How I became my father’s caregiver

Bill Yurchuk

From a very early age, we count on the fact that our parents will take care of us. Fix us when we hurt ourselves, comfort us when we are sad, and guide us through the difficult parts of life. Even when we are adults, we can draw from our childhood experiences as a reference to help us through struggles and battles.  All of that changes, however, as our parents age.  When our parents start becoming dependent on their children, everything changes.

My dad’s name was Ed Yurchuk.  He was a successful businessman, had a very active social life and was loved by everyone who knew him.  As he got older, his large group of friends tapered down to a very precious few.  Then, when he started getting sick, the circle became even smaller.  Most friendships are built on the foundation of convenience. Those friendships fade quickly when the convenience wears off, especially during times of poor health or financial trouble – when true friends are needed the most.  People can choose to remain friends or not.

Family members normally don’t have the luxury of that choice, nor do most want it.  As a result of a cancer diagnosis, my Dad’s life changed dramatically, requiring trips to the doctor, multiple tests. With him in London and us in Sarnia, the logistics of his new schedule were sometimes almost impossible. All it took was a fleeting glance between my wife Chris and I to agree that my Dad would come live with us.  In that glance, I went from son to caregiver.

The deterioration of my Dad’s physical form was quick. His strong, proud, confident being transformed into a scared, weak shadow of his former self.  Now it was our time to be his strength. He now relied on us for day-to-day tasks and we accepted the challenge without question.  He was where he needed to be.

The final weeks and days of my Dad’s life were the most difficult, the toughest, and yet, the most rewarding time of our lives.  It would not have happened without the strength and courage of Christine – my wife who was at her very best and demonstrated a strength that was so impressive and inspiring.

Be kind to each other… Life is tough enough without having to battle each other.

Also, if you know a caregiver, give them a hug.  They have definitely earned it.

Bill Yurchuk is manager of the Canadian Cancer Society, Lambton County Office