At some point in our lives, most of us will have to provide care and support to a loved one as they age. For CARP, supporting caregivers has long been an important advocacy priority. To get the most up-to-date picture how caregiving affects CARP members, we surveyed our members to see what caregiving looks like to them, what challenges they face in providing care and where our members would like to see our advocacy efforts applied.
Among CARP members who are not currently providing care, 62% reported that they would not be prepared if they found out they would suddenly have to become a caregiver. Among those members, 57% said don’t have anyone to share the responsibilities of providing care, another 39% said that they lack the financial means.
This should concern policy-makers. Particularly in light of the fact that for CARP members who do provide care, three-out-of-five reported that finding appropriate assistance for homecare services was either difficult (40%) or very difficult (20%).
A significant percentage of CARP members are caregivers. 41% of members surveyed reported acting as a caregiver. Nearly half are caring for a spouse or partner, while one-third are caring for a parent. Most (87%) are only caring for one person, but more than one-in-ten (13%) are caring for two people or more. The home is by far the most common place for care with 57% of CARP members surveyed reporting providing care at home.
Of those providing care, 46% are caring for someone with a physical disability and 37% are caring for someone with dementia.
When asked about how much time members spend providing care, more than half provide 20 hours or less of care per week, but three-in-ten provide full-time care with more than forty hours per week dedicated to caregiving.
Underscoring the important of support, sole caregivers reported spending significantly more time providing care than those with assistance, with 35% working more than 40 hours per week. Among assisted-caregivers, less than one-in-four were spending more than forty hours a week providing care.
Our survey confirmed that stress is an important factor in caregiving. More than half of members who are caregivers report their stress levels as being ‘high’ or ‘very high’. It is therefore not surprising that nearly half of respondents reported experiencing health issues due, at least in part, to the provision of care. Women were significantly more likely to report higher levels of stress as a result of providing care.
Clearly more needs to be done to care for those who are acting as caregivers.
Virtually all members (94%) believe that increased funding for homecare should be the most important priority. Supports for more respite care, financial support for caregivers and greater provision of adult day services were also considered to be important priorities.
Summing it up
One respondent wonderfully summed up our findings:
“Lobby the government to provide more financial assistance to caregivers especially sole caregivers such as myself. I left work 4 years early before I could receive my work pension (at age 60) and have received no financial assistance to help look after my 90 year old father and keep him in his home (we live together). I could do with more help so that I could get away for a break (respite) and not be worried that my dad is ok.”