Approximately 8 million Canadians are caring for someone with a serious illness, disability or frailty. These dedicated caregivers are making untold sacrifices to look after others who are unable to care for themselves. Each year, Canada Cares calls on Canadians from coast-to-coast to nominate amazing caregivers for our annual awards.
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.
Sonia is the ultimate family caregiver who cares for her husband Tony who struggles with late-stage MS, her daughter Alessia who has been diagnosed with mitochondrial disease and is experiencing severe vision loss, her son Cosimo who lives with a mental health condition and seizures, and her aging father. As a dedicated family caregiver, Sonia works hard to juggle everyone’s daily needs and frequent medical appointments and emergencies. She also does her best to raise funds to improve her family’s quality of life and cope with their often overwhelming financial challenges.
Canada Cares is honouring Sonia with a One Wish Award to help reduce her day-to-day tasks and housekeeping responsibilities. This will enable her to spend more time with her family-specifically her daughter who she is taking to school to learn the skills she will need to live with her pending loss of vision.
Greg’s daughter Stephanie suffers with a life-limiting condition that has required 16 major surgeries and countless other invasive procedures. As if he didn’t already have enough on his plate, this supremely compassionate human still took the time to care for his terminally ill buddy Hank as his cancer progressed. This included accompanying Hank to and from hospital on numerous occasions, doing his shopping, helping get his affairs in order and, ultimately, assisting with Hank’s move into a palliative care facility where he continued to visit him every weekend.
A Canada Cares One Wish Award will cover a portion of the expenses Greg incurred while caring for Hank.
Jocelyn was blessed with twin boys who were born prematurely at 20 weeks, weighing just over two pounds each. One twin, Thayer, was hospitalized for most of the first year of his life with serious complications, including cerebral palsy, while his mother and brother lived at Ronald McDonald House. A single mom, Jocelyn’s life revolves around her toddlers who are now three years old. She works tirelessly advocating for Thayer and helping him reach milestones, like walking, that doctors said he would never reach.
Jocelyn is receiving a One Wish Award to help pay for her medical and travel expenses associated with Thayer’s ongoing care.
Rabia is the single parent and full-time caregiver for 6-year-old Adam, who was diagnosed with autism at 22 months. In addition to meeting his 24/7 needs, she takes him to therapy three times a week. Rabia also makes sure Adam is equipped with the tools and supports needed to help with his gross motor skills, sensory processing, self-regulation, life skills and communication. She is doing all this while completing her degree at the University of Toronto, volunteering with various disability organizations and advocating for women affected by domestic violence.
Canada Cares is providing a One Wish Award to be used towards the cost of Adam’s continuing therapy.
Marissa and her mom Angela both live with muscular dystrophy. While they have some symptoms in common, including muscle spasms, poor balance and fatigue, Angela also has severe hearing loss and vertigo. Despite her own poor health, Angela
has become her daughter’s primary caregiver, assisting her with day-to-day personal needs and reassuring her during her frequent anxiety attacks. Marissa says her selfless mom also gives what she can to help their friends and neighbours whenever they need it.
Canada Cares has provided a One Wish Award to cover a portion of their annual drug store and grocery bills.
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 Cares is pleased to recognize the following incredible family caregivers.
Judy’s husband Bill was diagnosed 11 years ago with stage 4 COPD and given six months to live. Thanks to Judy’s constant care, Bill continues to beat the odds, although his health has declined considerably. For the past five years, Judy has provided around the clock care. She rarely leaves the house as Bill can’t be left alone for long. Her nominator tells us that Judy has gone far beyond the role of wife to meet Bill’s every need and fulfill his wish to remain in his own home.
Michael is living proof that, with care, adults living with disabil-ities can thrive at home. His father-in-law Benson lives with kidney failure and, despite having to provide constant care for his wife Jill, who has undergone many surgeries and amputa-tions, Michael also makes lunch and dinner for Benson seven days a week. Recently, his commitment to caregiving led him to make a career change and become a personal support worker and paramedic. His wife says his kindness, compassion and sunny personality will be an asset to his new profession.
Jill has had her hands full for a number of years taking care of her father Pat, who passed away from cancer, and her husband Bill, who recently lost his six-year battle with brain cancer. She cared for Bill and helped him live his life to the fullest until his final moments. Now Jill has put aside her own interests again to focus on looking after her mother Margaret, who lives with MS and uses a wheelchair. To give Margaret the 24/7 care she needs, Jill moved in with her so she wouldn’t have to go to a care home.
Rhonda’s brother Bob was diagnosed with MS over 45 years ago and has been at the quadriplegic stage for a while. As his MS progressed, Bob moved back to the family home where Rhonda was already caring for their elderly parents. Following the death of their parents, she remained in the home to continue caring for Bob so he wouldn’t have to be institutionalized. For the past 12 years, she has arranged for his home care and served as his cook, secretary, chauffeur, maid, night nurse (she gets up every two hours to check on him) and best friend. Her nominator says there’s nothing Rhonda wouldn’t do to ensure her brother’s comfort, safety and wellbeing.
