Family Caregiving in Canada-an increasing challenge

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Family Caregivers are vital to Canadians living with a chronic condition, disability or facing many of the challenges that naturally come with Aging.

Family Caregivers  are an integral part of the health & well-being of our Society, providing unpaid care for spouses, children, parents, parent-in-law, close friends and other extended family members who need assistance. Family Caregivers have been noted as “the invisible backbone” of the health and long term care system in Canada that we have relied upon in the past and will  upon even more so, in the future.

Some interesting yet worrisome facts from Stats Canada based on data collected in 2012 in a General Social Survey “Portraits of Caregivers” and “Family Caregiving: What are the Consequences?”

  • Nearly 3 in 10 Canadians over the age of 15 years are family caregivers
  • In 2012, 8 million Canadians (28% of the population aged 15 and over),  provided care to family members or friends with a long-term health condition, a disability or problems associated with aging.
  • Age related needs were identified as the single most common issue requiring help from caregivers at 28% followed by Cancer (11%), Heart Disease (9%), Mental issues (7%) and Alzheimer’s Disease/Dementia (6%)
  • Of these 8 million Canadian  family caregivers, 39%  primarily cared for their father or mother, 19% cared for parent-in-law, 16% cared for a close friend, 13% cared for Grandparents, 8% cared for their spouse or partner, and 5% for their child. The remaining (48%)  provided care to other family members
  • Family Caregivers (who provided at least 2 hours of care per week) can often feel overwhelmed or depressed; depending upon the intensity of the care provided; Results show 8% of those who helped their child, 34% who helped their spouse and 21% who helped their parents reported feeling depressed.
  • The same group of Family Caregivers (those providing at least 2 hours of care per week) often are challenged financially. Results show 8% who cared for a child, 20% who cared for a spouse and 7% of those regularly helping their parents  experienced financial difficulties as a result of caregiving responsibilities
  • The relationship between Caregiver and Care Receiver has an impact on the time spent caregiving. Generally, those caring for a child or spouse spent more hours; between 10-14 hours.
  • Women represented a slight majority of caregivers in Canada in 2012 at 54%.
  • Caregivers often have multiple responsibilities. 60% were working at a paid job or business, 28% had children under the age of 18

Caregiving comes in many different forms. Survey Results show how caregivers spent their time:

Transportation (73%) Housework (51%), Home Maintenance/Outdoor Work (45%), Scheduling/Coordinating Appointments (31%), Managing Finances (27%), Helping with medical treatments  (23%) and Personal Care (22%)

bigstock-Hand-Holding-A-Heart-Icon-38884273Various policies, programs, tax credits and  supports can and do help family caregivers (and those that they care for).

Caregivers who care for a child or spouse have greater needs based on the impacts shown, and therefore generally, there are more supports like Respite Care and Financial Supports provided to this group of Caregivers; which seems reasonable.  Having said that, there are still many unmet needs for this group of caregivers.

However, those that care for a parent (which is where the largest share of family caregivers spend their time) often lack Respite support services or Financial Supports and so there is much debate.

This debate will continue and most likely get louder. Canada has like most developed Countries, an aging population in combination with increased life expectancy, a demographic trend towards families having fewer children & an increasing prevalence of chronic illnesses. That means the Demand for family caregivers will continue to grow and most likely in a significant way.

To review the entire article from Statistics Canada you can visit their website  or download the report here GSS_Portrait_of_Caregivers_-_2013-eng

Good Resources on Family Caregiving in Canada 

The Canadian Caregiver Coalition is a national body consisting of national and provincial organizations from across Canada,  promoting the needs & interests of family caregivers with all levels of Government in and communities in Canada.  Through an Annual Planning Process they identify/confirm strategic priorities and public policy changes that can make a difference for Family Caregivers. Their plan advocates building partnerships, facilitating education & sharing resources.  Their website is a good resource for information about the Challenges facing Family Caregivers as well as for resources & insight into some public policy changes that may assist those that “care”  

The Ontario Caregiver Coalition also works to support & advance the interests of caregivers-in the Province of Ontario.

 

 

Digital Health Tech – for Family Caregivers

One day we may very well wonder how we coped before Digital Health Tech came of age.

