Rick Lauber learned many important lessons when he was a co-caregiver for his parents (his mother had Parkinson’s disease and leukemia and his father had Alzheimer’s disease). Throughout his experiences, he wrote things down, often therapeutically, and concluded with everything he learned that he could write a book on caregiving. So he did.
The Caregiver’s Guide for Canadians is a handbook for caregivers everywhere, no matter what stage they are in the process. Lauber is an author and freelance writer based in Edmonton, Ontario. His story starts the way many caregivers start their journey: with help from his sisters, he began taking over responsibilities for his parents, including driving, handling financial issues and, eventually, serving as his father’s Joint Guardian and Alternate Trustee. Along the way, he had a lot of questions.
“Nothing can really prepare you for caregiving and it was definitely not something I was expecting to do,” says Lauber. “I learned that it’s very important to take time for you. I found a great coping mechanism for me was writing. I wanted to share what I went through.”
The book gives advice, information and checklists, covering topics like long-distance caregiving, family dynamics, finding long-term care and most importantly, self-care. During his time caring for his parents, he joined a support group for Alzheimer’s caregivers, enrolled his father in an adult day program and turned to writing as an outlet for his thoughts and frustrations.
“Self-care is huge,” he says. “If you don’t effectively care for yourself, you can’t effectively take care of someone else. But this is much easier said than done. You have to find that balance and really look at how you can do that and that’s not always easy.”
Lauber suggests incorporating self-care into your routine by starting small. Take 15-20 minutes to yourself to read, then work up to longer outings with friends or walking breaks.
A report released in September 2013 by Statistics Canada on caregiving in Canada stated that 13 million Canadians, nearly half of the population aged 15 years and older, have provided some type of care to a family member or friend with a chronic condition, disability or aging needs. About half (48 per cent) of those caregivers cared for their own parents. That’s one reason why Lauber says he thinks this book is helpful for caregivers as the aging population and number of caregivers increases in Canada.
Preparation—no matter how hard it is to face the facts—can help at the beginning, during and after the caregiving process. He suggests preparing, even before caregiving is a daily fixture in your life, by researching diseases and conditions, looking at potential legal and financial issues and touring long-term care facilities.
“I knew Mom and Dad as healthy active individuals and I didn’t even think about them not being like that,” says Lauber. “Before they were diagnosed, I didn't even think about how there would be a day they would need care.”