A look at a day in the life of a caregiver

A look at a day in the life of a caregiver

There are 8.1 million Canadian family caregivers providing countless hours of unpaid support to their family and friends who have health issues.

Each day is unique for the thousands of Canadians caregivers who face the challenges associated with providing care.

Being a caregiver isn’t easy. Many family caregivers in Canada are also still carrying all the responsibilities of their normal life:

  • More than six million Canadians (35% of the workforce) are juggling the demands of family caregiving and paid work. (See our Elizz article on Caregiver Work Life Balance.
  • More than one in four of these 6 million family caregivers (28%) are still raising their children.

Each day is unique for the thousands of Canadian family caregivers who face the challenges associated with providing care — whether the care is for an older parent who has developed health issues, a spouse who has had an accident or a new diagnosis, a child with special needs, or a friend who has cancer.

What each of these family caregivers have in common is that each day is ripe with discoveries in caregiving, parenthood, work, and yourself. Fears. Joys. Failures. Frustrations. Hopes. Plus many almost-just-right successes.

To highlight being a caregiver and the importance of these daily caregiver issues, we’ve put together a snapshot of what a day in the life of one family caregiver can look like.

A day in the life of Andrea

Andrea is a Grade 2 teacher. Her husband Mike was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and no longer works. They have two children, ages six and nine. Andrea’s parents live two hours away. While her parents are still independent, Andrea’s father is older than her mom and he has recently started exhibiting signs of memory loss.

Andrea’s life

This is what Andrea’s typical day is like as a working family caregiver, wife, daughter, and mother…in her own words:

6:15 a.m.

Wake up, make breakfast, scramble to drop off the kids at before-school care. They are often the first ones there. This always leaves a pang of guilt.

8:00 a.m.
Arrive at school. Prepare for the morning, and arrange a day plan and resources for a supply teacher in the afternoon.

10:40 a.m.
Recess. Reflect on a fun literacy lesson that went well. Feel grateful for kids making me smile, even when I don’t feel like it. Make notes about one of three students who need significant support but haven’t been formally identified yet. This situation is really weighing on me.

12:50 p.m.
After quickly eating a wrap on the way to the car, I leave school to pick up Mike at home and head to his doctor’s appointment. His fatigue has been increasing lately. It’s so unpredictable. We’re hoping that there is something else we can try. The kids have been good about understanding why their dad has ups and downs of when he can play with them, but it’s so hard. Typically, Mike hides his own emotions about this. I worry that we should be talking about it more.

2:30 p.m.
The doctor has recommended adjusting medications. We talked about home care too. I always feel the same way after an appointment: hopeful that we can slow down the progression of this disease, or at least keep it at bay a little longer, mixed with a sense of loss. Loss of the partnership I once had with Mike, mixed with gratitude for the husband I still have. Loss of my sense of self.

3:45 p.m.
Get a text from my sister Kelly. Mom called her and is upset that Dad refuses to see a doctor about his memory issues. He says he’s fine but mom thinks otherwise, and so does Kelly. So do I. I need to think about how to handle this.

4:25 p.m.
Get email responses from the physiotherapist and speech language pathologist confirming Mike’s next appointments. Lately Mike has had speech and swallowing difficulties. I make a note to book another supply teacher, and worry about taking more time away from work.

5:20 p.m.
Pick up the kids from after school care. It’s later than usual and they are tired.

6:30 p.m.
Clean dishes, start preparing school lunches for the next day, pour the kids’ baths.

7:30 p.m.
Realize that the cat is limping. Wait – he was limping a couple of days ago, too. Feel like a terrible pet parent for forgetting. Make a note to call the vet in the morning.

8:25 p.m.
With both kids in bed, Mike can now have more pain medication. He had a good morning while I was at work, but the late afternoon and evening hours are sometimes tough.

9:00 p.m.
Use the juicer to make tomorrow’s supply of organic vegetable smoothies. Right now with Mike’s swallowing difficulties, it’s the easiest way of getting more vitamins into his diet in a form that tastes good. I try not to think about the cost of the organic produce we’re going through.

9:40 p.m.
Steal a few minutes of ‘free time’ to look at Facebook. Wonder about the need to slow down. Stop finger swiping, giving only 0.25 seconds of attention to an image. We need to spend more time in person, slower, quieter. Have a moment of discovery that slow and in person is actually one of the beautiful aspects of caregiving.

10:00 p.m.
Finish making lunches, organizing backpacks and catch a glimpse of the work I brought home but didn’t do. I’ll work through recess and lunch time, as usual.

11:00 p.m.
Crawl into bed, exhausted. Mike is sleeping, but a bit restless. He has been waking up during the night lately, despite his fatigue. Tomorrow I’ll try to figure out the balance with pain medications a bit better. It’s been elusive.

This weekend is our wedding anniversary. We talked about a big trip a few years ago, not ever thinking for a moment that we would be here. He is here, though. Things could be so much worse. Sob. Smile.


Can you identify with Andrea’s busy schedule as a working parent, adult child/long-distance caregiver, or caregiver spouse?

What about her feelings of guilt, stress, loneliness, and fatigue?

You may want to read our article, Advocating For Yourself As A Family Caregiver to learn about the importance of self-care to preserve your well-being. You may also want to speak to an Elizz Virtual Counsellor to help you come up with a solution-focused plan with meaningful strategies for your unique situation and goals.

To speak with a care professional, please call Eliz at 1-855-ASK-ELIZ (275-3549).

At Elizz, we provide caregiver support for you and home care services for those who depend on you. Elizz is a Canadian company powered by Saint Elizabeth, a national not-for-profit health care organization that has been caring for Canadians since 1908.




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