FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 30, 2020
Specialists in Older Adult Care Across Canada Call for the Return of Family Caregivers
The Provincial Geriatrics Leadership Office (PGLO), in collaboration with the Regional Geriatric Programs of Ontario (RGPO), the Canadian Geriatric Society (CGS), and leaders in specialized geriatric services from across Canada, released a position paper today on family caregivers for older adults.
The position paper, titled Family Presence in Older Adult Care – A statement regarding family caregivers and the provision of essential care, is the first in a series of papers the PGLO will release in the coming weeks concerning key policy issues in older adult care during the COVID-19 pandemic. This paper is a collaborative effort of more than 50 specialists from across Canada, working in the area of older adult care, and includes perspectives from caregiver organizations and resident councils.
“It’s time to pivot our focus to recognizing the essential value of family for an older adult’s physical and mental health, and enable them to safely return to their caregiving roles” says Dr. Jo-Anne Clarke, a geriatrician working in northern Ontario who recently spoke on CBC Radio about this topic.
The authors draw attention to the essential nature of family caregivers and the formal recognition of the support they provide to older adults across the health system, including congregate care settings and in the community. “Our health system relies on the care that family caregivers provide to older adults, though these essential caregivers are inconsistently included as part of the circle of care and care plans,” says Kelly Kay, Executive Director of the PGLO.
The paper lays out six strategies to support the return and ongoing role of family caregivers during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. “We must weigh the risks of COVID-19 outbreaks against the risks to older adults who face declining physical and mental health due to prolonged visitor restrictions,” adds Dr. Heather Ward, who practices general internal medicine in Saskatchewan and advocates for the role of caregivers. Education on infection prevention and control, allocation of personal protective equipment, inclusion of family caregivers in pandemic planning and the formal recognition of family caregivers as part of the care team will help address the current needs of older adults and support their physical and mental health during and after the pandemic, the statement emphasizes.
“For many years, we have treated family caregivers as visitors to congregate care settings, without recognizing the essential care they provide beyond the regular staffing. We know the value family caregivers provide every day throughout our system; it is time to formally recognize and support these individuals to provide care safely and seamlessly,” says Dr. Jasneet Parmar, a family doctor who researches family presence in health care, and who holds specialization in care of the elderly from Alberta. Notes Dr. Parmar, “Family Caregivers are the shadow workforce in our society and the backbone of our health care system, and this back-bone needs recognition and support”.
For more information or to arrange an interview, contact:
Adam Morrison, Director, Policy and Planning
Provincial Geriatrics Leadership Office