Kathryn Calder's first reaction when she was asked to be the subject of a documentary film was panic.
"I was totally terrified to take on this project," the Victoria-based musician admits. "A film. All about me."
Anyone who has seen Calder play live – either solo or with The New Pornographers – will understand: as talented as she is, she often looks as though she might bolt from the stage at any moment in fright.
But Calder has a cause she feels compelled to support, so she decided to put her reservations aside and jump right in.
"A Matter of Time" is the first documentary from Yellow Bird Project (YBP), an organization that collaborates with musicians to raise awareness and funds for charities, generally through the sale of band-designed t-shirts.
Calder had worked with them in 2006, designing a t-shirt on behalf of the New Pornographers to raise money for the ALS Society of BC.
That was the year Calder's mother was diagnosed with the terminal illness often referred to as Lou Gehrig's Disease. She died three years later. Calder had been her primary caregiver. She had also fulfilled a dream of her mother's by writing and recording her first solo album.
The documentary charts this time – from Calder's very new inclusion into the New Pornographers to the 2010 release of her solo debut, "Are You My Mother?"
Or it will when it's completed. Yellow Bird needs money to turn their rough cut into a fully-finished film. Their goal is $50,000, for which they recently launched a Kickstarter campaign.
Subtitled "An ALS Documentary," the film has been made to raise awareness and funds for ALS through the telling of Calder's personal experience.
"I knew it was going to be very emotional to go through it all on camera," she proffers. "But it's also very cathartic and soothing – and I hope it helps other people."
She knew nothing about ALS before her mother's diagnosis, and in some ways, she says, that was a good thing.
"There's nothing worse than anticipation. But, of course, once you go online you can't help but find out all the things that are coming – you just have to try and keep a positive attitude."
The fear of her mother dying before she heard her solo work was an enormous creative catalyst. Calder was living in the family home and converted the living room into a recording studio, bringing music in for her mom to listen to as she went.
She says she had read about J.K. Rowling regretting that her mother only ever saw her struggling, never successful.
"I know it sounds ridiculous, but that is how I felt. I was just compelled," she recalls. "I wanted to make this record for her and I wanted her to hear it."
She says her mother's illness, "really shook up [my] whole way of thinking and my whole world. So I hope this film will let people with ALS, and their families and friends, know there is someone out there fighting for them.
"Because when you're in it, it's really hard to do anything else other than keep up."
The musical backdrop to the documentary is footage from a benefit concert held in Victoria last year. A seven-camera shoot in a section of the Royal BC Museum, it features Calder and guests from the New Pornographers and her first band, Immaculate Machine.
The film makers also traveled across the country and the U.S. to interview doctors, musicians and authors to provide insight into the experience of a family devastated by ALS.
There is no footage or photos of the years Calder's mother was sick.
"That was a challenge," Calder says. "But at the time I wasn't thinking that I should take a whole bunch of photos and video – and in a way I think it's turned out for the best. As she neared the end she didn't look or feel like herself. She wasn't able to smile properly, and I remember her saying that she wished no one would remember this part.
"She wanted to be remembered as the school teacher and fun and full of love, and this way she can… and the rest can stay private."
Join A Support Group
Talking with other people who face the same daily challenges can help caregivers manage stress. Specific types of support groups can vary on a community-by-community basis; check out this Caregiver.com <a href="http://www.caregiver.com/regionalresources/index.htm">guide</a> to find the right program for you.
Join An Online Support Group
Caregivers have their hands full and may not have the time to meet with an in-person support group. In that case, <a href="http://www.aarp.org/online-community/groups/index.action?slGroupKey=Group92">an online support group</a> can be a great alternative. <a href="https://www.manystrong.com/?utm_source=aarp&utm_medium=link&utm_campaign=caregiving">
Check Out A Message Board
Support groups not your thing? You can see what other people are saying about caregiving by just checking out a <a href="http://www.aarp.org/online-community/forums.action/relationships_caregiving_anyone-talk-their-parents">simple message board, such as this one sponsored by AARP.</a>.
Get Some Help
You may need to attend an event or simply seek a few hours for some much-needed rest. Eldercare.net offers a <a href="http://archrespite.org/search-for-respite">Search For Respite Tool</a> or <a href="http://www.eldercare.gov/Eldercare.NET/Public/Index.aspx">Eldercare Locator</a> where you can find professional help. Also check out this <a href="http://www.caring.com/articles/more-ways-to-arrange-breaks-from-caregiving">guide</a> from caring.com for more respite-care ideas.
Find An Alternative Transportation Option
Does your loved one need transportation to go buy food or go shopping? There are numerous van and shuttle services specifically for seniors. Contact your local <a href="http://www.services4aging.org/index.asp">Area Agency On Aging</a> for one near you.
Utilize Food Services
Don't have time to shop and cook? Consider a <a href="http://www.beetnikfoods.com/?gclid=CNm7hsXX27MCFQ-e4Aod3G8Axw">service</a> that will deliver gourmet meals to your home, no matter where you live. For low-income seniors in need, AssistGuide Information Services offers a <a href="http://www.agis.com/Eldercare-Basics/Support-Services/Food-and-Meal-Services/default.aspx#3">directory of food services available.
Tap Financial Support
During the 2009 economic downturn, 1 in 5 family caregivers said their finances were so strained that they were forced to move into the same home with their aging loved ones to reduce expenses, <a href="http://www.caregiving.org/data/EVC_Caregivers_Economy_Report%20FINAL_4-28-09.pdf">according to a survey by caregiving.org</a>. Some 47 percent of working caregivers indicate that an increase in caregiving expenses caused them to use up all or most of their savings. The <a href="https://www.manystrong.com/">Many Strong Support Network</a> has a fundraising tool which allows other people to anonymously donate funds to people who are under financial strain.
Contact A Caregiving Hotline
If ever you have a question about resources, or need support at a moment's notice, AARP's caregiving support line is available at 1-877-333-5885, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Senior care advisors for <a href="http://www.care.com/senior-care-planning">Care.com</a>, also provide free counseling for caregivers, and help them map out the best course of care for their loved ones.
Join A Caregiver Co-Op
Organized caregiver co-ops can provide an affordable way to coordinate care for your loved ones. Check with local community centers or this <a href="http://www.caring.com/local/adult-day-care">Adult Day Care Directory</a> to see if someone in your area has already started one.
Find Housekeeping Help
Care.com's <a href="http://www.care.com/senior-care-directory-find-p1071.html">Senior Care Directory</a> can set you up with a housekeeper, errand runner, pet sitter, or whatever you need to make the caregiving experience a little more manageable.
Reach Out To A Hospital Social Worker
According to author of <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Medical-Day-Planner-Guide-Navigate/dp/1936608774">"The Medical Day Planner"</a>, Tory Zellick, hospital social workers are a great resource for all caregivers. "[Hospital social workers] are always armed with information for your community," said Zellick.
Join A Caregiving Community
Websites like <a href="http://www.lotsahelpinghands.com/">Lotsahelpinghands</a> have caregiving communities that connect volunteers with caregivers in need of support or help.
Use Family Gatherings To Have Important Conversations
Family gatherings offer a great opportunity to discuss the future of loved one you care for, says Dr. Bruce Chernof, president and CEO of The SCAN Foundation. The group offers a guide -- "<a href="http://www.thescanfoundation.org/sites/thescanfoundation.org/files/TSF_Ten_Conversations_English.pdf">10 Conversations To Plan For Aging With Dignity And Independence</a>" -- to lay the groundwork for these critical discussions.
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