I was able to help care for my father-in-law in the last year and a half of his life and I have to say it was a real eye-opener.
He had dementia – probably related to a stroke. But here was someone who had been very, very sharp and very independent who increasingly needed more of our help in terms of meals, housework and making sure he took his medications correctly.
We were very blessed in the sense that we were six adults – one of whom was a nurse. But even with that level of support, I saw just how demanding it is.
I don’t think until you do it, you really understand. You see the person you’re caring for in a different way. You watch as they become someone else. It’s difficult to see that. I watched my husband and his brothers struggle to help their dad. They wanted to help of course, but they wanted him to be able to do things on his own because that was who he was – a smart, independent man.
That experience helped me understand care giving from another angle. You can read about it, or talk about it to other people. But it’s not the same thing as day in day out, being responsible for another person, and knowing you might have to drop what you are doing at any given time.
I hope the research I do into caregiver burden will be helpful in a tangible way. That it gives home care professionals the kind of information they need quickly so that it helps them provide the best possible care to the clients they serve and their families.
I want caregivers to know they are important. They are valuable. We want to make sure they get the support they need as quickly as possible.
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Dr. Dawn Guthrie, Wilfred Laurier University
Alzheimer Society Research Program grant recipient