Thanks to Andre Picard, the Globe and Mail's Public Health reporter for his recent report on two new studies on natural caregivers by the CIHI – Canadian Institute for Health Information.

CIHI just released, Supporting Informal Caregivers – The Heart of Home Care and Caring for Seniors with Alzheimer's Disease and Other Forms of Dementia. The results reinforce what many of us already know.  While the heart of caring in Canada (friends and family) continues to beat strongly it is under stress.

Here are some of the findings:

  • Virtually all home care clients also rely on a spouse, adult child, friend or neighbour to provide practical assistance and emotional support.  According to Nancy White at Canadian Institute for Health Information, having a friend or family member provide support in addition to paid home care, makes it possible for people to stay in their own homes.
  • One of six home care clients had family caregivers experiencing distress and burnout.  Not surprisingly this occurs most often when the family or friend is providing significant hours of care which is often linked to the symptoms of the individual.  The round the clock nature of caring for a loved one can take its toll if there is no relief, respite and assistance.
  • This number increases when caring for a family member with dementia rising to nearly 40%.

Here's the heart of the matter.  The 4 million natural caregivers in Canada – i.e. friends, families and neighbours – need our respect and support.   Natural care-giving is crucial when someone is not receiving formal care.  Equally, as the above studies reveal, it is crucial even if you are receiving formal home care.  The formal system can't provide what friends and families provide.  According to Statistics Canada loving, voluntarily given care is estimated to be worth $25 Billion annually.  Yet  most of the financial resources from governments go to the formal system – i.e. institutions and non profits.

It's time to develop a national caregiver strategy – one that supports natural care-giving.  This will: preserve the integrity of families; enable people to remain in their homes; and reduce the costs of formal institutional care.  At a time of reduced budgets it makes sense to support the informal 'system' if for no other reason that it reduces costs to the formal system. Even the heart wears out if it is stressed and overworked.

NOTE: I have written several posts on the value and importance of natural care-giving in Canada.  Click the Category CARING  to the right of your screen to access them all.

 

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