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Caring for the caregivers

Offering new tools to people who are challenged in their caregiver roles.

When you board an airplane, the pre-flight safety video instructs you to put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.

It’s an important rule of air travel survival, and an apt analogy that Providence Health Care geriatric psychiatrist Dr. Elisabeth Drance references when stressing how important it is for caregivers of people with dementia to prioritize their own wellbeing.

“People don’t think they’re really allowed to do that. They think they’re supposed to look after the other person at all costs,” says Dr. Drance.

In much of her 30 years of practice, she has focused her care on the individual with the illness. What she has come to understand is that many family caregivers have their own overwhelming needs. The number of people with dementia is growing rapidly and family members provide 75-80 per cent of their care. As a result, family caregivers may experience chronic stress which is linked to the development of both physical and psychiatric illness.

To provide much-needed support, the Providence Dementia Caregiver Resource Team was established last March with a comprehensive vision to improve the wellbeing and increase the resilience of dementia caregivers through knowledge, skill-building, and self-care. Comprised of Dr. Drance, in partnership with Providence Occupational Therapist Karen Gilbert and Social Worker Michaela Leicht, the team targets high-risk caregivers experiencing significant distress. In addition to individual therapy, the team provides group therapy through two unique programs.

Find out more about the multidisciplinary supports and training that define this new therapy program here