Canada is doing a poor job of caring for its caregivers despite the growing need for these caregivers, complains the Canadian Center of Excellence for Caregivers (CCEA).
Nurses and policymakers gathered in Ottawa since Monday for Canada’s first nursing summit have called for the development of a “national strategy” to respond to the “crisis.”
“We are in a crisis in the delivery of care across Canada,” warns CCEA’s director of policy and government relations, James Janeiro, stressing that nurses “do not have the support they need to do this work.”
Today, many of Canada’s approximately 8 million caregivers struggle with issues of “loneliness” and the “deterioration of their mental and physical health,” explains Mr. Janeiro. And around 90% of them also need financial support.
Franco-Ontarian Sylvie Sylvestre, who worked as her parents’ carer for ten years, knows something about this. His mother suffered from Parkinson’s disease and dementia; his father “suffered from severe depression and the beginnings of a neurocognitive disorder before his death.” “We need to think about ourselves, the caregivers, when we experience a variety of emotions. We need support, answers to our questions. Although working as a caregiver was rewarding for me, there were times when I felt tired and even stressed. »
For the Northern Ontario resident, the “biggest challenge was defending rights.” [ses] parents,” monolingual French speakers, “who were vulnerable people,” and “being their voice to offer services in French.” She says she has made numerous trips between her parents’ home in the village of Chapleau and the towns of Timmins, 200km away, and Sudbury, 400km away, to try to access specialist services in French.
MMe Sylvestre, who also serves as a planning and community engagement officer for the Francophone Well-Being Network of Northern Ontario, has had to act as an interpreter on several occasions. A risky approach, in her opinion, which further pushed her to insist on receiving services in French. “I have no medical training, I can make mistakes. For my parents there is also no aspect of confidentiality. Maybe they didn’t say things they normally would have said because I was there. Did you give a declaration of consent? » she asks herself.
“There is something that brings them all together [les proches aidants] : feelings of guilt, the feeling of not doing enough, exhaustion, isolation,” lists Magalie Dumas, deputy general director of L’Appui for nurses. “If there is one thing we can change everywhere and in every province, it is to ask them how they are doing. »
MMe Dumas, along with other panelists, presented a workshop titled “Learning from Quebec” on Tuesday afternoon. According to Janeiro, the province would actually be “a generation ahead of the rest of the country” when it comes to “near aid.”
Even though the wait was “long,” notes MMe Dumas, Quebec, adopted a government action plan in 2021 to “recognize and better support” caregivers.
Ontario is within the “norm,” says Mr. Janeiro, acknowledging that the Ontario Caregiver Support Organization is doing what it can with its “pretty small” budget. “But Ontario is also the most populous province. So that’s the norm, but we have 14 million people living in Ontario who are living in a system that is not ahead of the rest of the country. »
“It took us a long time in Quebec. I know the strength is there in Ontario. […] What is certain is that the impetus must come from the government,” says MMe Dumas. “I wish you a Marguerite Blais with a comprehensive and unwavering investment in the cause of caregivers,” she adds, referring to Quebec’s former minister of seniors and caregivers, without whom Quebec “may not be where it is today is”. argues the committee.
A “national strategy”
A response is all the more “urgent” as the need for nursing staff grows. James Janeiro notes that their numbers are likely to “explode” in the coming decades and that “approximately 50% of Canadians will be caregivers at some point in their lives.”
This is due to the aging of the population, the reduction in family size and the increase in life expectancy of people with disabilities. “It’s wonderful, but health and social services are not designed to accommodate aging people with disabilities. »
Janeiro said Ottawa should provide more funding to support caregivers, but also start a discussion with the provinces so that “the rest of the country starts paying attention to the issue.” “The health system is a provincial issue, but providing care and support to caregivers is even more important. There are questions about taxes, labor and immigration that fall under federal jurisdiction,” he emphasizes.
He says he communicates regularly with the Liberal government, as well as with the Conservative Party of Canada, the New Democratic Party, the Green Party of Canada and, more recently, the Bloc Québécois. “I think he is interested and open to continuing the conversation. »
This report is supported by the Local Journalism Initiative, funded by the Government of Canada.
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