“I was there for her”: A Caregiver’s Story

Gordon MacGregor, a member of the Alternate Level of Care Patient and Caregiver Council, in an interview with Ross Upshur reflects upon his personal experience taking care of his wife in a span of nearly 30 years. His experience with the health system is what thousands of patients and family caregivers undergo on daily basis. The interview highlights both positive and not so positive aspects of care and the need to take care of the instances that patients might find rather inconvenient or challenging to overcome.

 Mr. Gordon MacGregor has personal experience with ALC as a bereaved caregiver. His devotion to a life taking care of his wife struggling with a severe type of mental disorder throughout the years, as well as his experiences as an advisor for different hospital councils, makes his experience indispensable in helping us understand the caregiver experience.

In his ‘‘Books and Men’’1, Sir William Osler (1849–1919) wrote that “ To study the phenomenon of disease without books is to sail an uncharted sea, while to study books without patients is not to go to sea at all. The same analogy could hold strong in patients and patient caregivers’ relation with the healthcare system and efforts to improve it. Gordon’s experience with the health care system is what Canadians might undergo at some point in their life when they seek professional help to regain their health. To make this experience positive for all of us at all times, stakeholders within and outside the healthcare system may take opportunities like this to examine the nature of patients and patient caregiver experience.

References and footnotes:
1- “Books and Men” in Boston Medical and Surgical Journal (1901)

2- “Justice of the Peace”: This term is named a couple of times in the audio file and it refers to the body of law in Ontario that has the authority to override the decision of a patient with mental illness who refuses to receive medical care and might have the potential to be danger to self or others. In such circumstances, The Justice of Peace can issue a Form 1 which is taken to the police and they act upon it and take the ill person to the hospital. It does not get the patient admitted; that decision is made by the attending physicians in the hospital.

3- “Beyond the Cuckoo’s Nest” is the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s (CAMH) longest-standing educational outreach program to high school students and it aims to increase awareness among youth of the causes, treatments, signs, symptoms, and interventions for mental illness, including addiction. The program was developed in 1987 by nurse case managers at the former Clarke Institute of Psychiatry—one of the founding partners of CAMH.

4- The names of the hospitals and long-term care facilities that had been named in the podcast file have been replaced by a soft background noise for ethical concerns.