Kameeza’s son Yusuf was born with a rare genetic disorder that causes multiple organ dysfunction. After many risky surgeries, ICU admissions and lengthy hospital stays, doctors performed a life changing trial treatment that enabled him to go home with his parents and siblings.
Kameeza is Yusuf’s full-time caregiver and his voice (he is non-ver-bal and developmentally delayed). She continues to take him to hospital every other week for transfusions and treatment and her role will soon become even more challenging with his transition to adult care. Thanks to Kameeza’s dedicated care and support, Yusuf is a happy, playful child despite his many challenges.
Kameeza is also recognized by Canada Cares for founding Yusuf’s Day of Hope (ydoh.ca), a non-profit organization that raises funds for the Norman Saunders Complex Care Initiative at SickKids hospital. She sees this as a way to give back to the hospital that saved her son’s life and to support research that will help save other people’s children. To date, YDOH has raised more than $250,000.
Linda’s husband Raymond has Parkinson’s Plus Syndrome and related seizures. When he became ill during the pandemic, the couple made the difficult decision to take him to hospital, having no idea they were in for the most difficult journey of their lives. Raymond was hospitalized for seven months and Linda travelled more than 7,000 km in total to be by his side every day. She literally became part of his care team, feeding and bathing him, supervising his exercises, comforting him when he was delirious and supporting clinical decisions made by staff. Even when it appeared his recovery had plateaued, Linda never gave up hope and was finally rewarded when they walked out of the hospital together hand-in-hand.
Leanne’s mother Linda calls her an angel. Last year, Linda had a pacemaker inserted and had surgery for complicated diverticulitis. Her husband John (Leanne’s father) had a heart attack on top of a severe case of shingles. As a result Leanne has had her hands full looking after both parents. She does all their grocery shopping, errands and household chores, makes their meals and takes them to medical appointments. At the same time, Leanne remains very involved with her two daughters, driving them long distances to school and various extracurricular activities. Her mother says she does it all with a smile and a positive attitude.
Leonia is a full-time dedicated caregiver to her 93-year-old mother, Gabriela, who is in the final stages of Parkinson’s disease, lives with dementia and is unable to do anything for herself. Leonia provides constant care for her mother including toileting, feeding, bathing and administering her medications. At first, her sister Elizabeth assisted, until she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Now Leonia is taking care of both of them. Faced with the prospect of losing two of the most important people in her life, Leonia has gone through a rollercoaster of emotions. But, despite the turmoil, exhaustion and personal sacrifices, she firmly believes that “families take care of families” and manages to find the strength, stamina and commitment to carry on.
Laura’s nine-year-old daughter Kimberlyn was born with down syndrome. Laura has done most of the caregiving for Kimberlyn over the years as she struggled to find reliable help in her small community of approximately 600 residents. Initially she took time off as a custodian for the Ehdiitat Gwich’in to care for her daughter but she now she relies on her two older sons to help her with Kimberlyn’s care so she can work. The good news: despite some persistent medical and dental issues that require lots of attention and care, along with long trips to Edmonton, Kimberlyn is thriving.
Despite being well into her 80s with hip and knee problems, Shirley took on the role of primary caregiver for her husband Mac after he had a stroke. Now legally blind with declining mobility, Mac relies on Shirley for everything including assistance with showering, navigating the stairs in their three story home, shopping, meal preparation and rides to medical appointments. On top of this, they both battled COVID last year. Unfailingly by his side, Shirley ensures Mac is well taken care of, safe and able to stay in the home they love.
James began caring for his wife Edith in 2015 after she had a stroke. Although her mind still functions well, Edith is unable to walk or speak and requires constant care. James looks after her every need without assistance or complaint. His role includes toileting, showering, dressing, making her meals and taking her to all her appointments. On days he’s able to go to work at his own contracting company, James takes Edith with him as he’s been unable to find a trust-worthy health care aid in their community.
Nicole’s 11-year-old son Paul Jr. has been diagnosed with autism. As his primary caregiver Nicole continuously goes above and beyond to ensure her youngster receives the necessary therapy, education and programs to live a full life. Nicole and her husband Paul Sr. adopted their second child Leigh Ann at age 13. Remarkably, the energetic couple still find time to advocate for all parents of children on the spectrum and facilitate fundraising events that help provide inclusive social skills programs for autistic children across Eastern Ontario.
