As the number of older Canadians continue to increase, so too will the need for and numbers of unpaid caregivers and the demands placed on them. Statistics Canada recently estimated that 8 million Canadians over the age of 15 are serving as caregivers to family or friends; with age-related health problems being one of the most significant drivers of caregiving needs.
With the number of older Canadians requiring the support of unpaid caregivers projected to double over the next two decades , it is expected individuals of all ages, genders and income levels will inevitably face the abrupt need to serve in a caregiver role. This will also result in the majority of working Canadians over the age of 45 playing caregiving roles as well. Despite the economic importance of their continued participation in the workforce, caregivers often end up earning less and foregoing advancements in their own careers than others without these additional responsibilities. According to the Canadian Caregiving Coalition, 15% of working caregivers reduce their work hours, 40% miss days of work, 26% take a leave of absence, 10% turn down job opportunities, and 6% eventually quit their jobs. While the cost to working caregivers includes lost wages, and decreased retirement income, 19% further report that their physical and emotional health suffers as well. For employers, the productivity losses to them become enormous with the loss of 18 million work days per year, due to missed days and increased employee turnover. Indeed, it is estimated that the cost to the Canadian economy from lost productivity is 1.3 billion per year. Caregivers also play a vital role in ensuring the overall sustainability of our health systems by providing alternatives to costly and publicly-funded facility-based care by often supplementing the care available through our limited publicly-funded home and community care systems. Is it currently estimated that nationally, annual savings across health, social and community care systems associated with care provided by unpaid caregivers is between $24-31 billion.
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