The support available to unpaid caregivers in Canada is not good enough, but better tax breaks would help, says Wanda Morris, vice president of advocacy for the Canadian Association of Retired Persons.
Morris is currently on a Canada-wide tour — visiting CARP chapters throughout the country — as part of the launch of what it calls the Caregiver Campaign.
Wanda spoke with CBC Radio’s The Morning Edition host Sheila Coles about the campaign this month.
More than eight million caregivers are providing services, informally and unpaid, according to CARP.
How government can help
Morris will be looking to the federal and provincial governments for help.
A tax refund instead of a tax credit is one thing being asked of the federal government by CARP.
A refund will ensure all caregivers will benefit, rather than simply the ones who pay taxes — especially people who have had to give up their employment to care for someone.
Morris said CARP also wants to see the Employment Insurance benefits expanded.
Someone who has to provide care for someone can claim EI only if a family member is facing imminent death, within 26 weeks.
“That’s terrific, but we should expand so that [it factors in] individuals who are some ways from death,” she said.
An allowance for caregivers such as the one given in Nova Scotia — $100 a week — would help alleviate some difficulties and is one of the issues CARP is hoping the provinces will address, Morris said.
These caregivers are often spouses, siblings or children. Half of people in the work force will provide care for another at one time or another, Morris said.
The allowance would help those who stay home to help care for someone rather than having to send them into a care home, she added. Morris is also asking the provinces to help with respite leave, to ensure caregivers can have a bit of a break and personal time.
Friends, neighbours also caregiving
“It really takes a toll,” Morris said.
More than half of caregivers will suffer some sort of mental or physical distress during their caregiving, she added.
The effect can balloon to more than immediate family and close friends, Morris warned.
“Increasingly, as families move apart, we have friends and neighbours playing a caregiving role.”
A little bit of support can keep someone out of an institution, she said.
“We have to recognize the incredible load that’s on these caregivers and it’s probably time to just face reality and provide that support.”
Article originally published by CBC News on October 14.
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