Wendy Sutton knows the run-around of being a caregiver all too well.
The Tuxedo resident has been the primary caregiver of her 91-year-old mother, who has dementia, for the past seven years. Sutton felt the process of finding health care and home care support networks, getting her mother’s financial and legal affairs in order, and even finding out her rights as a caregiver, was unnecessarily complicated.
"In the beginning, I thought her family doctor would help us. That’s not the way it went," Sutton recalled. "(My mother) couldn’t find the light switch in her apartment. She thought hand cream was lipstick.
"I wanted to discuss her memory, and he just asked her how her memory was. She said it was fine…He just looked at me and said ‘We don’t need to discuss this at this time.’"
So now Sutton, who spent her career as a teacher and librarian in the River East Transcona School Division, primarily at Valley Gardens Middle School, is helping out others after finding out her experience was common.
Sutton has launched the Where Next? Pathways to Elder Care website at http://wherenxt.blogspot.ca, which has received 18,000 views since launching in 2010. In addition to providing information she’s garnered through her own experiences, Sutton has also interviewed industry professionals to find out what information she should give to others.
Sutton also takes the content on the road in the form of presentations. She will present in East Kildonan at Concordia Village II (1115 Molson St.) in the multi-purpose room on Sept. 28. The session takes place from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Register in advance at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 204-477-1387. There is a fee of $20 for the class. About a maximum of 30 people can be accommodated for each session.
"My friends were getting really tired of listening to me complain about this, because it just started to consume me," Sutton said. "I said ‘Why isn’t anybody teaching people how to do this?’ A friend of mine said ‘You’re a teacher, why don’t you do it?’"
Sutton said she hopes the website and presentations help to prevent issues from happening as much as possible.
"We just seemed to go from crisis to crisis," Sutton said. "For me, everything I learned, it seems like I learned after the fact. I learned from a crisis or from a friend."
In addition to helping the current generation of caregivers, Sutton also hopes the carryover benefits will include attendees helping to get their affairs in order to lessen the burden on their children.
"There’s a real need for us to be prepared. There’s a real need to start learning about all this in advance," she said. "Start the conversations early, and people can start planning."
Sutton said she will answer questions by email, but stressed her main role is not to provide one-on-one support, but to help connect caregivers with information and programs.