Caregiving can be like going back to school

By Valerie
September 2, 2011

I’m getting the Back to School Jitters.

My little girl begins full day kindergarten next week and a week later, I go back to school for the first time in 10 years. I’m enrolled in a Case Management program through McMaster University.

Despite the 35-year age gap, daughter and Mom are experiencing similar emotions.

We’re both nervous because we don’t know what to expect on our first day. We’ve never met our teachers and none of our friends are going to the same school.

We are both a little scared that we won’t make new friends. We are a little worried about learning new things and maybe that going to school is going to be really, really hard.

Of course, as a mother, I’m confidently reassure my daughter that all the other children are in the same boat (at which point, she looks at me quizzically and says, “Kindergarten is on a boat?”).

With a smile, I rephrase, using some less-literal terms and tell her that all the children will be feeling exactly like her. We also talk about the importance of learning.

Each day, everyone in the world learns new things — some are taught in school by teachers and sometimes we need to figure things out by ourselves or our parent or grandparent also teach us new things.

Going back to school isn’t dissimilar to caregiving. Caregivers are constantly faced with new situations and usually have to learn on the go, ranging from navigating the health care system, how to push a wheelchair safely or helping Mom transfer from bed to her commode.

We rarely have all the answers and sometimes it means asking others to help us. Some caregivers sign up for workshops and seminars as a way to “school” themselves.

This column acts a resource for caregivers caring for aging loved ones and I like to think it’s a place to remind you that you are on right track or to give you a little nudge in the right direction.

So, here’s your homework for today: How can this column better serve you as caregivers?

Please take the opportunity to send me your column ideas on particular topics related to aging and caregiving. Please e-mail them to or by fax at 1-866-737-0273 with the subject line: Comox Valley Record.

Wish my daughter and I luck as we embark on this exciting new journey together. I also told my daughter one of the many positives of going back to school was buying a new outfit and shoes!

Wendy Johnstone is a gerontologist and is the founder of Keystone Eldercare Planning. Her column runs in the Comox Valley Record every second Friday.

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“You are amazing! What I tried to do in 2 months, you did in 1 week. You’ve helped us navigate the system, made sense of Mom’s disease, and gave back her independence and control. Thank you for making such a difference in Mom’s life and giving us, her family, complete peace of mind.”

– Mike G., Nanaimo, BC