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Caring for Working Caregivers

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Earlier this week, the National Institute on Ageing published its foundational report on the state of caregiving in Canada, Why Canada Needs to Better Care for its Working Caregivers. The report articulates the evidence-based reasons for why we need to better support working caregivers, the majority of whom are women providing care in their peak earning years. The report shows that caregivers contribute the equivalent of $25 billion annually to the health care system through unpaid care at significant personal cost to themselves.

Building on longstanding recommendations put forward by the National Seniors Strategy, housed at the NIA, Why Canada Needs to Better Care for its Working Caregivers, makes five evidence-informed recommendations to support caregivers to provide care to others, including:

  1. Governments should formally recognize caregivers with a common definition that acknowledges their role and provides the foundation for formalized support.
  2. Building on formal recognition, health care systems should provide caregivers with integrated supports, including training and needs assessments.
  3. Governments should further support working caregivers financially in recognition of the economic value they provide and the personal cost of providing care.
  4. Employers should recognize the dual challenges employed caregivers have in meeting their responsibilities at home and at work.
  5. Develop national standards that governments and organizations can use to measure how well we are meeting the needs of working caregivers.

Provincial governments are responding to these evidence-based recommendations by enhancing support for caregivers. Last week, Nova Scotia expanded the eligibility for its caregiver credit to include people providing care to individuals who have a combination of moderate to significant memory loss, problems with decision-making and communication that affects daily functioning as well as serious behavioural problems. The benefit provides up to $400 a month to caregivers based on income.

The Ontario government announced this week that it will invest $35 million over four years to support caregivers for people with mental health and addictions issues, as a piece of a larger $2.1 billion investment in mental health. The funding will support caregivers to better care for themselves so they can continue to care for their loved ones.

Caregivers already provide billions in unpaid care to care recipients, offsetting costs that would otherwise be picked up by health care systems. Now, they need to be acknowledged, recognized and supported by governments, workplaces and health care providers.

The National Institute on Ageing (NIA) is a university-based think tank focused on leading cross-disciplinary research, thought leadership, innovative solutions, policies, and products on ageing. The NIA’s mission is to help governments, health care systems, pension plans, businesses, and Canadian families to best meet the challenges and opportunities posed to ageing Canadians and by an ageing demographic. Follow us on Twitter and sign up for our mailing list.

By Allan McKee, Communications Officer, the National Institute on Ageing | Email: Allan.McKee@sinaihealthsystem.ca