Family Caregiving in Canada-an increasing challenge


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.