Don't quit your job — and other advice for family caregivers from our live Q and A Tuesday

The hour-long conversation was aimed at helping families navigate Alberta’s often complex system of home care.

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Don’t quit the job, at least not yet — that’s Sandy Sereda’s advice for the unpaid family caregivers her team coaches through Caregivers Alberta.

Sereda joined several experts on an Edmonton Journal panel discussion Tuesday, a final event to close off our focus on seniors and COVID-19. The hour-long conversation was aimed at helping families navigate Alberta’s often complex system of home care. It’s available to replay at

Family members who step up to care for a husband, wife, parents or adult children often call the non-profit support organization when they are nearly burned out. They feel like their only option is to quit work to care for a loved one.

But most of the support Canada currently offers family caregivers is through employment insurance, said Sereda, executive director of Caregivers Alberta. “Let’s find other ways to help you to get through the journey that you’re on without leaving your work because you may be able to find financial supports.”


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Any other advice for someone starting this journey?

“The biggest thing is to reach out for help and let people know the situation that you’re in. People don’t want to burden others, they don’t want to ask for help. But they wait too long to reach out,” said Karen Cuthbertson, who gives free one-on-one coaching with Caregivers Alberta (780-453-5088).

“The second is, start documenting and have everything in one place, including your medical information, your doctor’s phone numbers. Fill out that (Alberta Health Services) Green Sleeve that says this is what I want if I go into a hospital. Everybody over the age of 18 should have one of those filled out. It’s a gift that you’re giving to your family, letting them know what your wishes are. Emergency services, they all know that it’s on top of your refrigerator. That’s one of the biggest things.”

How can people access the new option for home care — invoicing model?

A new invoicing model option is currently only available in the Edmonton Zone, which includes Leduc and other nearby centres, said Dr. Jasneet Parmar, an associate professor with the University of Alberta who is also medical lead for home care in Edmonton.

Clients register with home care as they normally would and get assessed for any unmet needs. But instead of using the Alberta Health Services-contracted staff, clients can ask to use the invoicing model to find their own home care support and get reimbursed.

“That gives them more flexibility. It allows them to hire who they choose, if they would rather have someone who speaks their own language, and it provides some consistency when you find someone you really like and value,” she said. “There are many upsides to it.”


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Is it really possible to age at home in Alberta?

“It’s so dependent on the situation and the care the individual needs. I do a lot of work with dementia, and quite often it ends up being the caregiver saying, ‘I just can’t do this anymore,’ even when there are supports in place,” said Cuthbertson.

“You have to look at both the caregiver and the person requiring care and make sure the needs of both of these groups are being met. We do our best to help get supports in place, but of course, during the pandemic it’s more challenging. There are no day programs available, or other programs that would normally give the caregiver a break. Just trying to find that balance is definitely a challenge,” said Cuthbertson.

“I see a lot of people using the lodges. Maybe there’s meals being provided. There’s someone who’s there (to help with daily living support), but you still have an apartment and quite often a couple can live there together. Home care can still go in and support people in those facilities.”

* Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

This article is part of Groundwork, an Edmonton Journal pilot project in engagement journalism that saw more than 700 seniors and family members help shape our coverage. This ensured our reporting was focused on issues that matter most to our community, building trust and opening the work of journalism to new voices and insight.



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