Five years ago, when Bill Zulak was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, his wife Carol became his full-time caregiver. Carol is 72 and Bill is 76. The couple lives in a small one-bedroom apartment at Yonge and St. Clair in Toronto.

Carol is one of an estimated 3.3 million Ontarians who acts as a caregiver for a loved one. On average, family caregivers provide seven hours of help for every two hours of professional care. It’s work that can take a toll. Studies show that a prolonged role as a family caregiver can have adverse health effects, including weaker immune responses, chronic sleep disturbance, and cognitive decline.

For Carol, who suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome and atherosclerosis, caring for her husband is rewarding, but also physically consuming and isolating. Carol says the hardest part is losing a conversation partner — someone to talk with about big decisions or even what to have for dinner. She worries about the day that she won’t be able to care for him anymore, or what will happen to Bill if she passes away first.