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Our Future is Aging: Advancing Knowledge Series

Family and Friend Caregivers Need Support

The Issue – Family and friend caregivers need support

The importance of family and friend caregivers to our health care system is significant, as without their contribution there would be higher demand for formal support services. While the role can have positive benefits for the caregiver, the support and assistance they provide can come with personal consequences in terms of their own physical health, emotional well being, ability to participate in social and leisure activities and their finances. Supports and services targeting the caregiver, him or herself, are needed to mitigate such negative consequences.

NSCA Contribution to Understanding the Issue…

Through research, education and outreach, the NSCA has raised awareness of the critical role that family caregivers play and has contribute to the body of research identifying supports that may be of benefit to them. Below are a few of our recent initiatives:

Supporting Access to Knowledge and Training on Caregiver Assessment Various initiatives that support the accessibility and use of knowledge on caregiver assessment and the C.A.R.E. Tool, a comprehensive needs assessment tool, include: a policy brief that synthesizes evidence-based knowledge on caregiver assessment; online training and educational workshops for healthcare professionals interested in better understanding the experiences and realities of family/friend caregivers and how to support them; contributions to a demonstration project that evaluated and examined the implementation of caregiver assessment and respite in Alberta.

Working CARERS Program A study that involved examining the conditions required to implement the Working CARERS Program in rural communities. The CARERS Program, an 8-week intervention program developed by researchers at the Reitman Centre, Mount Sinai Hospital, is intended to provide practical skills and emotional support to caregivers of persons with dementia. NSCA implemented the project activities in two rural communities in Nova Scotia enabling four individuals to receive training from the Reitman Centre to deliver this program.

Caregivers Financial Well-being A report that discusses the degree to which Canadian carers are at risk of financial pressures as a result of both the out-of-pocket expenses associated with providing care and long-term impact associated with balancing work and care. This report was informed by a review of latest evidence in the literature, a review of human resource policies or collective agreements from a small sample of workplaces and employee groups from five sectors and a look at Nova Scotia’s Caregiver Benefit as a financial program to support family/friend caregivers.

Understanding Caregiver Assessment for Older Spouse Caregivers A study that involved nurse trainees using the C.A.R.E. Tool with 100 spouses from NS and PEI who have a partner living with dementia. The study aimed to understand whether timely and comprehensive assessment of caregivers of persons with dementia can have an impact on the type of interventions introduced, and thereby an effect on caregivers’ health and well being. The study also examined the extent to family caregiving is present in health care professionals’ training.

What We’ve Learned….

· Our work with the C.A.R.E. Tool suggests a need to recognize family caregivers both as partners in care, and clients with distinct needs. Training in and administration of the C.A.R.E. Tool gave nurse trainees first-hand exposure to the lived realities of spouses supporting their partner with dementia, and greater appreciation of the complexity of caregiving. The study also found that health care professionals receive little, if any, education about family /friend caregivers as part of their training and that there is a need to broaden health care professionals’ understanding about the important role of family/friend caregivers.

· The feasibility study with the Working CARERS Program revealed the benefits of this type of program for caregivers in Nova Scotia and the challenges working family caregivers face in participating in programs. The study offers insights into factors to consider when developing and implementing supports, services, and programs.

· The majority of caregivers won’t face significant financial burden, however some key groups appear to be vulnerable (e.g., those providing higher number of care hours, those providing end-of-life care). For employees with caregiving responsibilities, some workplaces offer formal policies (e.g., leave with pay, flexible scheduling) but they vary by scope and depth, and more research is needed on how these policies are used by employees.

· Recognizing and supporting family and friend caregivers would allow for greater recognition of the work they do and potentially offset need for formal community care services and long term care.

More Information….

In addition to reports, brochures and other materials related to this topic you can find available at www.msvu.ca/nsca, we offer the following resources you may want to check out!

Supporting Caregivers and Caregiving in an Aging Canada


“What to do about Mom?… should we ask her?” TedxMSVU Women


Health Care Professionals’ Education about Family Caregiving


Manitoba Caregiver Recognition Act


Caregivers Nova Scotia