For those who deal with serious health issues, getting professional care is a necessity. However, out of a sense of obligation or due to lack of funding, many people with health issues are cared for by their friends or family members.
According to the results of a survey conducted in 2012 and entitled Portrait of Caregivers, almost 46% of Canadians over the age of 15 have provided assistance to a friend or family member with long-term healthcare needs.
Overall, these unpaid caregivers spent an average of three hours a week providing assistance. Those with a spouse who provided assistance to their husband or wife spent approximately 14 hours tending to their spouse’s needs on a weekly basis.
About 60% of the caregivers also worked a full-time job, and over 80% had children living with them at home. As a result of handling the demands of daily life and providing care to their loved one a regular basis, 15% of the caregivers in this survey reported that they had reduced their work hours, resulting in a reduction in their paycheque, and many said that they had turned down promotions at work and other opportunities, like travel.
There’s a growing awareness of the contribution of caregivers, the financial toll, and the stress they live with. Tax breaks and subsidized leaves are being created, and many communities are developing support programs for caregivers. If you, or anyone you know, needs more information, talk to your family physician or dial 211.
A startling number of children and youth also provide significant care services to siblings, parents and grandparents. Although Canada has not officially studied the national figures, local studies suggest that 10% or more of high school students have significant care responsibility for family members. See http://www.actioncanada.ca/project/cares-young-carers-raising-awareness-invisible-population for more information.