British Columbia

B.C. health care system relies heavily on family caregivers, says advocate

Providing care for a sick or disabled loved one can feel like a necessary responsibility, but it can also be stressful and oftentimes interferes with career progression, according to Nora Spinks, CEO of Vanier Institute of the Family.

Providing home care to family members is something that happens to nearly everyone, says Nora Spinks

According to a repo​rt released in October, family caregivers provide 70 to 75 per cent of care in Canada, and in B.C., the majority of those individuals care for a chronically ill or disabled seniors. (iStock)

Providing care for an aging or ill loved one feels like a necessary responsibility for many people — but it can be extremely stressful, especially when it interferes with your career or your social life.

According to Nora Spinks, CEO of Vanier Institute of the Family, most adults can expect to provide care for a loved one at some point in their lives — and the health system depends on it.

"We're all living longer — we're all able to live with illness and disability with a lot more ease than ever before," she told host Gloria Macarenko on CBC's BC Almanac.

"But the health care system is relying very heavily on family members to provide some care," she said.

According to a repo​rt released by Doctors of B.C, family caregivers provide 70 to 75 per cent of care in Canada, and in B.C., the majority of those individuals care for chronically ill or disabled seniors.

The burden can be extremely difficult, says Spinks

​Working and caregiving

"Whether it's taking somebody to a doctor's appointment, or dealing with treatment or being absent for a period of time because somebody's just been discharged from hospital ... caregivers will often need to be absent form work."

Beyond the absence, having to care for a person can also be an immense distraction. Constant worry can take a worker's attention away from their job, says Spinks.

Those times of distraction can negatively impact your ability to reach your full potential, she adds.

Caregivers may need to turn down assignments and promotions if they require different hours, more or less flexibility or a different relationship with their job.

"It may impact them in terms of their career progression, but it may also impact the employer's ability to do succession planning."

Finding help

There are resources to help if you find yourself in such a circumstance.

Family Caregivers of B.C is a support network that can help you navigate the government resources that are available, as well as an emotional support telephone service and support groups.

The network also offers free information packages and educational webinars about how to plan family caregiving effectively and strategically, and potential government supports that are available for your specific caregiving needs.

"The first thing we say is take a breath — please don't quit your job," said director Barb MacLean. "Just find out as much as you possibly can about what's available before you act."

You can also visit Healthlink BC to search for provincial supports for your unique needs.

With files from CBC's BC Almanac

To listen to the full interview, click on the audio labelled: B.C. health care system relies heavily on family caregivers, says advocate