Words from a caregiver

Rona's aunt (left) and Rona (right).


Rona Fleming has something to share with caregivers. Her first experience as a caregiver took place in her twenties, when she began caring for her mother. Rona went on to care for several friends battling illness, and now, she is caring for her aunt. In this heartfelt Q/A, Rona shares words of encouragement to those who are supporting their loved ones through a health journey.  

How has being a caregiver changed your life? 

You don’t plan on becoming a caregiver, but at the same time, it’s not something that is imposed on you. You choose it out of a place of love. You love the essence of that person, and you remember that they are the same person, even if their health has caused some changes.  

Every time you take care of somebody, life becomes more important. Being a caregiver has deepened the relationship that I have with the person that I’m caring for, and the relationships that I have with others. All the people who are important to you become even more important to you. We focus more, and the unimportant things fall away. 

What sorts of things fell away for you? 

The pursuit of money and prestige; it’s not so important what I accomplish in my life anymore, but rather, who the people in my life are and the time that I spend with them. It’s important to me to make the best of the time that we have together! 

How do you deal with pressure and stress? 

I like to go for long walks. In fact, I walk home after I take care of my aunt. By the time I get home, I’m no longer overwhelmed. 

I call it ‘changing my hat’. It’s important to change my hat, so to speak, from one context to the other. I must be able to put on my other hats: my self-care hat, my friend hat, my mom hat, and so on. I like to read books, exercise and sit back on the couch. I gravitate towards watching the worst reality TV—it has to be tacky and pointless! I sit there with a puzzled look on my face... and I love it. 

I have a man in my life, so just cuddling up and being with somebody who’s not involved in those caregiving roles is helpful. I have that safe person that I can come home to. I crawl into somebody’s arms. 

How about music? 

Oh, music is the best! I’m a rock n’ roll girl. I’ll come home and put on some good 70s and 80s rock n’ roll. I love karaoke music where I can really sing. There are certain songs that I intentionally put on, like Carole King’s ‘Beautiful’… 

“You've got to get up every morning 

With a smile on your face 

And show the world all the love in your heart…” 

Very nice! It’s great to hear that you have a balance. 

Thank you. I realize that not all caregivers are able to experience balance. Many people feel unable to rise above the turmoil.  

The MUHC has great support networks for caregivers. I’m thinking of my best friend who’s going through a cancer journey, and the support services available for her children are just incredible. It gives me goosebumps, just thinking about it. Even in geriatrics, the team always makes sure that caregivers are taken care of. It’s the same in the ICU, at the Children’s, and beyond for patients and families at the MUHC. 

April 2, 2024 is National Caregivers Day. We are thankful for the indispensable role that caregivers play in the lives of patients. We wish to remind all caregivers that you need to take care of yourself, too. If you are feeling overwhelmed, please speak to your loved one’s care team about the MUHC’s support networks.