Behind the story: Why and how CBC decided to focus on family caregiving

This CBC Alberta project started with an effort to empower family caregivers to tell their own stories, seeking to understand work that's both natural and often invisible.

CBC writers' workshop aimed to empower family members to tell their stories

Betty Bednarowski strokes the cheek of her daughter, Susan Ryder, as they return from using the bathroom, in this file photo. (Wong Maye-E/The Associated Press)

It's an invisible workforce — the army of men and women who step in to offer help when a loved one gets sick. 

In some ways, it's the most natural thing in the world. But many say it comes with a weight that's often not seen or appreciated. 

During the month of February, journalists from CBC Calgary and CBC Edmonton brought stories of family caregivers, exploring the impact of their work on the health-care system, the economy and their own well-being.

In this series, you'll hear what it's like when illness forces a family to check their mother into a geriatric hospital against her will, or to be forcefully cut out of a medical appointment, or to juggle never-ending demands when caring for both children and parents at once.

You'll also hear a bit of what the Alberta government is considering in its action plan promised for this spring.

Writers' workshop: Telling their own story

Why family caregivers? Because we rarely hear from them and yet their work underpins the Canadian health-care system. 

This project is part of a larger CBC initiative to enhance the way we connect with our community and listen to less-heard voices. That's why CBC Calgary spent time on the ground in the federal riding of Calgary Forest Lawn last summer; and why we invited those living on a tight budget to share stories of how inflation is impacting their grocery shopping by text message last fall. 

For this project, we worked with Caregivers Alberta to offer a free workshop for caregivers interested in writing their own story. Over five weeks in October and November, former newspaper columnist Elise Stolte taught about how to use personal anecdotes, detail and stories to help readers see the world through a new set of eyes.

The group read snippets of the writing together to talk about story structure and form.

Many of these pieces were then submitted for consideration for CBC's paid First Person program. Watch for them throughout the month of February.

The issue of how to care for the sick, aging and frail touches many, many lives. According to University of Alberta researchers, more than a quarter of Albertans (or 929,000 people) give an estimated 647 million hours of unpaid labour each year to care for adults living in their homes, with family or in larger facilities.

The series so far

Follow the series as it rolls out by checking our topic page at