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Celebrating and helping caregivers
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Patti and SherriDr Z. Essak, MD - Vancouver BC - February 16, 2018

According to Statistics Canada there are eight million caregivers in Canada. Most are unpaid, regular people who are taking care of aging and ailing parents, children with disabilities, and friends who need them. Caregivers get little or no attention, despite their massive numbers.

Some caregivers find inspiration and friendship from those they care for and some find themselves with personal challenges through caring for others. Healthcare providers may experience the same themselves and see this in those they serve.

Sharing caregivers' stories may help others find inspiration or recognize the impact on themselves and what they might be able to do.

Six months ago, with little publicity or attention, a new website emerged providing a platform to share these stories, to allow caregivers to interact, and to provide resources.

The website www.storiesforcaregivers.com includes short video documentaries that showcase caregivers. Each episode is only 5 to 10 minutes and kicks off by introducing the caregiver, who they provide care to, and the challenges and, at times, the triumphs they experience. These are powerful stories.

The key to the website is found on the main menu as the "Series", each consisting of several episodes.

The series "Being There" includes several episodes in which the filmmaker helps the caregiver create a multimedia presentation they share with friends, family and others. The first portion of each video is like "the making of the video", getting to know the caregiver and who they provide care to. Then there is a 3 minute portion, the presentation of the story that is followed by a brief discussion amongst viewers of the story.

One episode is Patti's story that tells of how as a teenager she answered an ad through which she met Sherri, a girl her own age with significant physical challenges, and how they have been committed friends ever since over a span of almost forty years.

In another episode, Tara's story, we see the impact on her as the caregiver and support person for her husband as he struggles with PTSD.

The series "House Call" includes episodes hosted by Dr Yvette Lu, a family physician, trying to find practical solutions to help improve the lives of caregivers and who they care for.

In one episode, "Lifelong Partners", we meet Tom, a Burnaby husband who struggles to cope with the progression of his wife’s MS, to his own detriment. "It’s a lot of work," he says about the constant care-giving. We see how Tom benefits from relaxation and how both he and his wife benefit from an outing together.

In another episode, "Self Care is NOT Selfish", we meet Carol, the wife of Ken who has chronic kidney disease. After a day outing with friends she tells how much fun it was and how she and her friends have planned to spend more time doing activities together.

The series "Caring For Those Who Care" includes episodes where the caregivers are offered gifts for sharing their stories to demonstrate that even small gestures can matter.

In one episode, Mandie, we meet a young Kelowna mother who’s been married for 12 years but isn’t living the life she pictured she would. Her second child, Moses, has autism spectrum disorder and epilepsy; her youngest, Rose, has cerebral palsy. Life is, quite simply, overwhelming. We see how even some simple gestures help her and her family.

Another episode, Sheila, features a North Vancouver mother whose daughter Shara was hit by a drunk driver more than 20 years ago and suffered brain injuries. Sheila didn’t realize this would be her new purpose in life, so when, many, many years later, Sheila got pregnant again, it was an unexpected gift. "We were probably shriveling up a bit," Sheila says.

The website also includes links to many other online resources and an inspirations board where visitors can post their own thoughts and pictures.

The website is still in its infancy, having been online for just about six months. It's an excellent resource with moving videos that are well worth viewing by caregivers, family, friends and healthcare providers.

Web Links

Links to each of the series on www.storiesforcaregivers.com

Being There

House Calls

Caring For Those Who Care

Statistics Canada

Portrait of caregivers, 2012

 

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