Canadians Send Clear Signal That Family Caregivers Need More Help

08 February 2011

Toronto -

A large majority of Canadians – 88 per cent – say that providing care or assistance for a family member would have a negative impact on their financial situation, according to a poll released today by the Canadian Cancer Society. And of those 88 per cent, 57 per cent say it would have a major negative impact.

Poll results also show that:

  • women would likely be the primary family caregiver, with 70 per cent saying they would take on this role (compared to 58 per cent of men). Yet women are the least likely (37 per cent) to be able to take unpaid time off work to provide support to a family member (compared to 59 per cent of men).
  • 84 per cent of Canadians say increased financial support for family caregivers should be a priority healthcare issue in the next federal election.

“Many caregivers suffer financial difficulties as they deplete personal savings and take unpaid time off from work to care for a family member,” says Dan Demers, Director, Public Issues, Canadian Cancer Society. “Canadians are greatly concerned about this issue and are looking to our federal political parties for solutions.”

This is an issue that demands action now as Canada’s population is aging and increasingly Canadians will be caring for loved ones who have cancer and other serious illnesses.

Federal budget

“Currently some government support exists for family caregivers, but it’s simply not adequate,” says Demers. “We urge the government to pay attention to the clear messages being sent by Canadians and to include more financial support for family caregivers in the upcoming federal budget.”

Federal election

As political parties prepare for the next federal election, the Society will be reminding them that caregiving is an important family issue and financial support for caregivers should be included in their election platforms.

“This would show Canadians – especially women who are affected most by this issue – that politicians are listening to their concerns,” says Demers. “Canadians should consider voting for the party that commits to providing more support for family caregivers. An effective and compassionate society helps families who are caring for sick loved ones.”

The Society has been advocating for better financial support for family caregivers through improvements to the Compassionate Care Benefit, which is administered by the federal employment insurance program. These improvements include:

  • Timeframe for financial benefits: Increase the benefit period from the current six weeks to 26 weeks, accessible during a 52-week period.
  • More flexibility: allow people to claim benefits for partial weeks taken over a longer period, rather than blocks of weeks at a time.
  • Revise eligibility criteria: change the terminology for people eligible for benefits from “significant risk of death” to “significant need of caregiving due to a life threatening illness.”
  • Amend the Canada Labour Code to protect the jobs of caregivers.

The Society also believes that a non-taxable, monthly Family Caregiver tax benefit should be established to help family caregivers with costs;

Snapshot of Canadian family caregiver

The following information comes from reports about caregivers and Statistics Canada.

  • In 2009, the economic contribution of family caregivers in Canada was estimated to be between $25-26 billion.
  • 41 per cent of family caregivers used their personal savings to survive.
  • Between 2002 and 2007 the number of family caregivers in Canada, aged 45 years and older, increased by 30 per cent (over 670,000 people). In 2007, the number of family caregivers, aged 45 years and older, was 2.7 million.
  • 65 per cent of households with a caregiver report a combined income of less than $45,000 and 23 per cent reported less then $20,000.

The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website or call our toll-free, bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333.

For more information, please contact:

Christine Harminc

Senior Manager, Communications & Media Relations

Canadian Cancer Society

Phone: 416 934-5340