Each year, Canada Cares celebrates the selfless and often heroic efforts of family and professional caregivers from coast to coast with our One Wish and Caregiver Recognition Awards. In the midst of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, we received an impressive number of excellent nominations for our 2020 awards, resulting in the largest number of winners in our 8-year program history.
Thank you to all who took the time to submit a nomination.
Our One Wish Award is intended to help make a difference in the lives of struggling caregivers by providing financial assistance to meet specific needs. These are the caregivers who share our 2020 One Wish award and their stories.
Lisa and Cameron’s caregiving journey began the day their daughter Kate was born, and grew from there with the birth of their second daughter Gabby. Both girls were diagnosed at birth with non-verbal autism.
In the past year, Lisa suffered a nervous breakdown, and social development stepped in to assist Cameron to become the father the girls needed. Cameron is making sure the girls are receiving all the help that he can provide. He is a fantastic and engaging father and is doing well with the help of Social Development, Opal Family Services (help and assistance with after school club), Camp Wonder (summer camp) and Capitol Family Services (provides childcare while dad is at work).
The family had to sell their home and move to an apartment to be able to cover the bills that had accumulated. We hope this award of will make life a little easier by helping with monthly expenses for Cameron’s growing girls.
“Your wife has dementia,” are the last words Antonio expected to hear. He and Michelle were completely blindsided when she was diagnosed at just age 40 with an incurable disease that normally affects much older people. Watching his wife and the mother of their four children slowly progress into a vegetative state, unable to talk, write, walk, feed, dress and care for herself, has been beyond devastating. But he stepped up as Michelle’s primary caregiver, working from home while attending to her daily needs, along with their children’s needs, with little outside support.
As Michelle’s disease progressed, Antonio realized she needed more care than he and occasional personal support workers (PSWs) could provide. Drawing on his personal experience and knowledge, he started Alternative Home Care in 2017. The company now employs 40 people who tirelessly dedicate themselves to providing clients with 24/7 professional care and respite, as well as guidance and assistance with navigating the often-confusing health care system.
Antonio’s nominator says he’s passionate about helping people and Canada Cares is thrilled to reward him for his selfless endeavours.
Kim has been caring for her husband PJ since he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s five years ago. Her nominator calls her a true heroine. The day after her husband’s diagnosis, she stripped the garage and turned it into a gym. Then she started a Parkinson’s support group and has been running that along with regular exercise get-togethers in the gym for the past four years. Until the pandemic hit, these in-person sessions had grown to 30 people.
Kim, who works full-time from home, still finds time to do physical therapy with her husband every day, makes sure he walks regularly, helps him dress, prepares all his meals and organizes regular family visits—all while overseeing her aging parents who both have cancer and mobility issues.
Kim is now taking a course in geriatric care to learn how best to care for her husband as he ages. Canada Cares happily provides this award to pay for some in-home help with Kim’s long list of daily chores.
Hope’s son Cole, now 12 years old, was diagnosed with autism, global developmental delay, 3q13 deletion syndrome and, most recently, grand mal seizures. Hope has been his constant caregiver and advocate and is often emotionally and physically exhausted from dealing with his bouts of severe aggression. With school and specialized programs cancelled due to COVID- 19, the family has had to bear the cost of respite care for Cole so Hope can spend her days with his younger sister who has a learning disability and ADHD.
Having no extended family nearby, Hope dedicates all her spare time to her children while still managing to participate in community programs and share her knowledge with others in similar situations. Canada Cares is providing this award to assist with the cost of a respite program for Cole so that his mom can have some much-needed breaks.
Shantelle was blessed last July with beautiful twin girls, born prematurely at 28 weeks old. Following their birth, Bowie-Lynn and Hensleigh spent months in the newborn intensive care unit, where they were diagnosed with Down syndrome and other serious medical issues. The twins and their young mother have a long road ahead as both girls require open-heart surgery and will have to travel out-of-province for treatment.