Joan’s husband Bruce lives with dementia. His sleep patterns are irregular. He goes from sleeping 20 hours a day to waking hourly during the night thinking he should be going to work. On those nights, Joan gets little sleep as she literally has to hold onto him and encourage him to stay in bed. Determined not to place Bruce in a facility, Joan does everything for him at home, despite the physical and emotional challenges. As Bill’s sole caregiver, she has been unable to undergo a much-needed hip replacement and has been largely isolated at home with no social support network during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Derek’s mother-in-law says he’s an angel sent from heaven and an amazing caregiver to her daughter Crystal and their three children. Now in her early 40s, Crystal was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at age 14. Her disease began to take a huge toll on their lives during her third pregnancy when her blood pressure soared and she started having trouble seeing. Labour was induced at 28 weeks. Crystal now has one glass eye and is legally blind in the other eye. Over the years since, she has endured life-threatening sepsis, emergency open-heart surgery, kidney failure and amputation of both legs below the knee. Through it all, Derek has selflessly cared for Crystal, meeting her every need and taking her to dialysis five days a week.
Front-line health 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.
Elizabeth is a homecare nurse who cares for post-surgery patients once they’ve been discharged from hospital. Her role includes making initial contact with clients, managing and administering their care and helping them to recover at home. Elizabeth also mentors new nurses during practicums to assess their potential for the role of homecare provider. Her nominator says Elizabeth’s professional and caring attitude make her very popular with clients and coworkers alike.
At Twin Bridges Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic an interdisciplinary team of registered nurses, dieticians and counsellors cares for more than 3,200 registered patients plus hundreds of community members who access a wide variety of free in-person and virtual programs. When the pandemic began, the clinic more than doubled its staff to take on the additional role of COVID-19 Assessment Centre for the local and surrounding communities. Based on a unique model led by nurse practitioners, the Assessment Centre has served more than 60,000 people, providing testing and treatment referrals five days a week. Staff have demonstrated great resilience and worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to provide community members with excellent service and the most up to date information.
Carmen looked after Morris in his home for over a decade. He passed away from cancer last summer at age 99 and she continues to care for his wife Yolande, who has lived with Parkinson’s for over 25 years. Their daughter Patti says her father would not have lived as long as he did and would not have been able to die at home with dignity without Carmen’s dedicated care. Similarly, she feels she would have lost her mother years ago if it weren’t for Carmen who she says has always cared for both of her parents like they were her own.
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”.
Alice is a professional caregiver who provides in-home care to clients with a wide range of challenges or disabilities. Her clients include seniors who live alone and require one-on-one care and companionship, people recovering at home after traffic or workplace accidents, and clients with living with mental health concerns who need assistance with day-to-day tasks or outings. Her nominator says she works long hours, never complains and just keeps going, even on her days off. She says Alice is just a very genuine and caring human who is doing what she was born to do.
Sara cares for residents of the Meadows Retirement Community. When COVID hit, she assumed many additional roles to assist residents during lockdown. For example, she picked up groceries on her own time for those who couldn’t and she learned hairdressing by watching videos at night so she could cut and style residents’ hair during her breaks. Remarkably, Sara still finds time to volunteer at a nearby hospice. It’s fair to say that she’s a caregiver who goes above and beyond, which is why she’s loved by residents and co-workers alike.
Billie-Jo is an activities staff member at Marjorie Green/Dinsdale Personal Care Home where she works with residents in small groups and one-on-one. Always bubbly and welcoming, she takes the time to get to know each resident so she can talk to them about the things they care about. Marge, a resident in the later stages of a degenerative brain disease who has lost her ability to speak full sentences, lights up when Billie-Jo engages with her. Assuming she has dementia, most people don’t take the time to listen and try to understand her. But Billie-Jo talks to Marge with enthusiasm and patience, asking her yes and no questions and waiting for a response. If she could speak, this former psychiatric nurse and strong advocate for humane aging would say Billie-Jo is a stellar example of an empathetic caregiver.
Lily is a spiritual care provider for residents at long-term care facility, Spruce Lodge. She provides emotional and spiritual support to residents as they adjust to living in long-term care and eases their transition to palliative and end of life care. Her supervisor says she personifies the meaning of resident focus, always putting residents’ needs first and ensuring their dignity and quality of life. She shares many intimate and heart-wrenching moments with residents and their families, always exhibiting grace and strength, and goes out of her way to transfer her knowledge and experience to co-workers, challenging them to be the best they can be.
Staff of PDSCL are dedicated to providing support and services to people with intellectual disabilities, seniors, low-income adults and families in Penticton and surrounding communities. This is exemplified by the quality, compassionate care they provided to David for nine years until he was moved to a longterm care facility. David lives with multiple head injuries and related cognitive challenges and mood swings. In keeping with the PDSCL mission to “enhance the lives of people we serve,” staff worked diligently to meet all of David’s personal care needs and provided the exceptional psychosocial support that allowed him to live with dignity as he aged and slowly lost his mobility. They also eased his eventual transition to long-term care and continue to help him get out into the community where he takes part in events and group activities that enhance his quality of life.
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.”
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.