My Mom Spent A Long, Thankless Decade As My Dad’s Caregiver

She was a real hero, providing dignity for my dad who had dementia. Cynthia Banks, director of The Caregivers' Club

In 2015, I rushed over to the hospital where my dad had been admitted, walked into the room and saw him severely agitated and tied down to the bed. In the corner, my 80-year-old mom was crying quietly. It was the first time I’d seen her cry during her 10-year journey as a dementia caregiver. She has always been a fiercely strong and independent woman, but at that moment, she was done.

Beside her was the hospital social worker who wanted to send my dad home with her.  After hearing this ridiculous news, something snapped in me and my raison d’etre changed on the spot. I became the caregiver and strident advocate for my mom, the caregiver. I told the social worker that for the past 10 years everything had been about my dad and angrily declared, “I choose my mom. Look at her. He isn’t going home. I choose her.”

Like so many caregivers, my mom was burned out, not only from the daily stresses of being a nurse, driver, cook, coordinator and maid but from trying to navigate a healthcare system that isn’t prepared for so many dementia patients and unable to provide for the needs of the caregiver. Sure, she was stubborn at times and probably could have asked for more help, but my dad was less easily agitated when she was with him, which is so often the case with dementia patients. My mom was his everything. 

Banks mom and dad

Mom with Dad at the hospital

My mom had been my dad’s caregiver seeing him through the stages of dementia. The end was a nightmare. By then, this tiny woman had lifted him, fed him, chauffeured him and cleaned up after his incontinence for a decade.

  • Most caregivers are women.
  • Globally, caregivers spend 3.6 hours per day on average assisting with activities of daily living.
  • 46.8 million people are living with dementia worldwide. This is projected to double every 20 years.

Alzheimer's Society of Canada

Along the way, I could only see the things that he needed. He was my dad, my knight in shining armour and a proud senior officer of the Toronto Police Service. I could only see what my mom wasn’t doing for him or what she could do better. In retrospect, she deserved so much more praise than I gave her on this journey. 

I started the documentary The Caregivers’ Club because I was angry at the healthcare system and wanted to expose its deficiencies. As I followed three courageous at-home caregivers, I discovered that they are the true heroes, the foundation of our healthcare system, providing good care and dignity for people with dementia.

This film is dedicated to my mom, Phyllis Banks, caregiver to my dad, Donald Banks. Thank you, Mom, for all you did.