Article originally published in The Sudbury Star on April 4, 2017.
Are you a caregiver to a loved one? Give yourself a big pat on the back. Tuesday marks National Family Caregiver Day across the country.
Sudbury MPP Glenn Thibeault is thanking people in the northeast for the work they do every day to care for their loved ones.
“Many northern Ontarians rely on unpaid caregivers to help them in their daily lives. Whether a family member, friend or volunteer, these individuals provide compassion and needed support in addition to working other jobs, which can add stress and fatigue,” Thibeault said. “To support caregivers, our government is providing extra respite in northeastern Ontario to lighten the load for those carrying these extra responsibilities.”
Ontario increased supports for people caring for their loved ones at home by increasing access to respite services for 980 local families.
In Sudbury, investments from the province have allowed the Community Care Access Centre (CCAC) to expand its services to provide respite, so that families caring for loved ones at home can take a much needed break from their care-giving responsibilities. Altogether 379 families in the Sudbury/Manitoulin/Parry Sound sub-region have accessed respite services this year.
Eliane Tremblay, 80, lives with her daughter, Carole Arsenault, who works full-time, and Arsenault’s husband Bert. Ever since she suffered a stroke in January, Tremblay has been a bit unsteady on her feet and uses a walker to get around the house. Fortunately, Carole has two sisters who are equally committed to keeping their mother safe at home for as long as they can.
“I guess you could call it a real sister act,” Arsenault said. “My sisters, Linda and Lise, are with my mom during the day, so I can concentrate on work, but at night, the care-giving falls to me. Thanks to the respite hours I receive from the CCAC, I’m still able to leave the house a few times during the week to buy groceries, run errands and take some time for myself. With my sisters’ help, my husband’s support and now respite care, we’re making it work.”
Ontario’s support has allowed for approximately 600,000 additional hours of respite services for caregivers across the province. The province has invested $1.1 million to better support family caregivers in the northeast LHIN.
“Family caregivers play a vital role in the lives of northerners of all ages. In our engagement efforts, many caregivers have told us how they too need help, including breaks to recharge, so that they can continue to provide care to their loved ones,” Louise Paquette, CEO of the northeast LHIN, said. “As a LHIN we will continue our efforts to find ways to better support the valuable role of family caregivers.”
Ontario invested $100 million last year to enhance support for home care clients with high needs and their caregivers. Improving access to home care remains a priority for the government, the minister of health and long-term care said.
“Improving home and community care is one of our government’s most important health care priorities. Informal caregivers, like family members and friends, contribute to more than 70 per cent of their loved ones’ care-giving needs, and we know how stressful that can be,” Dr. Eric Hoskins said. “We want to ensure caregivers are supported and able to take rests from providing care to their loved ones.”
Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas, who is also the NDP health critic, took part in a Family Caregiver Appreciation Day ceremony at Toronto’s city hall on Tuesday to thank family caregivers for the important work they do every day.
“Across Ontario, millions of family members and friends help their loved ones struggling with illness, disability or challenges linked to aging,” Gélinas said. “I want to sincerely thank these wonderful individuals for their inexhaustible compassion, which is making all the difference in the lives of those they support.”
Tuesday’s tribute included remarks by Toronto Mayor John Tory; an address by Dr. Brian Goldman, radio host of CBC’s White Coat, Black Art; presentation of the Heart of Home Care Awards by VHA Home HealthCare; and music by Juno award winner Jully Black.
“I am delighted this very public event shines a bright light on those many deserving individuals who, day in and day out, without compensation or complaint, care for family and friends,” Gélinas said. “There is so much to be done in Ontario to strengthen homecare and eliminate waits, to create more spaces for seniors care, and to deliver appropriate care and services to those with complex medical needs. But today, in the spirit of truly recognizing the contribution of those caring for loved ones, I urge the Liberal government to pass my bill to formally proclaim the first Tuesday in April of every year as Family Caregiver Day.”
More than three million Ontarians — or one in five — are caregivers for their own loved ones.