BACKGROUND: The vast majority of caregivers (87%) are “informal caregivers”, (in other words, unpaid persons). Family caregivers for older adults provide care and support in health, social, emotional, and financial domains, particularly for those who are frail or suffer from chronic illness. Research findings consistently indicate the associated caregiving burden that family caregivers experience. Family caregiving can be costly. One research study found that most (73.2%) of the caregivers were female. Over half (52.6%) of the caregivers were between 35 and 54 years of age, more than a quarter (25.3%) were between 55 and 64 years old, and more than one fifth (22%) were 65 years and older. About three quarters (73.8%) of the caregivers interviewed were married. Close to three quarters of the caregivers reported an education level of postsecondary or above (72%). Among the family caregivers, close to half (41.2%) reported being employed full-time and 20.3% reported being employed part-time.
There is little financial recognition or provisions to cover time lost from work to care for a loved one(s). Once any vacation and personal leave time is exhausted, the result can be lost income. Any negative changes in income may not only result in financial hardship and will also impact on Canada Pension Plan contributions and the eventual pension income.
In Ontario, employees can take an unpaid leave of absence of up to eight weeks to provide care or support to a sick family member, who has a “serious medical condition”, which is effective for short term job protection but not for recovering lost income. At the federal level, caregivers who experience a loss of income as a result of providing care to a seriously ill family member may apply to Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) to receive up to six weeks of special benefits (following a two-week waiting period).
In Canada, there are two examples of longer term benefits to support a family member caregiver who is caring for someone over the longer term. The Province of Nova Scotia’s has had care giver benefits for the last five years. Early research shows the $400-a month payment has reduced the probability of institutionalization by 56 per cent. In Ontario, there the child disability benefit, which provides a monthly payment of up to $220 for parents caring for a severely impaired child.
Ontario’s recently published Action Plan for Health Care does not mention caregivers. The financial challenges and impacts, if unaddressed, would further hinder their capacity and endurance to support the elders in their community. Government policies need to consider the specific gender-related challenges in family caregiving and to design programs for the family caregivers. To address the financial burden and financial stability challenges, BPW Ontario is advocating for a provincially-funded care giver income security.
Lai, DWL. Effect of Financial Costs on Caregiving Burden of Family Caregivers of Older Adults. SAGE Open October-December 2012: 1 –14.
Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. Action Plan for Health Care. 2015.
RESOLUTION: THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT BPW Ontario urges the Government of Ontario, specifically the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Labour, the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, and the Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues to develop policies and programs to recognize and alleviate the financial burden and to provide social and financial support for family caregivers with a provincially-funded caregiver program;
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED THAT BPW Ontario urges the Government of Ontario to integrate family caregivers into health and social program planning and development across the public sector so that these issues continue to be considered and influence policies in the long term;
AND FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED THAT BPW Ontario urges the Government of Ontario, specifically the Minister of Health and Long Term Care and the Minister of Community and Social Services that along with the assessment of care receiver needs, an assessment of the caregiver needs should be conducted, and services should be provided to sustain their care efforts and promote their well-being.
©BPW Ontario www.bpwontario.com
Article ID: 4378