Baby boomers, currently the largest generation, are rapidly reaching retirement age. By 2021, 17.8 per cent of the total Canadian population will be over 65 - that's nearly seven million people. By 2041, that number is expected to jump to 9.7 million, or 22.6 per cent.
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According to Statistics Canada, the "sandwich generation" now includes more than two million Canadians -- or 28 per cent of all caregivers in Canada -- with the majority being women between 35 and 44 years old. This number is only expected to rise as Canada's population ages and the older generation is no longer capable of caring for themselves. That leaves us with a generation stuck with caring for their late-leaving adult children and their ailing parents at the same time. How do they cope?
There are promises we keep, and promises that as the years go by, we have no choice but to break.
If we made a promise to never put our loved one in a nursing home and now discover we have no other choice, the guilt and heartbreak we feel can be overwhelming. But there are some ways we can cope.
Mom has Alzheimer's disease, your siblings refuse to talk to one another, and your kids are too busy to lend a helping hand. Somehow, all the caregiving duties have been left to you. What to do? Call an elder mediator. The practice is much like other forms of mediation.
I can definitely attest to the many challenges and obstacles that family caregivers contend with on a daily basis. A study by the Change Foundation, 22 per cent of caregivers showed signs of distress, including anger, depression, being overwhelmed and unable to continue providing care. But through it all, you'll also have your eyes and heart opened in amazing ways.
Vicky asks: I've been taking care of my mom who is 74, in poor health and lives on her own. We've never had a very close relationship, and she criticizes everything I do. It doesn't matter if it's house cleaning, taking her to appointments, or getting her groceries -- it's like I can never do anything to her satisfaction.
Ryan asks: At Easter this year I looked around my parent's house and realized that they are not going to be able to live here forever. When do you start talking to your parents about the future and where they going to live as they age?
Over three million Canadians have diabetes and this number is expected to reach 3.7 million by 2020. Caregivers of people with diabetes, especially seniors, need to learn all they can about stepping up foot care -- from maintenance, to shoe selection.
My dad is becoming increasingly forgetful and confused. He often calls me several times a day and forgets why he is calling. I tried talking to him about my concerns but he became quite agitated. I am really frustrated and don't know what to do?
Being a caregiver can be very demanding. Remember that it is not only okay to ask for support, it's necessary. Caregiving is not often something one person can do on their own, and asking for help is a sign of strength. Guilt comes from unrealistic expectations of what we are capable of doing.
If your parents are seniors you can give them a priceless gift this Christmas. On your next visit you can put the wheels in motion to help them live as independently as they can in their home, and prevent accidents that commonly happen to seniors and cause unnecessary pain and suffering.