Janet Dunnett is bringing her first book to Vernon’s Bookland and Okanagan Regional Library Aug. 30. (Adam Kveton/Black Press)

The story of a family caregiver

As the median age rises steadily in Canada, concerns regarding palliative care rise with it

Fertility is down and people are living longer. As the median age rises steadily across the board in Canada, concerns regarding palliative care rise with it.

The answer to the conundrum, according to Qualicum Beach author Janet Dunnett, is the utilization of family caregivers. But it’s a hard job wrought with stress, difficulty, and long hours, which Dunnett resonates in her book, The Dwindling: A Daughter’s Caregiving Journey to the Edge, for which she will hold an informal launch at Vernon’s Bookland Aug. 30 from 12 to 2 p.m., and a reading from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Okanagan Regional Library.

“My purpose, far beyond book selling, is to support the recognition, respect, and support given to unpaid family caregivers,” Dunnett said. “Getting to that requires those who know the story of caregiving to tell it with feeling and often, and with balance of course… There’s bliss with the grit.”

The Dwindling follows Dunnett’s decade long experiences of caregiving for her parents, and serves as a reflection for the stories of other caregivers.

“It was becoming clearer and clearer and clearer that my parents were fading,” Dunnett said. “(There were) all of the little signs that they weren’t going so smoothly.”

Dunnett lives on the Island, and throughout her caregiving, she assumed the role of daughter-at-distance for her parents in Calgary, and supported her sister as daughter-on-deck.

“More and more, daughters are caregiving at a distance,” Dunnett said. “But distance needn’t take anyone off the hook. Together, my sister and I found a way to work together and be there for the parents.”

Throughout their time caregiving, Dunnett, as a writer, kept a log of what had been occurring. It wasn’t until after her duties ceased that she realized it was a story she had to share.

“I was feeling that it was important to tell a certain story,” Dunnett said. “It was our story, but it was an important one.”

The Dwindling talks of Dunnett’s hardships during the caregiving process, whether its the constant travel or worrying from a distance, and the struggles that go along with it. However, through the hardhips came positivity.

“This is not all a negative story — it’s a crisis with an opportunity,” Dunnett said. “Out of it is a lot of strength too.”

Through caregiving for her parents, Dunnett said her family became closer. It brought her and her sister closer together, and ensured her of the shared love between Dunnett and her parents.

Though, with Canada’s aging population, Dunnett is concerned with the lack of potential caregivers for her generation: the baby boomers.

“As more and more of us close the line, fewer and fewer people are in line to take on the job of caregivers,” Dunnett said. “We’re in total denial that our time will come. For all those reasons, we’re just not paying enough attention to palliative care.”

This is particularly worrisome, Dunnett said, as Canada’s palliative care system is more a dream than a reality. The ending result is that caregivers are forced to be the glue that holds the health care system together.

“There’s this sense of unpreparedness for caregivers,” Dunnett said, adding that, with The Dwindling, she hopes to help remove the situation’s invisibility before it becomes a crisis.

It’s far from easy. Caregiving takes everything the caregiver has. But for Dunnett, it will always remain, “The hardest job I ever loved.”

Dunnett hosts an informal launch of The Dwindling: A Daughter’s Caregiving Journey to the Edge at Vernon’s Bookland from 12 to 2 p.m., and the Vernon branch of Okanagan Regional Library from 7 to 9 p.m. Aug. 30.

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