Caregivers help hundreds of thousands of Canadians who are ageing or who have a long-term health problem continue living at home, by providing practical help, emotional support and care. However, “ageing at home” is not always possible, and some seniors need to move into supportive housing, such as a retirement residence. Others, in more serious cases, have to move to a care facility.
A commonly held belief is that the caregivers of seniors living in a care facility have fewer responsibilities than those helping seniors living in their private households. Seniors in a care facility can rely on paid help for household maintenance and chores, meal preparation and the like. Medical staff is also available, which may reduce the responsibilities of some caregivers.
Yet, the services available to residents of care facilities or supportive housing may not meet all the needs of the care receivers. As well, since the health of seniors in a care facility is generally not as good as those living in their own homes, they may require more help and care from relatives.
In 2012, 5.4 million Canadians provided help or care to seniors aged 65 and over with a chronic health condition, a disability, or problems related to ageing. The type of help provided could include meal preparation and housework, transportation for appointments or errands and household maintenance, personal care (such as bathing or dressing), and help with medical treatments or procedures.
Of these 5.4 million caregivers, 743,500 (or 14%) provided care to a person living in a care facility, such as a long-term care hospital or nursing home. (For a profile of the characteristics of caregivers by type of housing of their primary care receiver.
As well, 438,300 people provided help or care to seniors living in supportive housing (8% of caregivers of seniors). Therefore, a total of 1.2 million caregivers provided care to seniors living in a collective dwelling in 2012 (22%), that is, in a care facility or in supportive housing.
The other 4.2 million caregivers of seniors (78%) did so to a person living in a private household. Specifically, close to 3.3 million caregivers (62%) helped seniors living in a private household separate from theirs, and 881,300 (16%) helped a senior living with them in the same household.
These numbers are not surprising since, according to data from the 2011 Census, the vast majority of seniors—slightly more than 90% —were living in a private household.