Shantelle had been working with young children at a local youth ranch for over six years and was looking forward to becoming a mother. Her nominator says she has little or no financial resources but declares she’s the strongest woman she’s ever met and is up to the challenge. Canada Cares hopes this award will help ease her financial burden as she cares for her precious twins.
Stephanie’s husband Jeff was diagnosed with metastatic, Stage IV colorectal cancer in 2014. Due to his rapidly failing health, Jeff had to leave his job in the technology industry and the family subsequently moved from Calgary to a rural farm closer to Stephanie’s family. Stephanie has taken on responsibility for the upkeep of their farm while caring for her husband and their two young daughters.
Stephanie has rallied the family through Jeff’s numerous surgeries, ongoing financial hardship, physical demands and emotional suffering. She recently started restoring furniture and selling their farm eggs to help with expenses. Her nominator says Stephanie’s compassion, perseverance and courage while she struggles to make sure Jeff has the best possible quality of life are truly inspiring and heartwarming. Knowing their time together is limited, Stephanie and Jeff decided to renew their wedding vows two years ago. We hope they will consider this award a belated vow renewal gift to help with expenses.
At any given time, about one in four Canadians are providing care for a loved one with little or no recognition. As the sole national caregiver recognition program, Canada Care is pleased to recognize the following incredible family caregivers.
Tara and Amanda are raising four adopted children who live with a variety of disabilities and needs. One is blind and the others live with significant mobility challenges that require the use of a wheelchair. Each child requires care with their daily needs including toileting, changing, and feeding. At times, some have been hospitalized with health complications.
Despite the daily demands of caring for their children, Tara and Amanda are creative and adventurous and soldier on withgood cheer to ensure their children thrive. They include them in a variety of stimulating activities geared to their individual abilities and interests. To lift the kids’ spirits after more than 100 days of isolation from COVID-19, they decided to celebrate Christmas in June last year so Santa could come early. These parents are a wonderful example for all and are much admired by other parents and health professionals who know them.
George and Colleen have been doing double duty for decades looking after their daughter-in-law Peggie, who lives with progressive MS, as well as their son, Callum, who was diagnosed with autism. All four live together in the Maclagan home, which they’ve remodelled over the years to accommodate Peg’s deteriorating mobility.
This dynamic duo truly puts the “family looks after family” philosophy into practice, providing care with grace and optimism. Colleen keeps things running smoothly on the home front by taking on most of the day-to-day caregiving for her son and daughter-in-law, enabling George to pursue a variety of community initiatives.
For over 10 years, George has coached Special Olympics athletes, including his son Callum who is part of the powerlifting team. He says that his son has grown into a man and a better person because of the power and influence of sport.
Hanna was told that her daughter Rehab wouldn’t make it after she suffered a severe brain injury. But this young mother has proved the professionals wrong with her dedicated care and determined advocacy. From the moment she learned of Rehab’s condition, she has remained steadfastly by her side.
Hanna goes above and beyond every day for her daughter who is completely dependent on her for all her daily needs including toileting, eating and communicating her needs and wants to others. Hanna continues to seek out alternative options for Rehab’s care and continually advocates on every level to ensure that she gets the best care and treatment available, often at the expense of her own health. Her nominators tell us she is one determined mother who will stop at nothing to help her daughter
Eugene has his hands full as primary caregiver for a number of family members. His wife Debby lives with Multiple Sclerosis, his 37-year-old daughter Victoria was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as an infant, and his 32-year-old daughter Andrea has been profoundly deaf since age 10 and has been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.
The busy father provides constant support and care for his wife and daughters who live in their family home and whose conditions pose multiple complications and challenges for them all. As if that’s not enough, Eugene has been volunteering with the MS Society for more than 20 years serving on a number of committees involved with government relations and Saskatchewan’s provincial Disability Strategy. Despite having suffered a heart attack last year, Eugene continues to care for his family and to share his knowledge and advice with all who seek him out.
