Ordinary people doing extraordinary things

May 5 – 11, 2012 is Family Caregiver Week in British Columbia.

“It is all about recognizing and supporting the over one million family caregivers in B.C.,” said Barb Maclean, executive director at the Family Caregiver’s Network Society.

Most of us are familiar with the term sandwich generation: moms and dads working, raising children and also caring for aging parents. That’s just one of a huge variety of family caregiving situations. 

“You could be caring for a spouse. You could be caring for a grandparent.  You could be caring for your adult parent – that’s a growing piece as well,” said Maclean.

And while caregivers give all they can to their loved ones, they need support too. That’s where the Family Caregiver’s Network Society comes in. The society – a past grant recipient that has an endowment fund hosted by the Victoria Foundation – supports caregivers with information, workshops, support groups and one-on-one guidance over the phone or in person. 

“Without the workshops that they provide and the support group, I wouldn’t know how to go about navigating the health system,” said Llweyn (pronounced “Lou-wayne”) Friars. 

Life has not been easy for her family. 

Llweyn’s  brother Don Sefton was an RH-negative baby who required multiple blood transfusions when he was born in 1944. 

“Unfortunately the last transfusion that they gave him was our mother’s blood, which was like a poison to him and it created a blood clot in his brain stem,” said Friars.

Throughout Llweyn’s life, she has helped her mother care for Don, who experienced mental and physical impairments as a result of that blood clot. Then, as her mother slipped into dementia, she took care of them both.  On April 1 of this year, her mother passed away, leaving her to look out for Don on her own. 

“Caregiving is really one of the toughest jobs you can do. It can be one of the most rewarding, but also the most stressful physically, emotionally, and financially,” said Maclean. “Family caregivers are typically ordinary people doing extraordinary things.” 

It’s a vital job that has to be done and we salute all those family caregivers supporting loved ones – now, during Family Caregiver Week, and throughout the year.

Note: Barb Maclean will facilitate a webinar on family caregiving Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 11:00 a.m. PST. The free webinar is sponsored by the Patient Voices Network and will explore caregiving across the spectrum – from the individual patient and family perspective to the practice and policy levels in health care.

This blog post is based on a Vital People feature produced by Vee Cooper that aired on CHEK News @ 5 Sunday, May 6, 2012. The Victoria Foundation (on Twitter at @Vic Foundation) sponsors Vital People to celebrate the work of people and organizations working on the issues highlighted in the Victoria’s Vital Signs® community report that the foundation publishes annually.

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