Time for Governments to Care for Caregivers

Originally published in Charlottetown Guardian, Aug 30, 2016

If you’re over 45 years old and living in Canada, chances are you, or you know someone looks after a friend or family member as an informal caregiver; adults caring for their aging parents, a wife caring for an ailing husband, a father caring for a disabled child.

According to a report from Employment and Social Development Canada, more than 8 million of us are caregivers and 35% of our workforce (6.1 million Canadians) provide unpaid care while balancing the demands of our jobs. A quarter of employed caregivers spend up to 30 hours or more per week ‘moonlighting’ as a caregiver. Seniors are the primary recipients of informal care and the majority of caregivers are over 45 years old. The Conference Board of Canada reports ‘$1.3 billion is lost in workforce productivity due to caregiving commitments, missing full days or hours of work, or exiting the workplace altogether’, which affects the company and the broader Canadian Economy. At the same time, caregivers are saving all levels of government over $25 billion in formal healthcare costs.

Compounding the issue for caregivers, the World Health Organization reports that ‘the physical and psychological impact on caregivers providing care to those with a long-term health problem, such as dementia, is significant; up to 75% will experience some type of negative psychological effects and 15-32% will experience depression’.

Other countries such as Australia, New Zealand and the UK have national caregiver strategies in place. Unfortunately, in Canada this issue is being tackled largely by the provinces resulting in an inconsistent and largely insufficient support for caregivers.

As our population ages and the labour market declines, the need to support employees with caregiving responsibilities will continue to grow. With the number of seniors requiring care projected to double between 2012 and 2031, the time for action is now.

CARP has recognized the issue of underserviced caregiver supports as a priority amongst our members. That is why we launching our caregiver campaign and gathering the voices of our 300,000 members and those millions of caregivers to spur the federal and provincial governments into action.

Among the needs CARP is demanding on behalf of caregivers: Changing the Federal Tax Credit for Caregivers to a Tax Rebate, to ensure all caregivers can obtain financial relief; Extending support to caregivers who are looking after loved ones with chronic illness and not necessarily close to death. Providing a means-tested allowance paid directly to the caregiver to enable them to provide care without becoming impoverished.

CARP is kicking off this national campaign in Charlottetown on Wed Aug 31st, 2016 at 4:30 PM in the Rodd Hotel, 75 Kent St. with a public meeting.  All are welcome. Admission is Free. www.carp.ca