Family Caregivers and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

April 13, 2010
Hosted by Dr. Gordon Atherley

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Episode Description

Teresa Kellerman and Bruce Ritchie are parents each with a child with fetal alcohol syndrome. This is caused by alcohol consumed by the child’s mother during pregnancy. Alcohol consumed during pregnancy is the leading cause of birth defects and childhood disability in North America. Its most critical effects are behavioral. These are the impulsiveness, the poor judgment, and the social immaturity that makes the child so vulnerable in school, community, and life. The child's emotional and social developmental age is about half the chronological age. Even as the child grows into adulthood his or her functioning may be at the level of a 5 or 6 year old. Frustrated by the inability to control his or her own behavior, the child may become angry or depressed…and may get into trouble again and again, at risk of yet more problems, such as getting arrested, addicted, evicted, or fired, or worse. The challenges for family caregivers, which are huge, are the topic for Teresa and Bruce.

Family Caregivers Unite!

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Family caregivers are the people who provide care to partners, parents, children, brothers, sisters, cousins, friends, neighbors and even co-workers. They are the people who provide care when everyone else has gone home. They are the people who organize the functioning of the home for the person with special needs, and for the family as a whole. They are the coordinators of care, the managers of appointments, the preventers of loneliness, and the makers of decisions even to the point of Power of Attorney. And they are so often people who themselves are burdened with their own health challenges and who may be in only marginally better health than the persons to whom they are providing family caregiving.

Dr. Gordon Atherley

Dr Gordon Atherley holds the British equivalent of the Canadian PhD and MD degrees, and LLD, Honoris Causa, from Canada’s Simon Fraser University. His awards include Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, UK. His medical specialties are occupational medicine and public health.
As first President and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, the Canadian equivalent of the US National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, he led the creation of Canada’s electronic information service in occupational health and safety, now used in more than 40 countries.
In academia, he held senior, tenured, full-time positions, including departmental chair, in university faculties of physics, engineering, and medicine. He is the author of a textbook and numerous articles and publications.

Since retiring from medical practice, he’s built up Greyhead Associates, which critically researches the safety, effectiveness and fairness of health services for persons with special needs.
Through Virtual Care International, a company of which he’s President, he’s involved in providing sensible technology to family caregivers to help them with their responsibilities, workloads, and concerns.
Now an activist, he urges family caregivers to unite because, more and more, it’s not just their families who depend on them, it’s also the healthcare system as a whole, as it struggles to meet more and more needs of more and more people.

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