A Caregiver’s River: A Journey in Life

Linda Bowen has been a caregiver for most of her life.  At the age of ten, she helped care for her younger brother who had cerebral palsy and then in 2019, Linda called on these skills again when she became the primary caregiver for her parents who were both dealing with major health issues. When COVID-19 hit, Linda found herself leaving her husband and daughter in Toronto and moving to Grimsby to provide comfort, care and support for her mother Vivian, suffering with Lewy Body dementia and her father Ben dealing with congestive heart failure.

As Ben was under the care of the Niagara West Palliative Care Team, Linda was contacted by Arthur Loik, Psycho-Spiritual Clinician with the team at McNally House Hospice. Arthur introduced Linda to the myriad of programs and supports offered by McNally House. Linda joined Caregiver’s Corner; a bi-weekly support group that creates a safe and inclusive space for caregivers to find community, cry, learn, and ultimately cope with the rewarding and undeniably challenging role.

When Ben died in October 2020 and Vivian moved to a long-term care facility, Linda remained in Grimsby to care for her parents’ home and their dog ChaCha who sadly died this fall. These events left Linda engulfed in stress and coping with grief, while balancing the demands of caregiving. Trying to balance her roles as daughter, wife, mother, sister, and caregiver, she felt that she was drowning in a barrage of demands and obligations.

Linda turned to McNally House to get her through these difficult times. Along with the Caregiver Support Group, she also joined a number of bereavement and art therapy programs. Linda shares, “Without the support of McNally House, it would have been total chaos emotionally and physically. These programs help to sustain me. I feel like I’m not alone.”

Linda has learned to savour the moments that she carves out for herself and to cherish good memories when times are difficult. She has incorporated some thoughts and reflections from her group experiences into a Vision Board, which has helped her to reconnect with her creative side.

Linda’s advice to others; find the courage to ask for support and take time to breathe and re-focus. One Thursday, after attending the Caregiver Walk, Linda was inspired to gather her thoughts in a poem which she entitled, A Caregiver’s River: A Journey in Life. She compared life’s journey to a river, constantly flowing, and ever-changing with its’ ebbs and flows. Life journeys on like a flowing river.

There is life in every moment.