Senior Scene April 3, 2017

As you may have heard, the very first Family Caregiver Day in Ontario will be celebrated on April 4th.  There are over 3 million unpaid caregivers in the province, providing support to loved ones facing illness, disability or challenges associated with aging.  Family Caregiver Day is a chance to recognize, celebrate and bring awareness to the value of caregivers to Ontario’s families, health care system, and economy.
This year, the Ontario Caregiver Coalition is highlighting three generations of caregivers:
• Young careers: Over 500,000 family caregivers in Ontario are between 15 and 24 years old. There are many caregivers who are even younger.
• ‘Sandwich’ generation caregivers, who provide care for both their ageing parents and their own children.
• Elderly caregivers: Nearly 375,000 caregivers in Ontario are 65 years or older.
Caregiving is not often recognized as separate from being a good friend, child, parent or spouse, but it is a distinct role with unique challenges and solutions. The Ontario Caregiver Coalition is asking the provincial government for the following supports:
• An investment of $20 million into respite services, over the next two years, which would give approximately 4,000 caregivers much-needed opportunities to rest and recharge, and also reduce pressure on the health care system.
• A fully-funded Ontario Dementia Strategy, recognizing that individuals caring for someone with dementia provide 75 percent more care hours than other caregivers, and experience 20 percent more stress.
• Federal-provincial collaboration to ensure that the Compassionate Care Benefit and up to 26 weeks of job-protected and EI-covered time is available to all caregivers.
“Family Caregivers” provide care and assistance for spouses, children, parents and other extended family members and friends who need support because of age, disabling medical conditions, chronic injury, long term illness or disability.  In 1997, about 2.85 million Canadians were providing care for a family member with long-term health problems.  Today, an estimated 5 million family members and friends are providing care. Given our aging population, the number of caregivers and the burden on those caregivers is only expected to increase.
According to the 10th annual health care survey, 26 percent of Canadians provided care for a family member or close friend with a serious health problem in the 12 months preceding the survey. Caregivers provide more than 80 percent of care needed by individuals with ‘long-term conditions’ – at home, in long-term care facilities and in hospital – and they contribute more than 5 billion dollars of unpaid labour annually to the health care system.  Replacing family caregivers with the paid workforce at current market rates and usual employee benefits and support would cost about 25 billion dollars.
Caregivers are an integral part of care in all care settings.  Care provided by families enables individuals to remain at home longer; it also supports the services provided in facilities.  Typically caregivers welcome the opportunity to provide care and support to a loved one, however, caregiving has a profound effect on the individual – emotionally, mentally and physically.
So, how can the public participate in Family Caregiver Day?  Everyone is invited to sign a digital thank-you card to Ontario’s caregivers by visiting  Better yet – thank someone you know personally.  Even better – offer your assistance and give them a much needed break.  From Community Care for South Hastings staff – heartfelt thanks to all of you that are supporting and caring for your loved ones.  We recognize and appreciate your value.