Judy Southon with her husband, Vic at the Seven Oaks Long Term Care Facility in Toronto. Vic has Alzheimers Disease and Vascular Dementia.
Credits: DAVE THOMAS/QMI AGENCY
"I'd give two to him and one to me," she said. "I was taking them too because I was just so stressed - my chest was so tight - I was getting very
worried about myself."
Southon's struggles as a family caregiver - she helped nurse husband for two years before getting him into care - recurs in homes across the country, according to a report released Monday by the Health Council of Canada.
Home care and its impact both on caregivers and the health system is an emerging issue that's been on the radar for all levels of governments for a few years.
But Council CEO John Abbott said that despite years of research into the home care situation in Canada, this is the first time data from across the country has been crunched.
"We were able to get a really good snapshot of what's happening who's getting the care, who's not getting the care, (and) what it means for the caregivers,' he said.
What researchers found is the current system is stretched too thin and seniors in need of care aren't getting it at the level they need.
"The crisis is not 10 years down the road," Abbott said. "We're talking even today."
Looking at five regions across Canada the Yukon, BC, Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia - researchers were able to pin down that many home care patients are elderly Canadians coping with chronic condition like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
At least 20% - like Southon's husband suffer from dementia.
And a third have complex health problems - something that can put a serious burden on their family caregivers.
Home care is in the hands of the provinces, and access to services for patients and family caregivers varies widely across the country. Abbott said for the most part, all governments are doing "poorly."
The report puts forward a number of solutions for governments looking to tackle the issue from boosting resources for family caregivers, to
pinpointing practices that are already working here and abroad, and increasing investments in home care instead of long-term care facilities.
"The reality is Canadians want to stay at home as long as they can, and it's the best and cheapest alternative," Abbott said.
Some of the report's key findings:
- In the last decade, the number of people receiving home care in Canada grew 51%
- 75% of all home care clients are seniors
- The average per week cost of home care varies by province from $134 to $189.
- 60% of family caregivers are women
- 70-75% of all home care is provided by a family member.