Color & Control:

On Being “The Glue”

Your day…It began with grabbing a quick breakfast and ended with falling asleep in front of the late-night news. In between, it was a busy blur of rushing to the hospital, rearranging prior commitments and trying to banish anxious thoughts of what might be just around the corner. Yesterday the coast was clear. Your partner and kids helped with raking the garden and putting away the lawn furniture for the season. The grandchildren came over and you enjoyed a family dinner together.

Today, everything is upside down. Mum’s had a stroke and it’s not a pretty picture. Should you have seen it coming? Could it have been prevented? The second-guessing is pointless. Who knows what the next few months will bring, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that life has changed.

Yes, overnight, from one day to the next, a reasonably healthy 75-year-old woman who shared a cute little bungalow with her second husband has gone from being independent to dependent. How will they cope? Will your stepdad be willing and able to care for her, if and when they send her home? Who will cook and shop for him? He can barely wash his own socks, let alone prepare a meal!

Your mum’s always been the one who has held the family together—the glue, so to speak. But now she’s come unstuck in more ways than one, and it’s your turn to step up.

It’s daunting! But it’s safe to say that you are not alone. Research shows that one in four Canadians is a family caregiver in some way, shape or form. The average age of these people is 48 years and the person they care for is 78 years old. Research also shows that taking care of yourself and not being afraid to ask for help are the keys to avoiding caregiver burnout.

If you’ve already been down the caregiving road before and you’re back again, or if you’re just about to begin your first journey, we hope that Caregiver Solutions and the Canada Cares network ( will help, and that our resident experts will provide you with useful information and wise advice.

Take a deep breath and remember the words of John Barrymore: “Happiness often sneaks in through the door you didn’t know you left open.”

P.S. Need support? Call the Canada Cares support line (1-855-619-5021) —it’s free, and very caregiver-friendly

Caroline Tapp-McDougall, Editor in Chief

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