National Caregivers Day - April 4, 2023
National Caregiver Day is a special day in Canada dedicated to recognizing and honouring the vital role of family caregivers. The day is celebrated on the first Tuesday in April each year. This day is an opportunity to raise awareness of the challenges and opportunities faced by caregivers, to acknowledge their contributions to society, and to advocate for better support and resources for caregivers.
National Caregiver Day was first celebrated in Canada in 2018, following a bill that was unanimously passed in the House of Commons aimed at recognizing the contributions of family caregivers and to raise awareness of their needs and challenges.
National Caregiver Day is important for several reasons. Firstly, it acknowledges the significant contributions that family caregivers make to our society, particularly in providing care and support to seniors, people with disabilities, and those with chronic illnesses. Caregiving is often an unpaid and undervalued role, yet it is essential to the well-being and dignity of millions of Canadians.
Secondly, National Caregiver Day raises awareness of the challenges and opportunities that caregivers face, such as financial strain, social isolation, and mental health issues. Caregivers need access to adequate resources, such as respite care, counselling, and financial assistance, to help them manage the demands of caregiving and maintain their own well-being.
Thirdly, National Caregiver Day provides an opportunity to advocate for better policies and programs that support caregivers. Caregiving is a complex and multifaceted role that requires a holistic and collaborative approach from government, healthcare providers, employers, and community organizations. National Caregiver Day can help to promote greater understanding and collaboration among these stakeholders to improve the support and resources available to caregivers.
Family caregiving in Canada is an essential component of the healthcare system. Millions of Canadians provide unpaid care to family members, friends, or neighbours with chronic illnesses, disabilities, or aging-related conditions. Family caregivers play a vital role in helping their loved ones manage their health, navigate the healthcare system, and maintain their quality of life. However, caregiving can also be demanding, stressful, and financially challenging, especially when it becomes a full-time job.
According to a 2018 research study in partnership with Caregivers Alberta and the University of Alberta, 1 in 4 Albertans identify as a caregiver. That is approximately 929 thousand people. Caregivers in AB spent on average 15.1 hours/week providing care. That's about 647 millions hours per year of unpaid care in Alberta. The economic value of caregivers' time is estimated to be about 12 billion dollars each year! Needless to say, the value and importance of unpaid caregivers is highly underrated.
Caregiving is more common among women than men, with 31% of women reporting they were caregivers compared to 25% of men. Caregivers also tend to be older, with 55% aged 45 or older, and many are still working while providing care (45%).
Family caregiving is a diverse and complex role that encompasses a wide range of activities and responsibilities, including:
Helping with daily activities such as bathing, dressing, and feeding
Providing emotional support and companionship
Administering medications and medical treatments
Managing finances and household tasks
Navigating the healthcare system and coordinating care
While family caregiving can be a rewarding experience, it also comes with significant challenges and risks. Caregivers often experience high levels of stress, anxiety, and depression, especially when they have to balance caregiving with work and other responsibilities. They may also face financial difficulties if they have to reduce their work hours or quit their jobs to provide care. Moreover, caregiving can lead to social isolation and a lack of opportunities to pursue personal interests and hobbies.
However, family caregiving also presents opportunities for personal growth, learning, and connection. Many caregivers report feeling a sense of purpose and fulfillment from their role, as well as improved relationships with their loved ones. Caregivers can also develop new skills and knowledge in healthcare, advocacy, and social services, which can enhance their employability and civic engagement.
There are many ways to celebrate National Caregiver Day and show appreciation for the caregivers in our lives. Some ideas include:
Sending a thank-you card or message to a caregiver you know
Dropping off a cooked meal or two to give a caregiver a break from cooking
Offer to help a caregiver with a specific task instead of expecting them to reach out to you for help (this is just one more thing they need to do of a long list of tasks)
Donating to a local caregiver organization or charity
Participating in a caregiver event or workshop in your area
If you know a caregiver, take a moment to check in and see how they are doing. That could be a phone call or a quick text. If you are a caregiver, take some time for yourself, even if it's just a few minutes, to reflect on your caregiver journey and how far you have come. You are an important part of your loved one's life and know that you do make a difference. Take a look at our last blog on caregiver burnout to learn more on how you can care for yourself and prevent burnout from happening. If you could use some support and guidance, don't hesitate to reach out to us. We are here to help.