04 February 2016

Caregiving for Older Adults with Disabilities: Present Costs, Future Challenges

Fellow Human Ecologist, Dr. Janet Fast's latest research on caregivers was published in the Institute for Research on Public Policy.

The summary from the article reads (read the full article here):

Being an unpaid caregiver for one’s adult family members is increasingly common in Canada as growing numbers of disabled individuals need help with tasks such as housekeeping, meal preparation and transportation. Although the amount of care most caregivers provide to adult family members and friends is modest, the responsibilities can be demanding and can present financial risks.
The number of people requiring care is forecast to rise dramatically in coming years, while families’ capacity to meet those demands will decrease as a result of demographic and socio-economic factors. In this study, Janet Fast assesses the financial and other challenges faced by caregivers and their employers. She also examines what employers and governments are currently doing, as well as what they should do, to mitigate the negative effects of caregiving.
The vast majority of working-age caregivers are employed and work full time. Many experience conflicting demands between paid work and caregiving and have to miss days at work or reduce their paid work hours. Those who provide many hours of care, who reside with the care recipient or care for someone with a cognitive disability are more likely to quit their jobs, and they may even be fired. As such, they are at greater risk of experiencing poor social, economic, physical and mental health outcomes. Clearly, caregivers bear a disproportionate share of the costs of caring for those with long-term health problems and disabilities.
The issue also presents challenges for employers, for example, increased turnover, absenteeism, reduced productivity and more demands on employee benefit programs. Some employers offer supports such as flexible work hours, direct compensation and information for caregiver employees. However, there is a marked discrepancy between the way employers treat new parents and how they treat people with care responsibilities.
Although over the past decade governments have introduced new policies to enhance work-care reconciliation, there is no comprehensive public policy strategy to support caregivers and to mitigate the negative consequences of caregiving.
We need to correct this urgently, Fast argues. Canada should follow the example of the United Kingdom and Australia, which have recognized caregivers’ contributions, introduced an allowance or wage to help cover caregivers’ income security needs, and explicitly codified caregivers’ rights in legislation. Policy-makers should also extend care service providers’ mandates to include caregivers as clients, introduce compulsory assessment of caregivers’ needs and recognize caregivers’ right to have those needs met.
She calls for a comprehensive caregiver policy strategy based on four pillars: (1) recognizing caregivers and their rights; (2) adequate, accessible and affordable services for care receivers and caregivers; (3) work-care reconciliation measures; and (4) measures to protect caregivers’ income security.