The time is NOW (or if we’re being honest, the time was years ago) for the Canadian government to start offering comprehensive support for caregivers. In her op-ed “We need to start caring for caregivers,” Janet Fast says: “We can no longer afford to treat family care as essentially free labour, undertaken by and within families as a private matter with no relevance for the rest of society.” I think Fast hits the nail on the head. As our population ages, caregiving is set to become a reality for more Canadians, often disproportionally women, who are tasked with looking after their families while also working & attempting to keep themselves healthy.
According to Fast: “Thanks to population aging, rising rates of disability, profound changes in Canadian families and escalating pressures on the health and continuing care sector, the odds of becoming a caregiver are high and will likely grow in the years ahead.” This is why recent news that the government will consult with Canadians to introduce more flexible support for caregivers has felt like a long time coming. Families & extended support networks have been caring for their loved ones for years without support from formal institutions.
The government is looking to consult with Canadians on “providing more inclusive caregiving benefits for Canadians who provide care to a family member.” They are also seeking input from other stakeholders including employers, advocacy groups, unions, academics, experts, the medical community etc. in the hopes that this will help to create more comprehensive Employment Insurance benefits for people whose caregiving work has been chronically undervalued. It is time that we as a society comprehensively start recognizing the sacrifice caregivers make out of love in caring for family and friends, and as Fast suggests: “Start caring for the caregiver.” You can have your say by taking part in the survey.
Written by Jessica Rochman Fowler, social worker with Elder Caring