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BC FORUM News - from the Autumn 2017 issue of The Advocate

Caregivers in distress as public services fall short

A new report by Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie confirmsthat caregiver distress is rising in B.C. while supports and services are not keeping pace with the growing need.

“We looked at data two years ago showing that B.C. has one of the highest rates of caregiver distress in Canada,” said Mackenzie. “We were hoping when we looked at the data in this area this year that we would see improvements, but unfortunately, this is not the case.”

The report, Caregivers in Distress: A Growing Problem, indicates that 31 percent of unpaid caregivers are experiencing symptoms of distress such as anger, depression or feelings of not being able to continue with their caregiving duties. The level of distress has increased 7 percent since 2015.

“This is a disturbing trend on its own when we think of the daily reality for all the sons, daughters, spouses, neighbours and friends who are dedicating hundreds of hours caring for loved ones,” said Mackenzie.

“However there is even more cause for concern when we look at additional data in this report that indicate the frailty and complexity of those we are caring for at home is actually increasing, and the supports and services that can make an immense difference to the lives of caregivers are not keeping pace.”

The report focuses on the caregivers of individuals receiving publicly subsidized home support, as this is the only segment of the caregiving community where data on detailed health care assessments are available.

“Having a break for even a few hours can make a huge difference in the lives of caregivers who are feeling exhausted and overwhelmed,” said Mackenzie.

“For some caregivers, time alone to refocus and recharge is something very precious and we need to recognize that it can make the difference between feeling strong enough to carry on with caring commitments, or giving up entirely.”

Key findings of the report include:

• In 2015/16, 31 percent of clients had a primary caregiver in distress. This is a 7 percent increase from the 2015 report.

• Over this period, the actual number of primary caregivers in distress increased by over 1,000, an increase of 14 percent.

• The number of home support clients accessing Adult Day Programs decreased by 5 percent and the number of days delivered to these clients decreased by 2 percent.

• The average hours of home support per day per client over 65 decreased by 5 percent, signaling less intensive service.

“Unpaid caregivers are a vital, often unrecognized yet critical piece in ensuring the stability of our health care system,” said Mackenzie, adding there are one million unpaid caregivers in the province whose paid value is estimated to be $3.5 billion.

“The importance of maximizing supports can’t be underestimated when we consider costly alternatives such as residential care or hospital stays.”

The full report can be found online at www.seniorsadvocatebc.ca

 

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