British Columbia

B.C. caregivers need more help says seniors advocate

B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie says her report is a "wake-up call". Mackenzie claims the government is failing to connect existing support services with the caregivers who need them most.

Family caregivers facing unprecedented levels of stress and distress according to a new report

Adult daycare programs are one way to provide respite to family caregivers. (Ted S. Warren/The Associated Press)

The B.C. seniors advocate says nearly a third of unpaid family caregivers are stressed out to the point of breakdown due to serious gaps in seniors respite programs.

"This is a wake-up call for all of us," said Isobel Mackenzie.

"The evidence is clear that we are not connecting our unpaid caregivers, most of whom are family members, with the many supports that could bring them respite and reduce their stress."

Mackenzie says her report proves B.C. has some of the worst levels of stress and distress among caregivers in Canada, and is calling for improved access to adult day programs and respite beds, as well as increased home support.

The report collected data from "over 30,000 of our frailest seniors who are living in the community". Findings include;

  • Twenty-nine per cent of caregivers are in distress.
  • Unpaid caregivers provide 19 hours of care per week on average. This increases to 30 hours per week for caregivers in distress
  • Fifty-four per cent of caregivers would benefit from respite services however few are accessing the help.
  • There has been a reduction of clients and utilization in adult day programs in the last three years.
  • Home support services are not keeping pace with the aging population.

Respite services for seniors fall into three categories; Adult day programs outside of the home, in-home support, and respite bed stays.

Despite the growing need, Mackenzie found that a full quarter of the hours offered by current adult day programs aren't being used, even in locations where there are waiting lists, indicating a need to improve and streamline program administration.

Mackenzie noted Alberta is having extraordinary success with an adult day program not currently offered in B.C. It focused on seniors with highly complex care needs, and has been shown to reduce emergency room visits and hospital admissions by close to 50 per cent. 

"I really hope the province looks at adopting that type of program in B.C.," said Mackenzie. 

Health Minister Terry Lake acknowledges that the rapidly aging population is a concern when it comes to providing home-health services for seniors. 

"We must take fresh approaches as we work to address the challenges we face in caring for our province's growing number of seniors," said Lake in a statement released by the Ministry of Health.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.