Tender Loving Care

One Newfoundland woman gives her all, taking her through sickness and through health commitment to heart, caring for
her partner at home


The numbers are staggering. Right now, there are more than eight million Canadians who spend much of their time each day taking care of someone close to them. 

These unsung heroes  – unpaid family caregivers who rarely receive recognition, support, or any outside help that could help lighten their load – give tender loving care to those who need it most. 

Petro-Canada CareMakers Foundation offers support though a community-based, not-for-profit organization that provide resources or services to caregivers across Canada. Petro-Canada’s parent company, Suncor, plans to invest $10 million over the next five years, and the Foundation will expand its activities with the support of Canadians who take care of each other across this country.

Tish Walsh from Torbay is one unsung hero who has received support through CareMakers. Tish is a caregiver for her husband Gord. Even as she works full time, she helps her husband navigate diabetes and cancer as he also recovers from a heart attack. Yes, it’s been exhausting for her, but there’s so much more to this story. It all started in 2006. 

‘Quite a shock for us’

A heart attack, followed by open heart surgery was what started the care. There was after-surgery wound care, and Tish explained that alone was not only time consuming, but stressful as well. 

“I was working and I would have to tend to those wounds and keep them clean so they didn’t get infected. But we got him on the mend and he went back to work then, seven years ago, the diabetes really caused problems and an infection would not heal and it went right to the bone on the sole of his foot under his heel.”

And then, prostate cancer. It was almost overwhelming, she shared. Gord was in pain. Constantly. 

“It was quite a shock for us, everything that he had to deal with. It’ll be two years this coming March that Gord had his left leg amputated below the knee. In the meantime, he’s been doing dialysis three days a week for about three years. And last winter, Snowmageddon, he underwent radiation for prostate cancer and then surgery and because diabetes affects your entire body, his vision is affected. And he has to take a lot of things to stay well, but basically, his body is breaking down with diabetes,” Tish shared. 

Doing things differently

Married 20 years, there was little question Tish would do what she could. The Petro-Canada CareMaker’s foundation really helped Tish help her husband. 

“I like my job, I like to work. I’m not ready to give it all up. But my mind wasn’t able to focus on being away from the house with Gord at home. So the foundation helped by setting me up to work from home. They’re very obliging and I don’t think that without this CareMakers help that that would be an option. Just bringing that awareness that things can be done differently really helps.”

Since she’s been home, Gord’s spirits have improved. “He’s so much more relaxed. I mean, there he was home by himself. I was running from pillar to post, booking appointments, picking up and dropping off things and doing everything else like shopping and whatnot plus the outdoor stuff and just kind of going crazy. Gord felt bad. I know he felt bad. Even if I wanted to walk I felt bad because he was here by himself. And now I’m  able to stay home and him just knowing my presence is here has done a world of good.”

Tish wants people to understand the sacrifices and the rewards that come with being an unpaid family caregiver. 

“When something like this happens, it changes your entire life. You don’t get much time for yourself because you’re physically exhausted and when you’re not doing something, your head’s always filled with what you have to do next. You just don’t get any downtime.” 

As for the rewards? “Knowing that you’re helping somebody that you loved. You’re there for them and you feel good and content because you’re trying to keep things normal. Like any family should be,” she said.

A whole new outlook

Tish said many don’t see her as a caregiver, they see her as a wife. But circumstances have made things quite unique in their case. “People don’t see people like me as caregivers. They have this idea when they hear the word caregiver, they’re thinking about somebody that works for a company or provides care giving services. But that’s not the case. Unless they see someone locally and hear a personal story, something like mine, then that gives them a whole new outlook on exactly what it is that care giving entails.”

All things being equal, Tish considers herself blessed. “I’m very lucky. I have a wonderful employer who is very supportive and accommodating and I hope by sharing my story, it will help bring awareness to and benefit people that are in a similar role, such as mine.”   

 For more visit petro-canada.ca

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