Photo by Efrem Efre on

Donna Thomson spent decades caring for family living with dementia, Parkinson’s, cerebral palsy, the effects of a stroke — and she never received a cent for her labour.

“I’ve been a caregiver all of my adult life. And I don’t have a pension [because of it],” she says.

Thomson's caregiving began at 16, when a stroke left her father unable to use his right side or speak. Thomson, the youngest of two daughters, spent much of the next two years doing household chores and talking to her father, even if he didn’t respond. He died in 1975 when Thomson was 18.

Her mother remarried. Her stepfather died in 2003 from complications related to Parkinson’s disease. Her mother died in 2018. She’d lived with dementia for years, a time Thomson describes as a “complicated and challenging care experience.”

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Meagan Gillmore is an Ottawa-based reporter with a decade of journalism experience. Meagan got her start as a general assignment reporter at The Yukon News. She has freelanced for the CBC, The Toronto...