A Salt Spring Island resident was awarded the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers by the Governor General at a ceremony in Victoria on Wednesday, March 21.
Marg Monro was recognized for creating a support group that meets weekly for caretakers of Alzheimers patients. She started the group 26 years ago, after witnessing her parents deal with Alzheimers, and has received multiple awards for her volunteer work.
“My parents settled here in the 1960s and Mom developed Alzheimer’s shortly after that,” she said. “I’m a registered nurse and I still knew nothing about it. We were living on the East Coast and I realized what my father was going through all by himself . . . By the time I arrived here and got a nursing job I said ‘I can’t let anybody go down that road alone.’ So I started that little group up.”
According to a study published in 1999, mental or emotional strain that comes from caregiving is a risk factor for mortality. The study found that caregivers have a 63 per cent higher mortality risk than non-caregivers.
Monro started the Salt Spring Caregivers Support Group to provide a place for people burdened with taking care of their loved ones to share their experience and relieve some of the stress associated with long-term caretaking.
“It’s such a long thing,” she said. “I think my mom lasted over 20 years before she finally died here at Lady Minto. She was in extended care for 13 years here. That’s too much for anybody to go through.”
The Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers is presented for volunteer achievements of Canadians in many different fields. The medal is an official Canadian honour, and is presented to recognize long-term service. To be eligible for the award, Canadians need to have made significant unpaid contributions to their community. Monro was one of nine people awarded this particular medal at the ceremony.
“I was very proud to have had my name put forward and get it. Now I actually have the medal. I was in the military myself. A friend of mine and I usually present a wreath for the nursing officers in the Canadian Military, so now I’ll be able to add this to my gong.”
Governor General Julie Payette made the presentations at Government House in Victoria as part of her first official visit to B.C. Payette met with government officials, community members and military personnel. Monro said the ceremony was attended by about 300 people. Forty-six people in total received various awards.
“It was very nice, beautifully done. We all got a half-hour pep talk about how to behave and what we’d have to do, where to stand. There was a small military band there. It was quite the affair.”
Payette took office on Oct. 2, 2017. From 1992 to 2013, she was an astronaut for the Canadian Space Agency, completing two missions and logging over 611 hours in space.
“What a thrill to meet her,” said Monro. “She’s so young and vibrant. She was just so relaxed about the whole thing. It was just wonderful.”