Caregivers are the backbone of our health care system and home care programs. They contribute an estimated $25 Billion of unpaid care annually.
Canada has the highest rate of multiple sclerosis in the world and caregivers make it possible for Canadians living with MS to stay in their homes while receiving the care they need, an important consideration in assessing quality of life, especially given the lack of available age-appropriate long term care.
Caregivers – family, friends and neighbours – are stepping up to provide care and fill the gap in our publicly funded health care system. For many, this can mean juggling work, personal and caring responsibilities, often at the cost of their own emotional, physical and financial health.
For the first time in Canada, our Prime Minister is releasing a statement recognizing the diversity, role and value of carers in honour of National Caregivers Day. This is an action that many people across Canada have collectively advocated for over the years. This public recognition of the 8.1 million carers in Canada marks a pivotal step in advancing a national agenda to provide the necessary supports for individuals who take on an unpaid caring role.
“Thirty-eight years ago, my mother Brenda was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis right after her third pregnancy. As a young child, I can remember her skiing, walking in the forest with us, and just hanging out – those were the best times. As I got older, and my mom’s MS progressed, I became her sole source of physical and emotional support – my dad was gone and all my siblings had moved out, so I took it upon myself to care for her.
I cleaned the house, trimmed the trees, prepared meals, and helped keep track of her doctor’s appointments. Having so much responsibility at such an early age meant that I matured very quickly. When I was in high school, I would drop everything and leave parties to come home to my mom. My friends may not have understood it then, but that dedication made me who I am today and I’m better because of it.
Now at 30, I’m still a key part of her caregiving team. I continue to help make decisions regarding her health, but I have my own family now and I need to balance my time between her, my husband and my three kids. It gets hard sometimes, but it comes with the territory of being a caregiver.”
Kirsten is an #MSWalk ambassador. She lives in Ottawa with her husband and three children, enjoys Zumba, and is hopeful that a cure for MS will be found in her mother’s lifetime.
Way back in early 2015 our Government released a report called When Work and Caregiving Collide – How Employers Can Support their Employees Who Are Caregivers. A report we strongly encourage you to read and share with employers across the country as it raises important awareness of caregivers’ experiences in the workplace.
Many caregivers of people living with MS are still working, like Teresa Fortin whose husband Doug lives with secondary progressive MS:
“She takes time off work to drive me to medical appointments and to be there for my many rounds of treatment. She helps care for me, and I want the government to recognize the vital role she plays in our family…I want better care for my caregiver,” Doug says.
We are pleased to note that the federal budget released last month, included an investment of $691.3 million over five years, to create a new EI caregiver benefit to allow Canadians to take up to 15 weeks for those who need to care for an adult family member who needs significant support to recover from a critical illness or injury. We are hopeful that the government will extend this benefit to caregivers for people who live with episodic illnesses like MS.
This addition to the budget, combined with Prime Minister Trudeau’s statement reinforces our Government’s understanding of the daily pressures ordinary Canadian families face and its commitment to ensuring they receive the support and recognition they deserve.
We’re excited to see that caregivers and home care are important priorities for our federal, provincial and territorial governments. We look forward to working with the government and Carers Canada to continue championing the well-being of caregivers.
Stay tuned for coverage early next month of our meetings with MPs during our annual Day on the Hill and carnation pinning ceremony.