The first Tuesday of April is known as National Caregiver Day in Canada.
Each day is unique for the thousands of Canadians caregivers who face the challenges associated with providing care.
April 5th is National Caregiver Day for 2016. This day is designated to recognize and honour the countless hours of unpaid support that 8.1 million Canadian family caregivers are providing to their family and friends who have health issues.
Family caregivers 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 Canadians 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 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 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.
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 they are independent, her father is older than her mom and he has recently started exhibiting signs of memory loss.
This is what Andrea’s typical day is like as a working family caregiver, wife, daughter, and mother in her own words:
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.
Arrive at school. Prepare for the morning, and arrange a day plan and resources for a supply teacher in the afternoon.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Pick up the kids from after school care. It’s later than usual and they are tired.
Clean dishes, start preparing school lunches for the next day, pour the kids’ baths.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
National Caregiver Day 2016 is an important opportunity to bring caregiver issues to the forefront. We need to honour and support family caregivers each day, not just on one designated day of the year.
How can we collectively address and reduce the pressures on our family caregivers?
Here’s a link to our Elizz article on Government Programs and Funding for Caregivers.