Five million Canadians provide care for their loved ones with long-term health problems.
Ottawa (20 April 2009) - The Canadian Healthcare Association (CHA) has released a study recommending that the federal government take a leading role in developing a national home care/long-term care program.
It is estimated that five million Canadians provide care for loved ones with long-term health problems. In addition, many work full-time and have other family responsibilities.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) has long been advocating for a national program that makes both long-term care and home care more accessible and meets the needs of the elderly. NUPGE's publication, Dignity Denied: Long-term care and Canada's elderly looks at the accessibility, affordability, quality and types of services that fall under the moniker of long-term care.
The CHA study, Home Care in Canada: From the Margins to the Mainstream, revealed that while one third of family caregivers spend no more than 10 hours a week with care, a full quarter spend at least 40 hours a week. The remainder spend somewhere in between and the majority say they could use some help.
A second study released in the most recent Healthcare Quarterly, Who Cares and How Much?, calculated that the imputed costs of replacing these unpaid family caregivers to the elderly would be $25-$26 billion annually.
"Family caregivers are the invisible backbone of the health and long-term care system. We have seen from the front lines that without family caregivers, the formal healthcare will not be able cope," said Nadine Henningsen, president of the Canadian Caregiver Coalition (CCC) and executive director of the Canadian Home Care Association (CHCA).
In addition to calling for a national program, the National Union is exploring the impact on women in their role as family caregivers. The disproportionate burden on women greatly affects their work-life balance and in turn their health.
For many reasons the need for a national program is pressing. Five years ago first ministers in Canada agreed on a minimum basket of home care services but the plan remains undeveloped. This ongoing patchwork of inadequate services across the country challenges a deeply held Canadian principle of universal health care.
NUPGE is urging the federal government to provide leadership and resources for a national long-term care program that provides those in need of care with equal access regardless of income or family support.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE
Dignity Denied: Long-term care and Canada's elderly
Who Cares and How Much?