There are as many as one million family caregivers in British Columbia who provide an estimated $3.5 billion in unpaid help, risking “caregiver burnout.”
More than 31 per cent of caregivers in fell into the category of burnout felt angry or depressed, according to the August, 2017 report. This is up from 29 per cent in 2015. Burnout is a condition where unpaid family caregivers, typically mothers, daughters and sisters feel distressed in their role, even despite receiving some home support from the provincial government.
Some have reached the point of feeling as though they can’t keep up with their duties.
Reported Rates of Caregiver Distress Have Increased Since 2015
In 2015, the BC Seniors Advocate reported that 29% of unpaid caregivers said they are experiencing symptoms of distress such as anger, depression or feelings of not being able to continue with their caregiving duties.
In the latest report, reported rates of distress have increased by 7% to 31%.
The numbers are adding up. Over this period, the actual number of primary caregivers identifying as distressed increased by over 1,000, which represents a 14% increase in the actual number of caregivers in distress.
As well, the number of seniors accessing Adult Day Programs—provincially-funded programs designed to assist seniors and adults with disabilities to continue to live in their own homes by providing supportive group programs and activities in the community—decreased by 5% and the number of days delivered to these clients decreased by 2%.
“What is going to happen is that inch by inch, year by year, we’re going to see the numbers rise of people in care facilities that could be cared for at home or assisted-living,” said BC Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie in an interview with the Vancouver Sun.
“What we’re seeing is that an increasing number of the caregivers supporting our home-support clients are reporting that they’re in distress, which is a big trigger for giving up and placing mom or dad in a care facility.”
Unpaid Caregivers Provide the Backbone of Seniors Care
The role family caregivers play is significant:
- Unpaid caregivers provide 19 hours of care per week on average, while caregivers in distress report providing as many as 30 hours of care per week.
- Fifty-four per cent of caregivers would benefit from respite services, however few are accessing the help
Most interestingly, of the caregivers surveyed by the BC Senior’s Advocate for its latest report, only 12% made use of provincial adult day care programs. Besides declining overall hours of home support, there does not seem to be any consistent provincial policy on the authorization of respite home support hours.
Part of the problem is administrative, according to the report. There is no consistent tracking within or between health authorities on the number of available residential care respite beds, and there is no consistent wait list developed within most health authorities for access to residential care respite
In other words, as of 2017, even if home caregivers need some help, it can be difficult to arrange under the existing system. Luckily, BC’s new Minister of Health says help is on the way.
“The work of caregivers can feel undervalued and at times invisible, but there is no question that the work they provide every day, in every corner of the province, is a critical pillar in our health care system,” Mackenzie notes in her report.
How to Avoid Caregiver Burnout
According to the BC Seniors Advocate’s August report, 64% of home support clients are female, but when the caregiver is an adult child, the majority of clients (78%) are female. This means that these caregivers are not only providing help and assistance to a relative, but are also likely caring for other members of their family—besides working outside of the home.
“Even a two- or three-hour break can be enough to revitalize the caregiver and give them some room to breathe,” says Fulton.
According to the BC Senior’s Advocate’s report, home support provides professional care and support for tasks such as bathing, dressing, toileting and medication management. Some clients and their caregiver are able to access actual respite through shifts of time that will allow caregivers to attend to their personal business outside of the home.
When caregivers are supported they report improvements in their well-being and are able to provide better care, including accessing more community services for the stroke survivor.
Classic LifeCare provides in-home support; both live-in and hourly. A Health Care Worker can help with housework, personal care, meal preparation and complex care needs. One of the benefits of private over public home care is that the client is in the driver’s seat. Care can be completely tailored to the individual’s requests.