New report shows caregivers in distress

The Health Council of Canada recently released a new report on the stress caregivers face in Canada, entitled Seniors in need, caregivers in distress:  What are the home care priorities in Canada?

The report is the first to look at the needs of caregivers and their home care clients across Canada. It analyzed data from Ontario, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, British Columbia and the Yukon, and found that the older Canadians who need home care the most are not getting the care they need.

One third of seniors in the Health Council’s sample have complex health care issues such as dementia or a physical disability, yet they receive only a few more hours of care per week than seniors with moderate needs. This leaves the burden on family members to take responsibility for the needs of their aging relatives.

Approximately 40-50 per cent of older adults with complex health needs have stressed out family caregivers who report feeling anger, stress and depression, which they say makes it hard for them to provide care.

Indeed, this burnout has the potential to put the caregiver in the hospital, say experts. As many caregivers are seniors themselves, their risk for a health crisis under the stress of caregiving can be quite high.

The report asks for a system that regularly looks at the situation of seniors and their caregivers, and provides support such as additional hours of home care or faster placement into a long-term care facility.

Health Council of Canada Councillor Lyn McLeod noted the importance of a continuing care strategy:

“Home care has become an integral part of the health care system, not something that happens off-side in the community. Governments need to make home care a priority by developing and implementing an integrated continuing care strategy. Jurisdictions can adapt what is working by learning from innovative practices,” she told Digital Journal.

The report suggests changing the way funding is allocated so that home care, primary care and acute care are all under one coordinating body.

Canada currently spends more on long-term care centers than home care, and has one of the largest gaps in spending between home care and long-term facility care, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The report also calls for the provision of support for family caregivers as well as integration of home care across services and sectors.

“When home care is properly valued and integrated into the health care system, it can improve the health and well-being of many seniors and their families, and reduce costs to the health care system,” said CEO of Health Council of Canada, John G. Abbott.

Also noted in the report was the issue of Alternative Level of Care patients, those who don’t need acute hospital care but still need some care. These patients use an average of 5,200 hospital beds a day, which comes at a heavy price for the health care system. Many of these seniors could be cared for at home if appropriate support was available.

Watch  Health Council of Canada’s video on the problems facing caregivers:

Sources: Health Council of Canada, The Gazette, Digital Journal

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