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Q&A with Joan
Who did you care for?
I cared for my husband, Stuart, who passed away in April 2019. He was 93 years old when he passed.
How long did you care for this person
I cared for Stuart for three years. The doctors think he had a cerebral stroke, but they don’t know the exact cause of his condition, which included dementia.
Stuart was former British military and trained at the Royal Military Academy. He also spent 20 years in the Welsh Guards. As a result of his service has was eligible to receive care in the Veterans Care Program at the Parkwood Institute (St. Joseph’s Health Care London) which he entered in August 2017 after a 5-month long process. Prior to this he was in geriatric rehab, which was not effective in helping Stuart.
We were married for 55 years and were extremely close. His illness only brought us closer. So, in November 2018, when I was told that he wouldn’t come home from care, I thought my life was over. It was a kick to my gut. He was my rock.
What tasks were you responsible for?
I was Stuart’s sole caregiver outside of the Parkwood Institute staff. I went to Parkwood every day to see him as I truly believed in the vow we made to each other 55 years prior – “…in sickness and in health”. This was the sickness part. If you love someone you will do anything to see them through the tough times.
I wanted Stuart to have all the comforts of home and to live as normally as possible. I made sure that he was always shaven, there were creases in his trousers and that his shirts were laundered and pressed.
How do you feel your role as caregiver has impacted your life?
I’ve learned to be more appreciative – for what I have and the years that I did have with Stuart. As a result of this experience, I’m also working to accept that I deserve support.
What do you think are the barriers to receiving proper care? For the person you are caring for? For yourself?
The main barrier I experienced was navigating the processes required to receive proper care. I found it daunting to have meetings with so many people and not have my daughter there to help take in all the information and make decisions. It was very overwhelming. I was lucky to have an incredible social worker at Parkwood who helped us navigate the process.
How do you feel your role as a caregiver should be seen?
The whole system would not survive without caregivers. Caregivers know their loved one best and should be given a bit more respect. I insisted on being involved in everything but if it wasn’t for my insistence, it wouldn’t have happened. For example, if the person being cared for needs a test done, be sure to inform the caregiver as well.
The whole system would not survive without caregivers. Caregivers know their loved one best and should be given a bit more respect.
Do you have a place you can turn when you feel that you need support?
I have incredible friends that have stuck with me through thick and thin. I’m very fortunate to have so many people surrounding me. If I’m having a bad day, I can visit my friends who help get me through.