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Alberta program aims to give some respite to caregivers

Program aims to give respite to Alberta caregivers
WATCH ABOVE: ElderCare Edmonton and Caregivers Alberta have partnered to provide a weekly program for people that have an illness or a disability that also aims to give some respite to caregivers. Sarah Komadina has more.

ElderCare Edmonton and Caregivers Alberta have partnered to provide a weekly one-hour program through Zoom, called “Well Connected.”

Well Connected will help participants stay engaged with their community and keep their minds and bodies active while reducing social isolation. The initiative is aimed at helping people living with an illness or a disability, as well as their caregivers.

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“This is a different delivery model of a traditional day program that people are accessing,” said Johnna Lowther, the lead for the Caregivers Alberta day program.

The one-hour program includes an exercise portion, sing-a-long and also some time dedicated to go over current events.

READ MORE: COVID-19 pandemic means home-care workers will only provide essential services

Robin Schroder’s elderly mother Carol Fornara has been attending day programs with ElderCare Edmonton for about three years. The programs are not running at this time because of restrictions around social distancing.

“Since she has been going, it’s [had] a real positive impact on her, she really looks forward to it,” Schroder said. “They do a lot of exercises working with cognitive skills, and of course the socialization.

“Now that she is not attending, you really find a difference.”

Fornara has since been taking part in the online program.

“It’s really nice to see familiar faces and have an hour of activity — different activitie — and she really looks forward to it,” Schroder said.

“Everybody is at home and there is not a lot to do out in the world right now, so we want to maintain that connection,” said Krista Mulbery, a day program manager with ElderCare Edmonton.

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“It’s really important for clients with dementia. They see us once or twice a week and do recognize us, and we want to keep that recognition there as well.”

Well Connected also helps provide respite for the caregivers. Usually, the six-hour-long day program allows caregivers to have time to take to themselves, visit a friend or run errands.

Since there aren’t any in-person day programs running, it can be hard on the caregiver.

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“It just adds another layer of pressure to what is an already stressful environment or relationship,” Lowther said. “It’s not that caregivers don’t enjoy their role, we have plenty of clients that express how much closer they’ve come to the person they are caring for or assisting in daily life, but it doesn’t come without its own stress or pressure.

“So especially if you don’t have your normal outlets and those usual support mechanisms that you lean on that give you a break, it’s hard.”

The hope is Well Connected will continue to be available until regular programs can resume.