Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Liberals focus on aging and brain disorders

I cannot imagine what I would do if a family member of mine was suddenly diagnosed with a mental disability. I would like to think that my first instinct would be to step in to assist with treatments, coping and care giving techniques, and to do anything I could. But what toll would that have on my body, my mental state and my personal life? A Health Canada study done in 2002 found that caregivers are most likely to feel stressed in terms of their emotional health, with 29%- 48% reporting that care giving has resulted in significant emotional difficulties for themselves ("Caregiver Support and Mental Health," 2004)

In a study that looked at the effects physical activity can have on the structural brain changes of the elderly, it was found that increased midlife physical activity can benefit the structural brain changes in the elderly (Rovio, S et al. 2010). It is my understanding that positive physical activity is not only better for your physical health but it can also benefit your cognitive and emotional health. So as the above statistic states that many caregivers feel their work has resulted in emotionl difficulties for themselves, it might be beneficial to their health to engage in physical activities that they enjoy and that act as a stress reliever. I have many people I associate with that are invovled in the medical field and I know a lot of them have stated that after a difficult day at work it helps if they go to the gym or for a walk.

In the article, Liberals Focus on Aging and Brain disorders as Part of Liberal Express home care week, the Liberals are calling upon the Conservatives to immediately begin assisting organizations that help people living with brain disorders and to determine how to help their caregivers as well. There is a quote in this article, Michael Ignatieff, the Liberal leader that states, "The only way that we can help the patients is to determine what is best to help the caregivers." I think there is so much truth to that statement. Without the caregivers how would the patients survive, how would they function with normal routines, or how would they adjust to the changes that their lives will  now take?

Last year, my Grandfather was in the hospital in palliative care for 11 months. His family was by his side every step of the way. My grandmother was too old to care for him on her own and so she felt she had no choice but to have him admitted to the palliative care unit. The nursing staff could only do so much for him. They are trained professionals that are there to give medical support as much as they can, but there is no support like family support. As my grandfather slowly deteriorated over time it took an emotional and physical toll on his family. There was always one or two people by his side, day or night. This was not only for support for my grandpa but I guess maybe for peace of mind for the family as well. Maybe this helped them know that if something went wrong, there was a family member for support. Not only were there members of the family that became emotionally drained but also personal relationships went through hardships during this time. The stress level is higher than normal and lack of sleep at times. Each person had to find their own support system or their own way of grieving.

One survey found that women were more likely than men to find it challenging to maintain relationships with family or friends, 47 percent versus 31 percent, (Preidt, 2010). This survey was performed for caregivers of Alzheimer's patients.

In the article, a Liberal Public Health critic, Dr. Kirsty Duncan states that, "While the Conservatives have done little to acknowledge the work of unpaid home caregivers, the Liberal Party is committed to increasing support for them and improving Canadian healthcare,” (Liberals focus on aging and brain disorders, 2010). in my opinion, this quote is saying that the Conservative government has not recognized that family and home caregivers are in need of recognition and assistance as well. They are the support system for the ill. The Liberal government is willing and prepared to improve the care and support for the home caregivers.

Mullaly states that, "Neo-conservatives attribute social problems to weaknesses, deviance, or heredity of the individual, liberals attribute social problems to social disorganization inherent in an urbanized and industrialized capitalist society and a globalized economy," (Mullaly, 2007, p. 101). Here, Mullaly is saying that the neo-conservatives are blaming the individual for their own social problems but the liberals feel that social problems are due to the disorganization of the capitalism in the society. Liberals feel that it is not up to the individual to fix their problems or cope on their own but the government is there to provide them the assistance and support they need. They believe in social equality and social organization to fix the problems.

As determined in the above article a liberal view of this issue is not to blame the individual as a neo-conservative view may, but instead to find a solution. Liberalists view society as a mixed economy. The fundamental economic value of liberalism is competitive capitalism based on free enterprise, but with some government regulation, (Mullaly, 2007, p. 99)

By first recognizing that a problem does exist, then coming together and finding a solution for the problem that exists we can help make the problem better.

Physical activity would be something caregivers can do for their own personal health but they also need to be secure financially and feel that they are supported when they are assisting their patients.Caregivers need to be given support, whether that may include financially, home care assistance, knowledge and education or just emotional outlets to help de-stress themselves. Taking care of another person can be hard especially if we are thrown into it.  When you start a new job you always get a few days of training right? So why is family care giving any different?

Caregiver Support and Mental Health, (2004). Retrieved October 26, 2010, from http://www.cmha.ca/data/1/rec_docs/194_caregiver_2.pdf 

Survey Reveals Alzheimer's Caregivers' Top Concerns, (2010), Retrieved October 26, 2010, from http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=news&id=132186&cn=171

Liberals Focus on Aging and Brain Disorders as part of Liberal Express home care week, (2010), Retrieved October 25, 2010, from http://www.liberal.ca/newsroom/news-release/liberals-focus-on-aging-and-brain-disorders-as-part-of-liberal-express-home-care-week/

Mullaly, B. (2007). The New Structural Social Work (third ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.

Rovio, S. et al. (2010). The Effect of Midlife Physical Activity on Structural Brain Changes in the Elderly. Neurobiology of Aging, 31, p. 1927-1936. doi.10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2008.10.007

Dana W


  1. Great blog!

    I can only imagine what it would be like to have a mental disorder. A lot goes along with it; the care, the support, and the health concerns. Not only is the individual affected with their mental illness, but their family and friends are too. Family members and friends have to help constantly, and provide the love and support the individual truly deserves.

    This quote stood out to me in your blog: "While the Conservatives have done little to acknowledge the work of unpaid home givers, the Liberal Party is committed to increasing support for them and improving Canadian healthcare."

    I agree with the Liberal Party in that, those people who provide help, care, and support to the person in their lives who has a mental illness, also need support because it can be very exhausting and challenging at times. I also think it is great that they plan to improve the healthcare system, as there is always room for improvements.

    Ashley R.

  2. Great work Dana! I totally agree with you that not only do people suffering from illnesses needs assistance, but very importantly as well, the caregivers. I think very often caregivers are not seen as needing help, which is most often the opposite. You did a great job addressing an issue that is not often discussed, but very important.

    Sarah H

  3. my cousin has cerebral palsy and i can tell his mom gets really stressed out caring for him somtimes because she is a single mom. She has to get him out of his wheel chair to go to bed, go to the bathroom, and to have a bath and my cousin is not the smallest. The one thing that makes me smile about him is that he has got to do some pretty cool things like ride a bike and hold the olympic torch!