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'You may find some comfort if you can share your burden': B.C. boosts funding for group supporting caregivers

Last Updated Apr 26, 2020 at 3:33 pm PST

FILE: Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie is photographed at her office in Victoria on December 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie announced $500,000 in funding for Family Caregivers of B.C.

The money will boost the capacity of the non-profit's helpline, and to create more virtual connections for caregivers

Many of the programs and services that caregivers rely on to get a break have been shuttered

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — More than one million British Columbians are in-home caregivers for senior family members and the province is boosting support for the people who are the “backbone of seniors care in this province” amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie announced $500,000 in funding for Family Caregivers of B.C. Sunday.

The money is meant to boost the capacity of the non-profit’s helpline, and to create more online opportunities for caregivers to connect with one another.

I know the help you really need right now is some relief from your caregiving duties and some time for yourself. And that’s incredibly challenging to provide for you right now, and I am very sorry about that. But you may find some comfort if you can share your burden with those who understand it best,” Mackenzie said.

She explained that caregivers describe what they do as “unbelievably rewarding while also “unbelievably exhausting.”

Many caregivers rely on now-shuttered programs and services — like Adult Day programs, community centres, and libraries — to get a break.

“Lives have been upended and sacrifices are being made by everyone to keep ourselves, our loved ones, and particularly our elderly safe by staying at home,” she said. 

“Most seniors are able to live at home because they have a family caregiver who helps them. This can be a spouse, an adult child, a grandchild, or sometimes a devoted friend or neighbour. Family caregiving can be intense for many people, especially those who live with the person they are providing care for. It is stressful in the best of times.”

Hiring in-home support workers is another way caregivers get some relief, but many are choosing to cancel this in order to minimize risk.

Due to deadly outbreaks at care homes, respite services offered at those facilities — where seniors can stay and receive care from a non-family member for a short-time —  have also been cancelled.

While family caregivers continue to support their senior loved ones through this pandemic, we must also find a way to continue to support our family caregivers, because they are the backbone of seniors care in this province, and in this country,” Mackenzie said.

She pointed out that low-income seniors are being hit especially hard. 

“I have certainly heard from very low-income seniors that life is even more difficult under COVID-19 restrictions. Many of these folks depend on senior centers and libraries for their news and internet access, and they’re feeling cut off as these opportunities are no longer available. And the cost for certain necessities such as groceries are rising,” she explained. 

She said the $300 a month supplement to assistance for low-income seniors will be “an absolute lifeline” for the more than 50,000 who are living on less than $19,000 a year. 

RELATED: Expanded call line to help B.C. seniors during COVID-19 pandemic

Last month, the 211 hotline was expanded to connect people who want to help with seniors in their communities who need it.

Mackenzie said over 5,500 people in B.C. have since signed up to go on grocery runs, deliver meals, or provide “virtual visits.”

With files from Nikitha Martins