Psst…Do you know a family caregiver? Pass it on.
When someone who is known to be looking after or helping someone is asked, “Are you a family caregiver?” several are quick to reply, “No.” When the question is reframed as, “Do you look after a sick, disabled family member, aging parent or friend without payment?” the answer often changes to “Yes!”
Many family caregivers simply don’t self-identify as caregivers. However, they provide between 70-80% of all community care for the people they are helping. They do everything: daily check-in or telephone support, personal care, household management, transportation, case management and care co-ordination, advocacy and end of life care.
Carers Canada info-graphic on caregivers paints a very clear picture —
“It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when you become a caregiver.”
- 1 in four Canadians is a caregiver (that’s 8.1 million!)
- 50% of caregivers are between 45 and 65 years old
- 54% of caregivers are women
- Caregivers contribute 25 billion dollars in unpaid labour in our health care system
The guiding principles of the Canadian Caregiver Strategy are:
- Family caregivers are acknowledged, respected and valued for their caregiving work.
- Family caregivers have a choice to become partners in care and have the right to choose the degree of their involvement at every point on the continuum of care.
- Family caregivers have the right to express their needs and receive support.
Thank a Family Caregiver: if you know someone who is an unpaid caregiver for someone, say thank you. Better yet, buy them a coffee or ask how you can help give them extra time.
Find good information: The more informed you are as a caregiver, the better you can care, and have a better understanding of your options. The more you can find out about what to expect over time, the better decisions your family can make for future planning. The more you understand what your role is as a caregiver, the better you can provide the right type of support at the right time.
Good Support: Whether it’s a walk with a friend to vent, a caregiver support session or simply time away to rejuvenate, caregivers who feel supported are able to be better carers. Don’t expect others to know what type of support or help you need; it’s up to you to take the initiative and ask for the support you need.
Good Team Players: Your team will include other family members, siblings, neighbors, close friends, community care providers, to name a few. Be clear in advance on what type of care and help is needed and assign everyone tasks best suited to their skills, availability and willingness.
 A Canadian Caregiver Strategy A Canada that recognizes, respects and supports the integral role of family caregivers in society. Canadian Caregiver Coalition, October, 2013: p. 4. Online here.
Author: Wendy Johnstone, M.A. Gerontology