04/11/2013 12:16 EDT | Updated 06/11/2013 05:12 EDT

Ask Elizabeth: Sometimes with Caregiving, the Crisis Is How You Feel

Caring for someone can involve juggling a host of mental, physical and emotional dynamics. Sometimes you just need someone to talk to. Our Ask Elizabeth* advice column has some resources that may be helpful.

Natalie Strouth is a nurse with Saint Elizabeth and the information specialist behind Ask Elizabeth, a free caregiver support service. Saint Elizabeth, a home health care company, has been a trusted name in Canadian health care for more than a century and is a national, not-for-profit, charitable organization.

In her weekly column, Natalie answers your questions about caring for a family member or friend who needs extra support -- and caring for yourself as a caregiver.

Do you have a question about caring for someone who is aging, ill, or injured? Send it to

Sandra asks: My daughter is the joy of my life but sometimes I feel incredibly stressed by the daily responsibilities and challenges of her disability. What can I do when I feel like this?

Being a parent is a 24/7 job, and caring for a child with special needs is even more so. While it is a deeply rewarding experience, the emotional, social and physical impacts of caring for a medically fragile child can't be denied.

As a community nurse I have worked with many families whose primary focus is one child or adult's medical issues, and they are often overwhelmed by trying to manage day-to-day tasks. What complications and worries are they dealing with that day? How will the house get cleaned this week? Is the other sibling feeling neglected? Will they ever feel organized and peaceful when they walk in their door?

Your mental health is vital as her parent and caregiver. You -- and the many people across the country who are caregivers for children, spouses, parents or other family and friends -- need to know there is somewhere you can turn for emotional support and guidance when dealing with the ups and downs.

Crisis lines are free and available 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week across Canada. A crisis line provides professional support to anyone experiencing a change in their ability to cope, at any time. The people who run crisis lines believe that no problem is too big or too small.

When you call a crisis line, you:

  • only have to talk about things with which you are comfortable;
  • can ask questions and find out what help is available;
  • do not have to give your name, and you can hang up at any time;
  • can request to talk to someone face-to-face in your home or community.

I have talked to many people who feel hesitant to call a crisis line. The word "crisis" can sound scary, and you may not relate to the term, yet the people who run crisis lines believe that no problem is too big or too small. At Saint Elizabeth, our own crisis staff have talked to caregivers on a range of topics, from listening about daily challenges and frustrations, to providing guidance on specific and delicate situations.

The Canadian Mental Health Association is a great resource that can help you source a crisis line your area.

Remember, you are not alone. Call a crisis line to connect to a trained professional who is compassionate, understands your situation and can refer you to helpful services or connect you with immediate support.

Send your caregiving question to Answers may appear in an upcoming weekly column.

Ask Elizabeth does not offer legal guidance, nor does it answer questions about personal health issues.