Aging at home is a major imperative for the formal health care and social services system which cannot adequately address the needs and expectations of growing numbers of older Canadians who must then rely on family and friends.
Family caregivers contribute billions of dollars’ worth of unpaid work to ensure their loved ones get the care and support they need to age at home rather than in an institution. The financial and emotional burdens are nearly impossible for some especially lower income Canadians. A comprehensive strategy is needed to support family caregivers and the contributions they will continue to make to the public good.
CARP recommends that the federal government commit to the implementation of a National Caregiver Strategy to ensure that family caregivers can continue their vital social role by providing them with financial support, workplace protection as well integration with the formal Health Care System.
Financial support should be made available to family caregivers to a level that would allow them to continue devoting their time to caregiving as needed. Various mechanisms can be examined, referencing international examples and including tax credits, allowances, or pension enrichment and they should address the differing needs of lower income Canadians and women who comprise the vast majority of caregivers.
Financial incentives should also be made available to employers to provide flexible work environments and supportive programs.
The federal government should extend at least the same workplace protection to caregivers that it has extended to new parents. For example, caregivers should be able to take up to a year’s leave to fulfill caregiving obligations. Terminating an employee because they have taken caregiving leave should be prohibited. The employee’s service should be considered continuous during caregiving leave and upon return, she/he should be reinstated in the position occupied by her/him on the date her/his leave started.
Integration with The Formal Health System
There should be developed a comprehensive system of integration of the formal health care and social services system and the informal family caregiving sector that includes equitable access to appropriate respite care.
For more on the CARP National Caregiver Strategy, click here