Invisible Healthcare System Taking Toll on Canadian Caregivers

Unpaid, unrecognized caregivers carrying the weight of our aging population

...Half of Canadians do not think they will have the financial means to provide care
...Over one-third of women family caregivers feel overwhelmed emotionally and don't know how to cope
...Only four per cent of Canadians have developed a home care contingency plan

TORONTO, February 1, 2012 /Canada NewsWire/ - As Canada's healthcare system continues to adapt to a rapidly aging population, a new study released today reveals the effects being felt by family caregivers when it comes to the emotional, physical and financial consequences of taking care of an aging loved one at home.

The study, conducted by We Care Home Health Services, explores the level of preparedness among Canadians in caring for elderly relatives and found the following:

...Over one-third of women caregivers (who Statistics Canada states carry the bulk of caregiving) feel overwhelmed emotionally and don't know how to cope (37 per cent)

...Over half of Canadians (53 per cent) who anticipate caring for a relative in the future do not think they will have the financial means to provide care

...One quarter of women who are currently caring for a loved one do not know where to go for help and feel there is a lack of available resources (26 per cent)

According to We Care, millions of Canadians have taken on the role of family caregiver, a responsibility that can range from helping an elderly parent with day to day tasks, assisting a spouse living with a debilitating chronic illness or helping an aunt or uncle get to and from appointments.

"Family caregivers are part of an invisible healthcare system that has become essential to Canadian society," said Sue Kelly, Registered Nurse and Director of Health and Wellness for We Care Home Health Services. "As the healthcare system moves toward shorter periods of hospitalization and greater integration into the community, family caregivers are being relied on more heavily, yet little has been done to provide them with the support, recognition and respite they need."

With this in mind, We Care has created the Being a Family Caregiver guide, a comprehensive, free resource that was designed to help family caregivers manage the challenges and responsibilities of providing care to a loved one.

With Canada's aging population expected to double in the next 23 years, more and more Canadians will be faced with the responsibility of caring for a loved one. Yet the study showed that Canadians are not prepared for the task at hand:
Over two-thirds (64 per cent) have either done nothing to prepare or know they should be thinking about next steps, but haven't done so yet
Only four per cent have developed a home care contingency plan
A mere 12 per cent have initiated a conversation with their aging loved one

"In many instances, family members find themselves thrust into the position of caregiver without any prior warning, experience, or knowledge of how to navigate the healthcare system," said Kelly. "The results can be completely overwhelming for the caregiver, who will often be so focused on providing care that they forget the need and importance of taking care of themselves."

We Care's new guide provides essential tips on how caregivers can avoid burnout, stress and fatigue. The guide also outlines effective tools that help caregivers walk through various scenarios they may encounter, including how to determine if a loved one needs care, and how to effectively communicate with a loved one when addressing areas that involve changes to their lifestyle or routine.

Ms. Kelly adds that family caregivers are often the first to realize that their loved ones require care, and determining the next steps can be challenging. The study revealed that 19 per cent of Canadians would broach the topic immediately, while 43 per cent would talk with other family members and approach their loved one as a group. When it comes to talking to a loved one about requiring additional assistance, almost one quarter of Canadians think their loved ones would be upset upon first mention, but after some encouraging they would accept the situation.

For more information, or to get a free copy of the Being a Family Caregiver guide, please call 1-855-699-3227 or visit

About the survey

From January 13th to January 15th 2012 an online survey was conducted among 1,008 randomly selected Canadian adults who are Angus Reid Forum panelists. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and region Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of Canada. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

About We Care

We Care Home Health Services, a leading national provider of in-home care and support services with over 50 locations across Canada, provides professional and compassionate care that allows seniors and others to live independently in the comfort of their own homes. We Care employs over 3,000 homecare staff and provides care in over 800 communities across Canada, and has received accreditation through Accreditation Canada within all the regions in which it operates in. For more information, call 1-855-699-3227 or visit