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PENINSULA ZOOMERS: Caregivers need more support

CARP calls on governments to provide assistance
Most family-member caregivers are women, and the largest demographic is aged aged 45-64, according to CARP. (File photo)

Welcome to the Hotel California…

You can check out any time you like

But you can never leave.

Unlike the iconic song Hotel California penned by the Eagles in the ’70s – which is all about excess and the dark underbelly of the American Dream – there is no such symbolism at the Hotel Aprile in South Surrey.

My two girlfriends with whom I have travelled to Italy a couple of times often enjoy a weekend or a week’s respite at my home which they have nicknamed the Hotel Aprile. (pronounced A-pril-lay).

When they check into my comfy crash pad, they can check out anytime they want and can leave whenever they choose.

The thing is, though, they aren’t in any hurry to depart. Both of them, although retired, have busy lives which include caring for their elderly husbands. When they walk through my front door, they remove their cloak of stress and anxiety and abandon their caregiving duties, for a while at least.

The only excess available here may be the number of gin and tonics we imbibe and the gluten-laden food we eat as we chat and giggle the night away.

My friends are not alone.

According to the CARP website, more than eight million informal caregivers in Canada provide care to family members or friends with chronic conditions, disabilities and other health needs.

Informal caregivers are unpaid caregivers that provide critical support and care that allow Canadians to recover from illness and age at home. The economic contribution of informal caregivers is conservatively estimated at $25-26 billion annually, taking into consideration the number of hours of care provided and market wages.

The savings to Canada’s health-care system are even greater, since many people who would otherwise need care provided by hospitals and other care facilities receive care at home instead.

Despite the support provided to family or friends and the savings to the health-care system, caregivers face a variety of challenges, ranging from lost work and income to physical and mental burdens.

Caregivers are unlikely to have flexible work hours or arrangements or even unpaid job protection. Most caregivers do not receive financial support, adequate training and support required to provide care.

Many have to face the difficult choice between providing care to a loved one and leaving the labour force altogether, especially those providing heavy care, which is defined as providing 20 or more hours of caregiving each week.

CARP calls on governments to take a comprehensive approach to providing greater supports for caregivers, recognizing the value caregivers provide to family and friends and the formal health-care system.

CARP’s recommendations include increasing income support, providing respite care, providing job protection for caregivers and creating adequate support services and training.

Here are the numbers:

• The eight million informal caregivers in Canada represent 25 per cent of all Canadians

• two million informal caregivers provide heavy care (20+ hours/week)

• six million of these provide care to a senior (75 per cent of all informal caregivers)

• 70 per cent of all care to seniors in the community is provided by informal caregivers

• Majority of caregivers are female (54 per cent) and aged 45-64 (44 per cent) – this group is of particular concern because they tend to outlive their spouses and suffer higher rates of work drop-out and poverty later in life.

As we baby boomers represent the largest demographic in the Western World, you can appreciate the seriousness of this issue.

As for me, I am doing my bit to contribute towards a solution.

Welcome to the Hotel Aprile… you can check in anytime and stay as long as you want.

April Lewis is the local communications director for CARP, a national group committed to a ‘New Vision of Aging for Canada.’ She writes monthly.

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