Janet Embacher is the 2021 recipient of the Dr. Donna Wilson Caregiver Award. She was nominated by Lisa Andrews, the social worker at Dulcina Hospice in Calgary, who came to know Janet and her family during their hospice stay. Lisa’s nomination tells the story.
Uwe, affectionately called Opa, was a scientist, an academic, a lifelong learner and an adventurer. He was also a loving husband, father, grandfather and dear friend to many. During his time at Dulcina Hospice, he won the hearts of all the staff with his quick wit and boyish charm. He had a twinkle in his eye that captured your affection.
Janet and Uwe had a wonderful life together and just before his illness, they both operated a successful tutoring business together.
Janet ensured that throughout Uwe’s illness and his end of life journey, he continued to have a high quality of life and a high level of dignity. She was Uwe’s advocate, tireless supporter, and loving companion.
Janet filled Uwe’s room with tokens of his fully lived life. She brought pictures and together they made beautiful scrapbooks of his exciting career as a scientist studying glaciers and his many excursions to the Arctic. Uwe enjoyed sharing tales of his unique experiences — snowmobiling and dog sledding in the arctic or hiking to the top of a famous mountain peak. Janet and Uwe gifted beautiful walking sticks to each of the staff at Dulcina. These were sticks that Uwe collected over the years on his backcountry hikes, that were sanded down and varnished by his good friend Scott. Uwe took pride in gifting each stick and was happy to share them with staff, along with a story.
Janet engaged their grandchildren to complete beautiful artwork that was displayed around Uwe’s room. Janet invited friends to visit and ensured Uwe had plenty of intellectual conversations to keep him engaged. Uwe thrived on using his intellect and on having a “project”. Janet hired a physiotherapist to work with Uwe to focus on his mobility. They videotaped sessions and when the grandchildren visited, they would study the video and participate in exercises.
Janet committed so much of her time and energy to the care of Uwe. Janet recalls “Uwe always did the driving, so it took me a while to gain confidence making that commute”. She travelled from Cochrane to Calgary daily and spent all day, every day with Uwe. Janet was exhausted and at one point Janet spent about 10 days in hospital for pneumonia. Janet and Uwe were also separated for a period of time due to a covid 19 outbreak. During both these times, Janet had daily Zoom chats with Uwe and did her best to arrange people to visit. Janet did her very best to make Uwe’s time enjoyable.
Janet alleviated suffering, not only for Uwe, but also for family and friends. Janet was also cognizant of the staff and did her best to help us work together. Janet did everything she could to alleviate Uwe’s suffering and tended to his every need, physically, and emotionally. When Uwe was admitted at Dulcina he was scared. Janet stayed with him every night for two weeks, until he had settled in and was feeling more comfortable.
I truly believe the most important factor in reducing Uwe’s suffering, was how Janet encouraged him to participate in life. His ability to participate changed over time, and Janet adjusted so that he could still be a part of everything. That meant to world to him.
Janet, an A+ for you, a job well done.
AHPCA is honoured to present the Dr. Donna Wilson Caregiver Award to 2021 to Janet Embacher.