Barbro and Tim’s 17-year-old daughter Olivia lives with cerebral palsy, limited mobility and is legally blind as a result of an aneurysm in utero and hydrocephaly post-birth. In addition to managing Olivia’s daily care and tending to her many needs, her dedicated parents also find time to advocate on multiple fronts for youth with disabilities.
When they realized that Olivia has a savant-like ability to remember lyrics of dozens of songs and can sing like an angel, they strongly encouraged her to participate in school and church performances along with taking voice lessons. Barbro and Tim routinely attend concerts with Olivia to support her love of music and orchestrated a back stage meet and greet with the Four Tenors who were blown away by her ability. These dedicated parents work tirelessly to ensure that Olivia has the best life and participates in as many activities as possible.
Aimee has dedicated the last four years to the care of her aging parents, Julieta and Jaime. Her father died in early 2019 after a two-year struggle with complications resulting from routine surgery. Her mother has been diagnosed with dementia and also suffers from diabetes, heart disease, strokes and ulcers. She has now moved in with Aimee, her husband and their two teenagers.
Aimee cares selflessly and lovingly for Julieta 24/7, much like a professional caregiver with the knowledge she’s gained from courses, seminars, support groups and her own life experiences. And she does it without letting her husband and children feel overlooked. Her husband calls her a true Superwoman and a poster child for the “sandwich generation”.
Colleen’s son Justin, now age 30, was born at 22 weeks with conditions resulting in severe cerebral palsy, visual impairment and learning disabilities. In fact, it was a miracle he lived through nearly four months in the NICU. Over the years, Colleen has been his devoted caregiver and advocate, seeing him through multiple medical procedures and surgeries while pushing him non-stop to learn to walk and read. She still works with him every day, guiding and helping him with his daily chores and personal interests so that he can be as independent as possible.
He says she never complains and never gives up on him, even when she’s exhausted. “She is my hero,” says Justin. “Without her I would not even be here.”
Aileen is the primary caregiver for her father, who has Alzheimer’s, and her 61-year-old brother who struggles with bipolar disease. Her father and brother live together and she does their grocery shopping, prepares meals, takes them to medical appointments and advocates on their behalf for government services.
In addition, Aileen cares for her 32-year-old live-in son who has been diagnosed with Addison’s disease, ADD, OCD and Tourette’s syndrome. Her husband also has mental health issues and, as a result, Aileen has had to take over administration of the family business in addition to her significant caregiving responsibilities.
Aileen is now dealing with her own health issues but still manages to find time to babysit her two young grandchildren from another son – an additional caregiving role, but one that she finds very rewarding.
Jacqueline, a two-time cancer survivor, has been her husband’s full-time caregiver for the last three years while he waits for a nursing home placement.
At age 77, she almost single-handedly takes care of all of his personal and medical needs stemming from numerous health conditions including heart disease, kidney disease and diabetes that resulted in two amputations and long-term mobility issues.
Despite her own health issues and mobility challenges, Jacqueline never complains or wavers in her dedication to caring for her husband of 57 years. And she’s done it without a single day off in more than three years!
Robert is simply the best friend everyone wants to have. When Robert met Andrew, a quadriplegic with cerebral palsy, at an Easter Seals camp in 1987, they became fast friends. Andrew, who uses a wheelchair and speaks with a device, has had multiple surgeries, through which Robert has always supported him, providing personal care and administering his medications through a g-tube.
The two have enjoyed a lot of good times together, too – travelling throughout Ontario and to Las Vegas and New York, renting a cottage together every summer, going to countless football, baseball and hockey games and raising money for Easter Seals.
They were even best man at each other’s weddings. Andrew says that Todd is always there for him in good times and bad, encouraging him to advocate for himself, listening to him, helping others understand what he’s thinking and making him laugh.
