April 4, 2017 was the first ever National Family Caregiver Day in Canada. In support of caregivers I attended the City of Toronto Caregiver Appreciation Event and watched Toronto Mayor Tory proclaim April 4th to be Family Caregiver Day in Toronto. I was reminded that caregiving can be a noble, exhausting, rewarding, challenging and isolating role.
As a health lawyer focusing on Family Health Law™, much of my time involves listening to, guiding, advising and representing family caregivers. I am frequently in awe of the dedication of my clients to their loved ones, and the sacrifices they make without hesitation. They prepare meals, change diapers, book appointments, administer injections, and perform extensive research. Often they have become experts in particular conditions and medications.
They are selfless. One recent client had not had so much as a date with his spouse in a decade because of his commitment to a parent with dementia.
They are advocates. Many of them are not comfortable in this role but feel they have no choice but to demand better.
They are substitute decision-makers. Often their loved ones have lost capacity and they find themselves in the difficult position of deciding whether to consent to a medication with unpleasant side effects or even whether to withdraw life support.
They are often frustrated and surprised by the many gaps in our health care and education systems.
Often they are battling not only against bureaucracy and public funding deficiencies, but also other relatives and their own anxieties.
In many cases they simply want to be heard and to ensure others do not experience the same challenges and, in some cases, the same tragedies.
Thank you to all family caregivers! In most cases you did not ask for this job (and it is often a job) but you work tirelessly every day at great personal cost to be a caregiver for your loved one. An annual day of recognition will not in itself make things easier, but will hopefully become an opportunity for your stories to be heard, to create public awareness of the challenges of caregiving, and to build a foundation for better and more caregiver supports in the future.
through a difficult time?