Opinion: We undervalue caregivers because we don’t value the people who need care

The voices of caregivers are getting louder across the country. They need help.
It is often said that caregivers are the backbone of the Canadian health system. With more than 7.8 million Canadians over the age of 15 providing an average of 20 hours a week of care, totalling 5.7 billion hours of unpaid care per year, it is difficult to argue against this claim.
Caregiving is not something most people think about. But you should.
The fact is, every one of us will be involved in caregiving at some point in our lives, as a carer or a recipient of care. We may have a child with a disability, a sibling with mental health challenges, an aging parent or a spouse in long-term care or in a group home.
This large and growing population makes sacrifices, including reducing their hours of work or sometimes leaving the workforce altogether. But caregiving itself is not a burden. The burden lies in the failure of our systems to provide needed support to all those who provide vital care.
The COVID-19 pandemic has not only created many new caregivers, but also exacerbated challenges for those who care for the most vulnerable among us. Think of all the family, friends and neighbours who have looked after someone with COVID-19. Today, the care needs of people living with long COVID remain an unknown variable.
We cannot talk about caregiving without acknowledging those who care as a profession — putting in long hours as personal support workers, developmental services workers, home care aides and respite service providers. There is currently a 25 per cent shortage of personal support workers and developmental support workers in the country — and it’s not hard to understand why. The work is hard, and yet, wages are low and job security is minimal. This workforce of largely racialized and newcomer women struggle to get ahead, even as they provide intimate, expert and loving care to millions of Canadians. Many also work multiple jobs to make ends meet.
We undervalue both caregivers and care providers because we don’t value the people who need care. The voices of caregivers are getting louder across the country. They need help.

To answer this call, the Azrieli Foundation has launched the Canadian Centre for Caregiving Excellence (CCCE) . CCCE is dedicated to supporting caregivers and care providers and advocating for the needs of all those who provide care. The Azrieli Foundation has a long and personal history supporting disability-focused organizations and is eager to put caregiving on the national agenda.

At CCCE, we want to make Canada the best place in the world to be a caregiver. Our vision is of a Canada leading the way in quality care, where caregiving is valued, caregivers are supported and people accessing care are central to policies and practices.

We are bringing together stakeholders from coast to coast to coast to scale what is working, translate knowledge into practice and fill gaps through innovation. We’ve established a dynamic advisory council with cross-Canada and cross-sector representation to help guide our priorities and what we do. We’ve also launched the Caregivers Canadian Advisory Network (Caregivers CAN), made up of people with lived experience, to ensure we are guided by the voices of caregivers and care providers: systemic solutions must be rooted in their everyday experiences and needs.

To deliver our mandate, we have identified four pillars for our work: support networks and knowledge sharing, education and leadership development, advocacy and policy development; and inclusion and underserved communities

While we have launched only recently, we have several meaningful projects in development, including funding an Indigenous-led caregiving needs assessment with Nunavummi Disabilities Makinnasuaqtiit Society ; support for L’Appui pour les proches aidants to develop resources for caregiver organizations in francophone communities outside of Quebec; and the launch of a National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities .

There is no Band-Aid solution to solve the many challenges associated with caregiving. Social policy must come through a creative process of engagement and co-design. CCCE will release a white paper later this year that will offer a first glance at how the leaders of our country can improve experiences for all those who provide care.
This is just the beginning; thanks to the Azrieli Foundation, we’re here to support caregivers and care providers for the long haul.
To learn more about what we do and how to get involved, visit canadiancaregiving.org.
Originally published in Healthing. View the original article here.