Doris and Diane are the lead caregivers for their brother Gerry who lives with a developmental disability and is now in his 60s. After both of their parents died, Diane and Doris stepped up to make sure Gerry was well taken care of and able to maintain a fulfilling life of purpose and dignity.
Despite their own family and health challenges, Doris and Diane continue to support and care for Gerry who has developed increasingly complex physical and emotional health issues over the last 10 years. It’s not unusual for either of them to check in on him daily, accompany him to medical appointments or rush him to the emergency department due to his failing health. It’s been a very long journey for these two “angels on earth” who do it all for Gerry with love and kindness.
According to the laws of aerodynamics, bumblebees shouldn’t be able to fly. But they do. Similarly, NKH parents are told their babies won’t live – but some do. Non-ketotic hyperglycinemia (NKH) is a rare metabolic disorder that leads to an over- accumulation of glycine in the body’s tissues and fluids.
Kelly Hale may not wear a beekeeper’s outfit or a superhero cape, but she’s a devoted and heroic single parent and caretaker to two remarkable children, Jacob and Emma, both with NKH. Kelly was told that Emma would never walk or talk. Last year, she walked across the stage to receive her high school diploma and Jacob will follow in a few years. Kelly’s daily caregiving routine includes bathing, personal care, dressing, medication administration, medical appointments and much more – all while serving as a full-time vice principal and educator.
A passionate mentor and advocate for other NKH parents, Kelly does not take no for an answer. She demands inclusion for all and creates a world that does not tolerate exclusion.
Georgina’s teenage son George has an incurable blood disease that sometimes requires urgent hospitalization and transfusions. On top of this, he has been diagnosed with high functioning autism (HFA). His mom works with him every day on developing his personal hygiene, social skills and coping mechanisms to overcome fear and other challenges of growing up with HFA.
Simply put, Georgina is George’s personal advocate, helping others to understand his behaviour while encouraging him to move gently out of his comfort zone. Despite her significant caregiving responsibilities, she still manages to find time for a number of volunteer projects including serving as a community youth leader, helping bring Syrian refugee families to PEI and raising funds to support victims of the Beirut explosion.
Front-line health care workers have been lauded as the true heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic – and rightly so. Canada Cares is pleased to recognize these outstanding professional caregivers.
John is a full-time, live-in caregiver for Dallas on the Tsuut’ina Nation reserve. Dallas is a quadriplegic due to an accident 35 years ago and John’s commitment to his care is nothing short of outstand- ing. His responsibilities include bed bathing and toileting, catheter care, wound care, nail care, dressing, lift transfers, braid- ing hair, brushing teeth, feeding and medication administration.
John also goes above and beyond. He trains and feeds the dogs, coordinates renovations, throws spectacular birthday parties for Dallas and supports him to accomplish things he never thought possible. John is truly a caregiving leader – not just to other caregivers and nurses, but to the entire community.
Mary is a health care social worker for elders and persons living with disabilities in Prince George. Challenging at the best of times, the pandemic has made her work in the community all that more difficult. However, one of the remarkable things about Mary is her holistic approach to client wellness during COVID-19.
While most have been focused primarily on the physical implications of the pandemic, Mary has made the additional effort to help bolster her clients’ mental, emotional and spiritual wellness – months before the Minister of Health was even considering these aspects.
Mary is a strong supporter of those most impacted by poor health, poverty, trauma, racism and other forms of marginalization and works constantly to improve the system while maximizing the resources available to her.
Cynthia is a Nurse Practitioner and Jordan’s Principle caseworker striving to meet the medical and psychological needs of children and adults in the Wuskwi Sipihk First Nation community. Her day begins with a long commute, followed by medical appointments, referrals, community educational presentations, assessments and team meetings with staff in the adult, youth and children’s programs that she coordinates. She is always accommodating whenever emergency and non-emergency situations arise. She stays, even if it means her day is longer than expected.
