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Celebrating National Caregiver Day

Every first Tuesday of April, organizations across Canada celebrate National Caregivers Day, recognizing people who tirelessly provide informal, unpaid care for their loved ones. As people live longer and our society ages, caregiving has transcended the realm of health professionals, with millions of Canadians now providing regular care to family members and friends.

While it is absolutely crucial to celebrate and support caregivers on an ongoing basis, we should also pause to reflect on the seismic shifts that the increased demand for caregiving has occasioned in our society – with significant and growing impacts on health, economy, and work culture.

Challenges Faced by Caregivers

Providing ongoing care to a loved one can provide a person with purpose and strengthen communal bonds, but we have to acknowledge that it can often be a demanding and stressful experience. Ontario Caregiver Organization’s spotlight report of the past five years states that “caregiving stress and burnout is on the rise, the financial impact of caregiving is growing, and working caregivers are struggling to balance work and care responsibilities.”

Indeed, more and more caregiving duties are being performed by informal caregivers as many healthcare workers have left their professions, especially after the pandemic. Over seventy per cent of caregivers report they are concerned about not being able to handle their obligations moving forward and nearly 40 per cent are facing financial hardship as a result of their responsibilities.

The report shows that the rising need for caregiving is especially impacting the so-called “sandwich generation” of people who work – this group makes up 67 per cent of Ontario’s 4 million caregivers, with many people juggling caring for people over 65 years of age (e.g parents, in-laws) while raising children.

Unfortunately, the increased stresses associated with long-term caregiving have been tied to health issues, including diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, and mental health struggles. In her recent article on caregiving in the New York Times, Catherine Pearson reports that researchers are finding that anger and frustration are inevitable parts of the caregiving experience and that health professionals are increasingly emphasizing the need to address the physical effects of this type of stress.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, caregiving duties disproportionally fall on women, many of whom balance careers with these responsibilities. In a recent HR Daily Advisor article, Jessica Kim argues that family caregiving is the “next major issue for employers,” who will have to consider that it might be one of the biggest new drivers of productivity loss and retention issues, especially among female workers. In the years to come, employers will have to take these rising trends into account in order to ensure that people are not leaving the workforce – and this means additional considerations when it comes to employee benefits, flexible work schedules, and wellness in general.

Supporting Caregivers

At Circle of Care, we are actively thinking about the many ways organizations like ours can support caregivers, whether by giving them respite through home care, meal delivery and Adult Day Programs, or by running counseling groups and tutorials designed specifically to equip caregivers with tools and coping mechanisms.

Another way organizations in the home and community care sector can create change is by advocating for caregivers to be recognized, valued, informed and involved in decisions around care. It is imperative that we form stronger relationships with each other and local health providers to create better and more integrated health networks, so that those who need assistance with caring for a loved one can be aware of available supports through local organizations.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we need to engage as much as we can with caregivers so they can have input on how we can better serve them. In embracing the crucial role of caregivers and actively engaging with them to tailor support solutions, we not only honor their invaluable contributions but also foster a stronger, more compassionate community committed to the well-being of all.