Tomorrow April 4, 2017 is Ontario’s first annual Family Caregiver Day.
Family caregivers support the very fabric of our society. It is not only about caring for older adults as it includes anyone who is in need of assistance. The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘care’ as a “the provision of what is necessary for the health, welfare, maintenance, and protection of someone or something”. A broad term which encompasses caring for someone else, regardless of age or diagnosis.
The term ‘family’ according to the Oxford Dictionary is “a group consisting of two parents and their children living together as a unit.” Today I would suggest that this definition needs to be expanded. The Vanier Institute of the Family provides perhaps a more accurate description of the term ‘family’ based on what families do, rather than what they look like: Their definition includes: “Any combination of two or more persons who are bound together over time by ties of mutual consent, birth and/or adoption or placement and who, together, assume responsibilities for variant combinations of some of the following:
- Physical maintenance and care of group members
- Addition of new members through procreation or adoption
- Socialization of children
- Social control of members
- Production, consumption, distribution of goods and services
- Affective nurturance – love”
Their definition is inclusive of diverse family structures and includes a relationship between an adult and another person, over time, ‘signifying that a commitment has been made.’
The General Social Survey in 2012, identified that 30 % of all Canadian women reported providing care closely followed by their male counterparts at 26% of all men.
Family caregivers of seniors specifically have been identified as saving our Canadian health and community service systems $31 Billion annually. While advances have been made with caregiving robots and technology, family caregivers are not easily replaceable. The worry of course is that we are top heavy. There are now more seniors over age 65 than those under age 15. A recognized Caregiver Day is not much but it is a start.
Today, tomorrow and every day, is a good day to say thank you to the Family Caregivers you know.