In Support of Canada's Family Caregivers: National Groups Gather to Share Research, Reduce Duplication & Bring Recommendations to Reality

OTTAWA, Oct. 21, 2013 /CNW/ - Canada's family caregivers contribute more than $5 billion annually through their unpaid labour. In fact, half of this country's homecare costs are borne by these mothers, fathers, siblings, and friends as they care for their loved ones. Four of the nation's leading cancer, mental health, and caregiver groups are gathering on October 22 to develop next steps to address the financial hardships facing Canada's family caregivers.

Funded by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, the day-long forum will be led by the Canadian Cancer Action Network with partners including the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Caregiver Coalition, and the Mental Health Commission of Canada. Research reports released by the partners will form the basis of the discussion, with emphasis on moving from research and recommendations to action on:

  • Underscoring the contribution of Canada's family caregivers and the need for increased support to offset the financial and physical strains of their work
  • Creating more flexible workplaces that support caregiving obligations
  • Adapting government support programs towards a more caregiver-friendly model.

Outcomes from the forum will impact Canadians like 14-year old Bronwyn Davis and her Thunder Bay, Ontario family who have been displaced to Toronto since her diagnosis of myeloid leukemia 22 months ago. Leaving their family home to seek available treatment, Kellie Huffman, Bronwyn's mother, shares, "We would not have been able to survive without the support of family, friends, and the generosity of strangers in our home town. There is simply no way we could have afforded Bronwyn's care in one of Canada's most expensive cities."

The Huffmans' story of financial hardship is an all-too-familiar one faced by families across Canada. Many family caregivers, particularly those caring for children and spouses, need financial support to cope with their caregiving responsibilities. In 2012, 28% of Canadians who cared for a child and 20% of those who cared for a spouse experienced financial difficulties.1 Ontario families of children with cancer, for example, incur an average of more than $28,000 in costs in the first three months following a child's diagnosis.2

"Canadian caregivers and their families should not be forced to deal with a financial crisis at the same time they are dealing with health or medical issues," says CCAN Chief Executive Officer Marjorie Morrison. "This event brings together diverse organizations across Canada with a shared commitment to giving caregivers a stronger voice. Recognizing the integral role of family caregivers in society, we are gathering caregivers, governments, health professional associations and others to develop concrete solutions to measurably reduce the financial hardships facing so many of Canada's family caregivers."

The Mental Health Strategy for Canada notes that caregiving can hinder participation in the workforce and cause caregivers serious economic hardship. One study reported that 27% of caregivers lost income and 29% incurred major financial costs related to caring for a family member.3

In addition, results from a national survey of Canadian family caregivers found that about 60 per cent pay out-of-pocket expenses (primarily transportation and medication-related costs), with 30 per cent spending over $300 per month.4 Travel for medical care can exceed even drug costs as the largest single out-of-pocket expense borne by cancer patients and their families.5

"With Canada's aging population, family caregivers need improved job protection and income security to enable them to provide care and support for their loved ones with a life-threatening illness," says Denise Page, Senior Policy Analyst at the CCS National Public Issues office. "The ideal solution for this is to improve the EI Compassionate care benefit program that addresses the critical issues of job and income security."

In its recent Throne Speech, the federal government committed to helping family caregivers by building on the caregiver tax credit.

Nicole Beben, a CCC steering committee member, adds that family caregivers are the "invisible backbone" of our health-care system, yet there is a lack of awareness and understanding throughout the system of the scale of their contribution and the financial burden many families face. "Unpaid care and support provided by family caregivers provides a major contribution to the health and social service system, which would be costly to replace with paid formal services," says Ms. Beben.

"Caregivers who are unable to tend to their own wellbeing may impact their own health, limit the effectiveness of the help they can provide to relatives and increase costs to the health and social service systems," says Ella Amir, Executive Director of caregiver support organization AMI-Québec. Amir is also a member of the MHCC's Advisory Council. "To reduce the risks and enhance the benefits caregiving can provide to the caregiver and care recipient, adequate supports are vital; and if not for humanitarian reasons, than certainly for social and economic reasons."

About the Canadian Cancer Action Network

The Canadian Cancer Action Network, a national volunteer-driven organization comprised of more than eighty-five patient-centred organizations from across Canada, is dedicated to ensuring a coordinated patient and caregiver perspective is firmly embedded in work across the cancer control continuum. For more information, visit the Canadian Cancer Action Network's website at www.ccanceraction.ca.

About the Canadian Cancer Society

The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website www.cancer.ca or call our toll-free, bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333.

About the Canadian Caregiver Coalition

The Canadian Caregiver Coalition is a diverse group of national and provincial organizations from across Canada that works collaboratively to represent and promote the needs and interests of family caregivers with all levels of government, and the community. The vision of the Canadian Caregiver Coalition is a Canada that recognizes and respects the integral role of family caregivers in society, and supports this role with the understanding that it is not a substitute for public responsibility in health and social care. www.ccc-ccan.ca.

About the Mental Health Commission of Canada

The Mental Health Commission of Canada is a catalyst for change. We are collaborating with hundreds of partners to change the attitudes of Canadians toward mental health problems and to improve services and support. Our goal is to help people who live with mental health problems and illnesses lead meaningful and productive lives. Together we create change. The Mental Health Commission of Canada is funded by Health Canada.

www.mentalhealthcommission.ca | strategy.mentalhealthcommission.ca

About the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer

The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer works with Canada's cancer community to reduce the burden of cancer on Canadians. Grounded in and informed by the experiences of those affected by cancer, the organization works with partners to support multi-jurisdictional uptake of evidence that will help to optimize cancer control planning and drive improvements in quality of practice across the country. Through sustained effort and a focus on the cancer continuum, the Partnership supports the work of the collective cancer community in achieving long-term population outcomes:  reduced incidence of cancer, less likelihood of Canadians dying from cancer, and an enhanced quality of life of those affected by cancer.  For more information, visit partnershipagainstcancer.ca.


1 Study, Caregivers in Canada: 2012; http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/130910/dq130910a-eng.htm
2 Tsimicalis, A. Costs Incurred by Families of Children Newly Diagnosed with Cancer in Ontario. University of Toronto, 2010.
3 Mental Health Commission of Canada. (2012). Changing directions, changing lives.
4 Health Canada. (2002). National profile of family caregivers in Canada
5 Canadian Caregiver Coalition. www.ccc-ccan.ca

SOURCE: Canadian Cancer Society (National Office)

For further information:

Media interviews can be arranged with:
Ella Amir
Executive Director, AMI-Québec and MHCC's Advisory Council member

Caregivers Kellie Huffman, Lori Taraba and Odette Beaudoin

By contacting:
Leslie Greenberg
Principal, Leslie Greenberg Consulting
(416) 948-1945 / leslie_g@bell.net


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