As the majority of us are or will shortly become Family Caregivers and sometimes to more than one loved one.

Top concerns for Family Caregivers are fairly consistent:

  • Financial concerns bigstock-Vector-Icons-Family-Tree-A-d-34008410
  • How to balance caregiving with work or work and family
  • Encouraging participation or help from other family members
  • Sharing information with other family members
  •  Guilt…yes lots of guilt-along the lines of Am I doing enough?

Digital health technologies can help both local and remote family caregivers increase their peace of mind about concerns they have for those they care about particularly when those concerns relate to health, safety & socialization issues of a loved one that they are caring for.

Mobile Health Devices

These include the “Wearable Tech” that is being talked about a lot in the news these days. Mobile health devices that track, monitor and share information wirelessly are in the news a lot lately.  They include monitors for blood pressure, diabetes, weight, heart rate etc.  These tracking devices can help individuals with chronic issues gain control over conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure while at the same time, these monitors allow for sharing of that information with their family a distance away.  See some examples of the mobile health devices we carry here

Motion Sensors

Motion Sensors that track movement can alert family caregivers to unusual or unexpected activity like a fridge not being opened all day or a door opening late in the night.  These sensors are intended to not be intrusive. One of the monitors we carry, CookStop not only monitors activity around a stove but it will also  automatically turning the stove off after a certain period of inactivity.  That can mean a Cooking Fire has been prevented; it’s hard to put a value on the peace of mind that kind of technology can provide.  See some other motion sensors here

Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS)

Personal security devices like Direct Alert that offer emergency assistance at the press of a button have been around for some time. However,  many PERS (like Direct Alert) now offer fall detection which means that emergency assistance will be called for when a fall is detected as opposed to only where the emergency call button is pressed. This alleviates concerns that family can have about a loved one who may not willingly press the alert button for help or is unable to do so.

Age Friendly Software

It’s no longer the case where communicating with friends & family members’ online means learning how to navigate the internet or learn how to use MS Outlook!  Now all is one systems as well as standalone software offer those without any prior computer experience or knowledge the opportunity to both exercise their brain in a different way, communicate with friends & family & share photos & videos. It’s about time! Social isolation is a growing problem today and so this opportunity for families to remain close or re-connect is a real “gift” See our options here for Age Friendly Software Solutions

 Coordinating Care

Digital or web based caring communities that are available online can help bring balance and some organization to family caregivers by providing information, message boards, and help calendars that can be shared. Lotsa helping Hands is one such service-a free service that helps family caregivers overcome some of the challenges can naturally come with managing a health or medical crisis in their family. By helping build a “community of care” technologies like Lotsa Helping Hands enable family caregivers to better manage everyday tasks, “share the load”and engage others for assistance.

Wearable Health & Fitness Tech for Caregivers !

 What’s “cool” about the newest crop of digital health technology that is coming out now is that it really is not just about helping those who may have a chronic illness, disease or health concern.  That is, it’s  not just about being reactive but finally about being proactive. Digital health technology is for really for everyone and nowhere is this more evident than in the area of the wearable fitness devices or health monitoring devices.

Caregivers may have concerns about their own fitness levels as they balance a life that may be overloaded with work, family and caregiving. A wireless activity tracker like a Fitbit for tracking steps, distance, and sleep might be a good start. It’s also important that caregivers keep a check on their own health which may easily deteriorate as their everyday tasks add up which can really take a toll on their own health. Monitoring your own health may even help make the case for convincing your loved one should they be reluctant to consider health monitoring.

 

 

 

Medication Management – Technology can Help

Non Compliance relating to medication is one of the biggest issues in healthcare generally. It’s a big challenge that comes with an aging population given that the number of medications taken often increases with age.

25% of those over age 65 have 3 or more chronic conditions that often need to be treated with multiple medications. 90% of older adults use one or more prescription medications.

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Managing multiple medications is no easy task but taking the right medication at the right time is important as the adverse effects of not doing so can be really detrimental or even life threatening.

Errors taking medications are far too common; they are the leading cause of hospital admission. Approximately 30% of all hospital admissions for those over age 65 are directly related to a missed does or an overdose of medication. As well, the inability to manage medications often plays a role in the decision to enter long term care.

