Jennifer Jilks is a volunteer with Community Home Support Lanark County in Perth, about an hour's drive from Ottawa. Several times a week, Jen provides lifts, home visits, cooks, cleans, picks up prescriptions - anything to help unpaid caregivers. - something she knows only too well.
Back in 2005, Jen was a teacher in Ottawa on track to becoming a principal. Then, her parents - who lived a couple of hours away in Muskoka - became seriously ill.
Growing up is about leaving your parents' orbit. As Jen found out, becoming an unpaid caregiver is about being pulled back in - sometimes with stunning suddenness. For nearly three years, Jen cared for her parents. When she moved her father into a nursing home, she advocated on his behalf so that his pain would be managed properly.
After both her parents died, Jen wrote a book about the experience entitled Living and Dying with Dignity.