This week Canadians marked National Carers Day on April 4, along with the Ontario Caregiver Coalition (OCC) marking their third annual Family Caregiver’s Day on April 2.
The goal for both of these days is to recognize, celebrate and bring awareness to the value of caregivers in Canadian families, in our healthcare system, and economy.
It is estimated that there are currently over eight million Canadians who are caregivers. That equates to one in four people with 3.3 million of them living in Ontario.
Caregivers are often referred to as invisible health partners as the contribution they make monetarily, socially, and emotionally are invaluable. They are unpaid family caregivers.
The Carers Canada website notes, “Without them, our health system would be faced with increased costs in the billions of dollars.”
Military families also fall into this category. Spouses, parents, and kids often are caregivers for their CAF member who may be injured, sick or dealing with mental illness.
Joanne Bertrand, co-ordinator for the OCC says caregivers cover a very broad spectrum of ages, geography, and type of caregiver recipient condition.
“Often, the focus is on the aging and how family caregivers (sons and daughters, frail spouses) help to keep the elderly in their own homes as long as possible.
“But OCC knows that there is a very significant number of caregivers who are struggling to support family, friends, and neighbours who are dealing with complex mental health issues and who do not fall into the aging demographic most discussed, said Bertrand.”
In Ontario, 500,000 family caregivers are between the ages of 15 – 24 years old. However, there are few that fall under that age category. Nearly 375,000 are over the age of 65.
According to Carers Canada, across Canada 50 per cent of carers are between the ages of 45 and 65, with 70 to 80 per cent of carers caring for older adults. Of those carers, 54 per cent are women, and 46 per cent are men.
Of those carers, 6.1 million are juggling their work and caregiving responsibilities with $12.6 million being spent annually related to carers caring role.
The OCC is continuing to recommend that the Ontario government move forward quickly with the adoption of a financial benefit for caregivers that will allow them to remain in a caregiving role.
This benefit would include a caregiver tax credit, an allowance to ease the distress experienced by caregivers as a result of fearing for their income and job security that would enhance their capacity to continue caregiving and providing investments in businesses.
“Ontario is fortunate to have people who care for those who are marginalized and often at risk of being forgotten or ignored. Unpaid caregivers perform a vital service that must be both acknowledged and supported,” says Bertrand.
Currently, Veterans Affairs Canada has a Caregiver Recognition Benefit.
“We understand the important role that families and caregivers play in Veteran’s lives during their military career, throughout their transition to post-military life and after service. That’s why veteran’s caregiver are now eligible to apply for the Caregiver Recognition Benefit, a tax-free benefit of $1,000 a month that will go directly into their hands to recognize the pivotal role they play. The Caregiver Recognition Benefit represents a $187.3 million commitment to Veterans and their caregivers,” said Minister of Veterans Affairs Lawrence MacAulay.