CARP recently polled its members on the issue of caregiving. 90% of survey respondents have provided care for an older relative or friend. These caregiving duties caused 91% of the respondents financial stress, emotional stress, other health problems and the need to take time off work.
When asked whether they were able to get home care services for the person they were caring for, 37% said no, with the reasons being that there was no worker available (25%), a family member was available to provide the care (30%), the service was not available in the community (12%), their income was too high (14%) or the person was not eligible for service (19%). Of those who were able to get service, 62% were not happy with the service with 84% stating that they did not get enough time or services.
“These results clearly show that there has not been enough attention paid to caregivers and their needs; there are accessibility issues related to services, and that there is a shortage of workers to provide home care to people in their homes.” Says Cheryl Gorman, a consultant with the Ontario Community Support Association
Informal caregivers provide over 70% of the care people need to be maintained where they are (meal preparation, drives to medical appointments, housework, personal care). One in five Canadians acts as a caregiver, with the burden of responsibility being mostly on women. Canadian estimates are that informal care giving represents over $80 billion in economic value. (Editor’s note: this includes child care. No conclusive study has assessed the value of elder care seperately in the Canadian context but it is acknowledged it is likely to be worth over $12 billion) When this care is not available or cut back, the result is increased costs to community care services and institutionalization.
With 25% of Canada’s population projected to be older than 65 years of age by 2031, compared with 13% in 2005, there is an urgent need to support caregivers in their roles by giving them the supports they need to continue to be productive and healthy citizens and to get the formal home care services they need for their loved ones. Research from the U.S. is suggests that productivity losses in the amount of $17.1 billion because workers are struggling with their work in combination with their responsibilities as caregivers.
A National Home Care and Caregiver Strategy is urgently needed now. CARP will continue to advocate on behalf of Canadian caregivers with the Federal and Provincial governments to make this a reality.
(Editor’s note: Respondent activity (464 respondents) was lower for this survey than for previous surveys – possibly due to a glitch which several people reported to us. The responses are nevertheless instructive, thanks to all our readers for their vigilance in identifying and reporting the glitch.)