Resources for Unpaid Caregivers
Family and friends caring for their loved ones at home play a vital role in our healthcare system. This caregiving can be very meaningful and rewarding, but it can also take a toll on caregivers’ finances, relationships, general health and well-being, and careers. The COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly challenging and often isolating for caregivers. It has also expanded the opportunities for connection online, and there are many organizations, tools and resources for unpaid caregivers that may be beneficial.
This isn’t a complete list but may be a helpful starting point:
- Ontario Caregiver Helpline: Connect with a Community Resource Specialist by phone to find caregiver services and support including respite care referrals, online or in-person support groups, virtual or day programs, upcoming webinars or help to navigate the health care system. Funded by the Government of Ontario and coordinated by the Ontario Caregiver Organization, call the 24/7 helpline at 1-833-416-2273 (CARE), or connect through live chat at ontariocaregiver.ca between 7:00 am-9:00 pm from Monday to Friday. Please note that this is not a crisis or counselling line.
- Ontario Caregiver Organization: A single access point to the information and resources caregivers need to be successful. This includes supporting caregiver burn-out, improving the caregiving experience and other programs and services that meet the unique challenges of caregivers across Ontario.
- CareChannel: An online portal with hundreds of short videos and tutorials created for caregivers’ specific needs. Learn hands-on caregiving skills including preventing bedsores or how to wash a loved one’s hair, or explore more general topics like how to be a care advocate and tips for talking to health care professionals. Videos are available in five languages.
- East Toronto Health Partners Caregiver Resources: Access to helpful information for Ontario caregivers, most notably, WoodGreen’s Caregiver Support and Wellness program.
- The Healthline’s caregiverexchange.ca: Find caregiver support services including home care, day and respite care programs, care facilities, end-of-life care and mental health and addiction services throughout Ontario using your postal code or city.
- Quipit: Formerly the Assistive Device Exchange (A.D.E.), free online classifieds to buy, sell or give away gently used home care equipment and assistive devices. Provides an affordable alternative to buying new and expensive products like walkers, hospital beds and bathroom safety devices.
- Huddol: A social health network for family caregivers, healthcare experts and service providers to connect and share real-life insights and advice. Join existing care communities or create your own customized ‘huddols’.
- Canadian Virtual Hospice: Offers support and information on advanced illness, palliative care, loss and grief as well as direct access to palliative care specialists through Ask a Professional.
- Caregiver Solutions: A digital magazine providing advice for caregivers of aging loved ones that includes tips and tools related to care at home, self-care and wellness and financial and legal decision-making.
Apps for Caregivers
It can be time-consuming for caregivers to manage things like updating your circle of care, storing and organizing health information or keeping track of appointments and care visits. Apps specifically designed for caregivers may help to streamline these demands. Most caregiving apps are free and function very well, but some of the more advanced versions come with a fee attached. Depending on your loved one’s specific needs, here are a few to try:
- CaringBridge: Create a safe, secure and personalized website to share health updates with the family and friends on your care team to coordinate support. This app can also be helpful for supporting seniors living in long-term care.
- Lotsa Helping Hands: Coordinate rides to medical appointments, family meals and visits through a centralized Help Calendar.
- Medisafe: Medication reminder app with personalized reminders for every medication and missed medication alerts that can also notify caregivers. This app can be a useful support to help an aging or ill loved one to live safely and independently.
Half of unpaid caregivers are between the ages of 45-65 and in their peak earning years. Caregiving can involve significant financial stress and depending on your specific situation, there may be support available through government agencies and community organizations. Here are some links to help you better navigate this challenging process:
- Benefits for Caregivers: A comprehensive list of the benefits and other assistance that may be available through the Government of Canada. Includes details of the Employment Insurance Family Caregiver Benefit for Children, Employment Insurance Family Caregiver Benefit for Adults, Compassionate Care Benefits, Child Disability Benefit and the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP).
- Tax Credits for Caregivers: Caregivers may also be eligible for the Family Caregiver, Medical Expenses or Disability Tax Credits if you have a dependant with a physical or mental impairment.
- Federal Government of Canada Benefits Finder: Answer questions on this site to receive a customized list of the federal and provincial benefits you may be eligible for if you have to take time off work to care for a loved one.
- Benefits Wayfinder: Another tool to help you discover government benefits and credits that you may be eligible for if you are a senior, living with a disability or caring for another adult or child.
- Ontario Assistive Devices Program: Qualified applicants with long-term physical disabilities can receive financial aid for customized equipment like wheelchairs and hearing aids and specialized supplies.
- Local branches of The Lions Club, Kiwanis Foundation of Canada and Rotary International may also provide funding for assistive devices. Visit their national websites to contact your local club for more details.
Disease and illness-specific organizations may offer additional funding and grants for caregivers. Connecting with community-based national organizations can also help improve your loved ones’ quality of life, direct you to community programs, services, support, education and more. Here are a few of them:
- ALS Society of Canada
- Alzheimer Society of Canada
- Autism Canada
- Canadian Cancer Society
- Canadian Mental Health Association
- Diabetes Canada
- Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
- Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada
- Parkinson Canada
- March of Dimes
Funding through the provincial and federal government and other charitable organizations is always changing. Check in regularly for the latest on available financial assistance and support.
VHA Home HealthCare recognizes the importance of learning from our clients and caregivers’ experiences. Our Client Voice efforts involve working closely with clients and caregivers to help make sure our care is client-centred and to develop new initiatives to help make our care better. Learn more about Client Voice at VHA.