Shortage of Caregivers in Canada a major concern…

Extracted from –


Canadian parents assume their kids will look after them when they’re older. Those without kids assume they can pay for care with all the money they’re saving.

But a new study on the aging population suggests both groups could be setting themselves up for disappointment.

While the number of elderly Canadians requiring assistance is expected to double in the next 30 years, researchers say a shortage of adult children and health-care workers could mean the baby boomers won’t get the care they need.

The Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP) describes the outlook as “a major cause of concern,” noting a critical need for policy-makers to reconsider their approach to voluntary, for-profit and public homecare.

“Caregivers are essential. Without them, we, as a society, will go bankrupt,” says Janice Keefe, author of the IRPP report released this week. “We need to figure out a range of supports to help them do what they need to do.”

Keefe, a professor and Canada Research Chair in family studies and gerontology, defines a caregiver as a member of the immediate or extended family, or a friend or neighbour, who provides support and assistance without pay. At present, as much as 80 per cent of care given to older adults comes from such individuals.

The problem is that baby boomers, on average, didn’t have as many children as their parents, and thus won’t have the same in-family resources as they age.

Keefe reports that by 2031, roughly one in four women aged 65 and older will have no surviving children — up from 16 per cent in 2001. That proportion climbs to 30 per cent in 2051.

She also notes that even older Canadians who do have adult children can’t necessarily count on them to be around.

“Our whole homecare and community-care system is premised on this idea that there’s family available to provide care,” says Keefe. “Nowadays, they may exist, but they’re not available — they don’t live in the same community, they have work, they have other responsibilities.”

In the absence of such caregivers, she forecasts a greater need than ever for formal homecare providers. And that population is shrinking at the same time the number of Canadians requiring assistance is growing.

“It’s already difficult for homecare agencies to attract workers to the sector because they’re not paid as well as other careers,” says Keefe, who teaches at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax. “So we have to worry about whether, in the future, there will be paid workers available to provide care, given the challenge — even today — that people have accessing that profession.”

Though Keefe says there’s no “one-size-fits-all” policy solution, she proposes a range of supports that would make caregiving more appealing at the voluntary, for-profit and public levels.

Revisiting rules around income security programs, for instance, could help ensure that adult children who drop out of the labour force to care for their parents aren’t penalized in terms of pension. She also calls for improved access to formal homecare services, as well as better financial incentives to those providing voluntary care, “so they don’t end up poor as a result of their activity.”
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