Remembering Berniece Gildner
Co-Founder, Caregivers Alberta
Berniece helped form Caregivers Alberta (formerly Alberta Caregivers Association or ACGA) in hopes of getting the attention of the Government of Alberta. She wanted to ensure our political leaders recognized that funding and grants were needed to create programs for respite – so caregivers could look after themselves, too.
Berniece felt that, by keeping loved ones who needed help out of care facilities, caregivers were saving our government millions of dollars in health-care costs. In turn, she wanted funding for new programs that provided care recipients with care – for a day or a night or a weekend – to give the caregiver a much-needed break to do the other things like actually get their hair cut, visit a friend or even grocery shop.
Berniece saw that women and men of her generation were hesitant to put their spouses into a care facility, but that their own needs weren’t being met. She wanted to get them help so they did not burn out or get themselves into a crisis situation.
First, as a geriatric assessment nurse, then, as a caregiver for her husband who had vascular dementia, Berniece saw the need for better caregiver support first-hand. Her husband was part of the CHOICE program where he went to what was then Edmonton, AB’s Good Samaritan Hospital for a day of activities while she rested or knocked tasks off of her long to-do list. She wanted other caregivers to have an organization they could reach out to for help finding programs like this.
Over the years, she helped organize fashion shows with silent auctions from private donations to help fund a campaign to create ACGA. She was joined by co-founders Diana McIntyre and Peter Kossowan, who were also instrumental in forming the organization.
Berniece had just celebrated turning 97 on July 4 before passing away five days later. She lived at Devonshire, both in independent and assisted living, and would give lectures about the need for caregivers to have better respite opportunities. She was always an advocate for seniors even in her retirement years, lending her voice to this important issue up until she was 90.
Truly a remarkable woman, Berniece Gildner’s family says she would be humbled to know that the Caregivers Alberta community is honouring her accomplishments.