Cynthia knows that each family and individual has unique needs and she treats each client with the respect and dignity they deserve. Not only does she open her shining heart to the community, she doesn’t hesitate to open her home in an emergency to adults with intellectual and physical disabilities and self-injurious behaviours.
Leigha is a dedicated, hardworking support worker for a number of fortunate residents served by the Stratford Community Living agency. Each client’s needs vary, but the thing that stays consistent is Leigha’s positive attitude and support. She is passionate caregiver who ensures her clients are always encouraged and engaged.
Some days you may find her baking with residents; other days she may be assisting someone with gardening or supporting her residents as they travel by bus for grocery shopping or community activities.
Leigha seeks creative and fun ways to get her clients involved in the community and has kept a positive spirit during the current pandemic. Even when she isn’t working, she can be seen striking up a conversation with clients at the local ballpark or elsewhere about town.
Kpana is a personal support worker (PSW) working in private homes. She came into the lives of one client when their six-year- old son, who has a rare genetic condition, fractured his neck and spine.
Since the moment she walked through their doors as their PSW, Kpana has been an angel for the family. She not only takes care of their son like he’s her own son, she also helps them beyond words with the emotional and physical aspects of raising a child with disabilities. In fact, she treats all of her clients like family and always puts them first.
Nicole, who began her career as a health care aid in 1999, has displayed remarkable composure, dedication and commitment to her clients’ and her family’s health and wellness.
Her son Levi was born 14 years ago with a neuromuscular disorder that has baffled and challenged scores of medical professionals. After his birth, she reinvented her profession and started SMILE Fitness, which offers affordable fitness classes for individuals with mobility issues.
In the face of COVID-19, Nicole shifted her focus to work exclusively at a local retirement facility to reduce the chances of spread between different groups of immunocompromised individuals. Always finding a positive angle in any circumstance, Nicole’s spirit is genuine and unbreakable.
Brittany is a personal support worker (PSW) at Starwood Long Term Care. She works tirelessly to ensure the needs of the residents in her care are met and often serves as their advocate if they require further assistance.
Her dedication and passion extend to helping other staff, when needed, to assist their residents as well. Always willing, she doesn’t hesitate to pick up extra shifts or just sit and spend one-on-one time with residents on her days off. Brittany’s positive attitude, diligence and professionalism are definitely noticed by other staff, management and, of course, Starwood’s residents.
Rob has worked in a group home for autistic young adults for almost five years. Four of the residents may require him to spend his overnight shift with them. Many of his residents are non-verbal or aggressive and it’s not unusual for him to come home with bite marks or scratches and bruises.
Despite the challenging working conditions, Rob displays the utmost patience and cares deeply about his residents’ happiness and well-being. In addition to caring for everyone’s regular daily living needs, he is always coming up with new ways to bring enjoyment and fun to their day. Since COVID- 19, outings have been cancelled, so he has spent hours taking residents out for van rides or walks just to get them outside. Rob is also a team lead who encourages his staff by leading by example.
Caitlin is a personal support worker (PSW) who works with children who have been diagnosed with autism, including one special patient, Anthony. Everyone who had previously worked with Anthony has given up on him. But, from the moment Caitlin walked into his house, Anthony was drawn to her. Suddenly he wanted to sit beside her to engage, something he had never done before with any other PSW or family member.
By taking time to really get to know Anthony, Caitlin has learned about his likes and dislikes, triggers and things that calm him down. She has also taught him to complete certain tasks and to build his confidence. Using her considerable skills and patience, Caitlin continues her efforts to build a solid relationship with Anthony and his family. They consider her a real miracle worker.
Canada Cares is a program of the Canadian Abilities Foundation (CAF), a registered Canadian charity. CAF envisions an inclusive, universally accessible society where all people belong and are valued. Our mission is to make Canada the most accessible and caring country in the world through advocacy, awareness building and sharing of best practice solutions.