Providing care for family members in need can be challenging in the best of situations. And with many caregivers being part of the “sandwich generation” (caring for older family members while also raising children), it can be even tougher to provide support to all those around them while also maintaining their own physical and mental health.
That’s where Manitoba Blue Cross’s Caregiver Support Program comes in.
Established in 2015, the program uses our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) intake process to pair caregivers in need of mental and emotional support with specialized mental health counsellors. Through counselling and resources, the program aims to work through mental health challenges, prevent burnout and promote self-care specifically for those who are giving so much to another person.
When people are put in caregiving positions, they can sometimes feel their life has been turned upside down, says Penny Yellen, a counsellor with the Caregiver Support Program.
“When clients come to me, they're looking to talk about the situation they're in, their feelings about it and to process some of the issues that they’re having,” she says.
People in caregiving positions can also struggle with the opinions of other family members, who may feel differently about how care for their loved one should be received.
“Often it's a sibling who may live in another province or country, saying, ‘Well, when I talked to mom, she seemed fine!’” she says. “Meanwhile, they don’t see the day-to-day challenges that the person in need and the care partner are experiencing. This can be very stressful for the person providing that care.”
With the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a higher demand for caregiving support as the virus has complicated an already challenging caregiving process, Yellen says.
Care partners and self-care
“Carers need to look after themselves – and they often don't,” says Yellen. So preoccupied with giving care, caregivers may burn the candle on both ends and then experience burnout.
While easier said than done, Yellen often recommends enlisting helpers to provide some relief. This could be a partner, another family member or a close friend of the caregiver or the person being supported. Relying on helpers can help prevent burnout and provide time for much-needed self-care.
For caregivers who feel cautious about reaching out for support, Yellen’s advice is simple – make the call.
“Maybe it's just one or two sessions that they need,” she says. “Maybe they just need to talk about it... sometimes people just need affirmation about what they’re doing. It can be helpful to talk to someone outside the family – outside the situation.”
Get support through Manitoba Blue Cross’s EAP
If you are a caregiver and want support to handle the mental load you are experiencing, our EAP team is here to help:
1.800.590.5553 (toll free)
Counsellor Connect (Complete intake and request initial appointment.)
To check if you have EAP coverage, login to mybluecross®.