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  • Writer's pictureMonica Parry

Can we afford to keep ignoring the health of unpaid caregivers?

Feb 27, 2024

Unpaid caregivers are the backbone of the Canadian health-care system, providing personal, physical, social and financial care. They provide 75 per cent of care services at home, representing approximately $24 to $31 billion in unpaid work annually. By 2035, the annual unpaid caregiver contribution to the Canadian health-care system is estimated to be $128 billion.

Yet, unpaid caregiving remains invisible in public policy across Canada.

There will be 10.4 million seniors living in Canada by 2037, a growth of 68 per cent between 2017-2037. Many seniors (4.4 million) will be living in Ontario. With Ontario’s health-care system in crisis, struggling with a shortage of nurses, unpaid caregivers have taken on complex responsibilities, from basic support to managing home-based virtual and in-person health care.

There are 4 million unpaid caregivers in Ontario, 63 per cent of whom have hit the breaking point of physical and mental exhaustion, no doubt spurred on by the pandemic. While the pandemic exacerbated the challenges of obtaining medical care and support for all care recipients, unpaid caregivers also experienced fewer supports from family, friends and their own health-care providers. COVID-19 also revealed the state of long-term care in Canada, causing people to be less inclined to enter long-term care. This, combined with improvements in home care, has more Canadians opting to age in place rather than moving to retirement homes or long-term care facilities, increasing the demand for unpaid caregiving and bringing along potential health and financial risks.


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