Who is Caring For the Caregivers?

Those caring for sick or disabled family members are the "unseen backbone of society"; how can society address the hardships they face?


A new report by the Canadian Centre for Caregiving Excellence sheds light on the challenges faced by Canadians caring for aging, sick, or disabled family members. The report emphasizes the need for a national strategy to acknowledge the significant mental and financial strain caregivers experience.

Many Canadians dedicate themselves to caring for loved ones, but this responsibility often comes at a cost. The report, based on a survey of nearly 3,100 caregivers across the country, found a troubling reality. Half of the respondents experienced financial stress due to caregiving responsibilities, and an alarming 25% reported poor mental health. Further, the report reveals that a staggering 80% of caregivers who are also healthcare workers contemplated changing careers due to low wages and understaffing in their field.

These urgent matters are felt by everyday Canadians and must be addressed on a provincial and federal level to protect all caregivers.

Silent struggles and lack of support

The social stigma surrounding caregiving can prevent individuals from seeking help. Kristie Mar, a third-year medical student at the University of British Columbia, shared her story in the report. Mar began caring for her mother with schizophrenia and an eating disorder at the young age of 16.

“It was pretty difficult because you can’t really tell your friends at that age what’s going on,” Mar said to the Toronto Star, referencing the stigma that discouraged her from speaking up.

Mar’s experience highlights the lack of awareness about caregiver burnout and the limited access to support services. “There’s no start time, there’s no end time. Even when you’re not home, you’re thinking about it,” she said about the all-encompassing nature of caregiving.

James Janeiro, the policy director at the Canadian Centre for Caregiving Excellence, emphasizes the crucial role caregivers play. “Caregivers are the unseen and largely unheard backbone of society. They’re taking care of people in the background. We don’t hear from them. We don’t see them because they’re working so hard,” Janeiro said to the Star.

The report also draws attention to the growing population of senior caregivers, with one-fifth of respondents over the age of 65. Furthermore, 88% of senior caregivers surveyed expressed a desire for an income tax credit to help manage everyday expenses.

Call for a national caregiver strategy

The COVID-19 pandemic brought the invaluable contributions of caregivers to light, particularly when access to hospitals and long-term care facilities was restricted. In this year’s budget, the federal government committed to launching consultations on developing a national strategy to support the “care economy”.

The Canadian Centre for Caregiving Excellence urges the development of a comprehensive national strategy. This strategy should include financial compensation for caregivers, respite care options, accessible home care services, and workplace policies that better accommodate those juggling work and caregiving duties. Increased support for caregiver groups across Canada is also highlighted as a crucial step forward.

By implementing these recommendations, Canada can begin to recognize the essential role caregivers play and provide them with the support they deserve.

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Adam is a passionate advocate for women's and infants' health. With a Master of Science and a current Ph.D. from the University of Toronto's Department of Physiology, he has dedicated his academic and professional career to understanding and improving health outcomes for women and newborns. Adam's research is driven by a deep commitment to empowering women through education and by promoting the incredible advances in women's health care. As a proud Canadian, he is eager to shine a light on the contributions and progress made in his home country, aiming to inspire and contribute to a healthier future for all women and their families.