Home and community care has a important and growing role in Canadians' Health

OTTAWA, May 23, 2012 /Canada NewsWire/ - Home and community care currently accounts for approximately five per cent of total health spending in Canada, about a quarter of which is funded from out-of-pocket spending or private insurance. However, for every hour of paid care that home care recipients receive, at least 10 hours of unpaid care are provided by family, friends and volunteers.

A new Conference Board of Canada report, Home and Community Care in Canada: An Economic Footprint, provides a conservative estimate of the economic impact of the home and community care sector. The report is being released on the same day as the 2012 CIBC Scholar-in-Residence Lecture: The Path to Healthcare Reform—Policy and Politics, at the National Gallery of Canada.

"This is the beginning of a dialogue with Canadians. It's impossible to make informed decisions about home and community care without understanding the significance and impact of the sector on the rest of the healthcare system," said Judith Shamian, President and CEO of VON Canada. Dr. Shamian will participate in a panel discussion at the Scholar-in-Residence Lecture.

The Conference Board estimates that public and private sources spent between $8.9 billion to $10.5 billion in 2010 to support more than 1.3 million Canadians that require some form of assistance to remain in their homes. The home and community care sector supported an estimated 76,000 to 99,000 full-time equivalent jobs for paid providers of home and community care services. At the same time, volunteers and family and friends provide a significant amount of unpaid care to help people remain in their homes.

"Home and community care is crucial to the lives of individuals and their families, the efficiency of health care delivery systems overall, and the country's productivity," said Louis Thériault, Director, Health Economics, The Conference Board of Canada.. "Considering the importance of the home and community care sector, it is surprising just how little is known about it. The economic footprint identified in this report speaks to the dollars spent and the hours of service provided to meet the demand. "

In addition to unraveling the economic footprint of the sector, the report is intended to help Canadian governments as they set and redefine priorities, and make plans for the home and community care sector. The study assesses the impact on employers when employees have caregiving responsibilities, and sheds light on the potential spending implications of shifting care from institutions to homes.

About 1.33 million Canadians receive one or more forms of care to help them live at home.

These include:

...Home health services - professional : such as nursing and physical therapy

...Home support services - non-professional: such as personal care, meal preparation and homemaking

...Community care services: ranging from meal preparation and homemaking to mental health and palliative care

...Voluntary contributions

...Caregiving: unpaid care from family and friends.

While caregiving implies the provision of unpaid care, it does come at a cost to Canadian businesses. In 2007, Canadian employers absorbed an estimated $1.28 billion in lost productivity as a result of employees missing work and/or leaving their jobs because they had difficulties juggling their care responsibilities.

Looking ahead to the next 20 years, the demand for home and community care is certain to grow for several reasons: an aging population, earlier hospital discharges, increased prevalence of chronic diseases in the population, and patients' preferences to receive care at home.

"Governments, insurers, employers, and Canadians collectively should be considering scenarios for the future of home and community care," said Thériault.

This report was funded by the Victorian Order of Nurses Canada and the investors of the Canadian Alliance for Sustainable Health Care (CASHC).

VON Canada is a national health organization and registered charity offering a wide range of community health care programs that meet the needs of Canadians from coast to coast.

CASHC is a five-year Conference Board of Canada program of research and dialogue. Launched in 2011, CASHC provides Canadian business leaders and policy-makers with insightful, forwarding-looking, quantitative analysis of the sustainability of the Canadian health care system and all of its facets.