Caregivers need support: study

Giving more help to helpers would cut medical costs, says institute

Informal caregivers need better financial support and more services from Canadian governments, according to a new study published by the Institute for Research on Public Policy, Canada’s oldest non-partisan public policy think tank.

The study notes the number of seniors in Canada needing help at home will double in the next 30 years.

“Providing better support would not only demonstrate greater recognition of the caregivers’ contributions, it would also reduce seniors’ needs for formal care, delay their institutionalization and relieve the cost pressures on the long-term care and health care systems” said Janice Keefe, author of the study, titled “Supporting Caregivers and Caregiving in an Aging Canada.”

The study provides projections of future care needs and examines potential improvements in policy for income security programs, labour market regulation and human resource management in health and home care.

Informal caregivers, who are often family members or friends, play a crucial role in seniors’ care.

“Without their invisible work, the current system for seniors’ health and home care would collapse,” Keefe argues. “But they also bear economic, social, physical and psychological costs associated with their role and should receive financial compensation, together with other forms of in-kind support, such as home help or referral services.”

In the long term, increasing the number of home care workers will be critical, according to the study.

Competition for health care resources is expected to be fierce in coming years, such that if governments want to ensure that adequate seniors’ care is available, they will need a strategy to enhance working conditions in the voluntary, for-profit and public organizations involved in home care.