Medication-related problems can cause or contribute to a variety of problems including confusion, falls, incontinence, insomnia, loss of coordination, depression, dehydration, memory loss or fainting. These sorts of problems all add up to an increased risk of  a loss in independence that most desire. If you or a loved one is having difficulty related to medication or there is confusion about what medication is being taken for or concern about the possible interaction of different medications it’s important to talk to your physician. However, your pharmacist may also be able to assist.

MedsCheck-Most pharmacies now offer a complimentary service where you can bring all medications in for a review. In Ontario, that service is known as MedsCheck which is sponsored by the Ministry of Health & Long Term Care which offers a 20-30 minute annual one-on-one appointment with a community pharmacist for anyone that is taking more than 3 medications. The visit helps ensure that medications are being taken safely and appropriately. It also allows an opportunity to discuss any concerns about interactions between different drugs. Sometimes certain patients are eligible for more than one MedsCheck appointment in the year.  As well, certain patients are eligible for a private home one-on-one consultation.  Find out more about the Medscheck program here 

However, the leading cause of not taking medications properly is forgetfulness and the absence of any reminder to take medication. Some suggestions for help with this issue include:

Keep an up to date list of all medications and supplements being taken and post it in where it can be seen often. Ensure that caregivers or loved ones have a copy of that list and that a copy also travels with you at all times. Detail electronic medication lists are available online

blister packsBlister Packs can help Most pharmacies also offer “blister packs” where medications are placed in a sealed blister packcard with labelled pouches for each dose. This provides patients with  a clear visual reminder of what is taken & when to reduce confusion

Medication Reminders, Organizers and Timers can make a big difference

A variety of technology enabled products are now available to help improve patient safety and reduce the chance of non compliance. Options vary between strictly a timer to an organizer to dispenser or a combination of each. The choice depends on the help needed which may vary from needing a simple prompt to a situation where there is a risk of identifying or remembering to take a medication or reducing the risk of taking too much medication or taking it at the wrong intervals.

The technology products we have listed on our site include Reminders, Organizers & Timers and they are simple to use and afforable at the same time. Please don’t hesitate to contact us for more information or if you are looking for an option to address a specific concern or issue.

Check out our Med Management Solutions 

How important is eHealth for Seniors? (VERY)

The 2013 Accenture HealthCare Consumer Survey confirms it…older individuals are using the internet more (and more) and Health Information is a key reason why. The Digital revolution is not just for the young but for older individuals as well and they want access to more of their healthcare online. Internet use rates have tripled amongst older populations 65 and over and have doubled for those between age 50 and 64 between 2000 and 2012 according to Pew Research.

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Accenture surveyed 9,015 adults in nine countries, including 1,470 US seniors 65 over and conducted a separate survey of 200 Medicare consumers.  Here are some of the key findings:

  • Most older users used the internet at least once a day.
  • 91%   said they use email frequently and 73 %  search the internet frequently.
  • Around 30% used Facebook or other social media.
  •  67%  of US seniors said accessing medical information online was very or somewhat important to them.
  • 56% of Medicare customers had visited their health plan’s website at least once in the past 12 months.
  • Only 28 % of seniors reported having full access to their electronic health record, but 83 % wanted access
  • 68 %  of seniors said the ability to refill prescriptions electronically was somewhat or very important, but just 46 % reported being able to do so

Those surveyed were also asked about what was the most important digital offering a Doctor or Hospital could provide:

  • 46% wanted the ability to access their electronic health records & medical history online or via mobile
  •  42 % wanted the ability to see a doctor virtually and without a co-pay
  • 15% wanted a mobile app or online tool in order to schedule their appointments

So it would seem that it’s not just the younger demographics who are looking to manage certain aspects of their healthcare online. While a representative of Accenture Health indicated that “What this means for providers and health plans is that they’ll need to expand their digital options if they want to attract older patients and help them track and manage their care outside their doctor’s office.

I think it also means that younger demographics will not just wish for it but will demand it.

It’s 2013 after all. While we are not flying around in cars in the sky;  we should certainly be able to manage our healthcare like we do our chequebook…online.

Read the Accenture Study Summary – Insight Driven Health – Silver Surfers are catching the eHealth Wave