CALGARY – As the country’s population grows older, it seems more Canadians are becoming primary caregivers for aging relatives.
A new poll from Angus Reid shows that more Canadians over the age of 30 are making this big change in their life, including in the Calgary area.
“In Alberta, it’s right on that national average of 26 per cent,” said research associate Dave Korzinski. Korzinski adds it’s especially difficult for lower-income families. The survey found that 28 per cent are worried they and the person they care for can’t afford the care they need.
“It’s just little things that the costs really add up. Especially if you’re on a fixed income, it doesn’t take much to through your balance sheet out of whack,” he said. “People are certainly trying to do what they can to keep costs low for lower-income households.”
But there’s another issue that’s particularly prominent in Calgary, according to the Kerby Centre.
“The number of people of who, you know, have three or four children, two or three of those children move to a different city, move to a different part of the country, move to a different country altogether. And those children who are physically closer, take up much more of the caregiving and the day-to-day [tasks],” said the Kerby Centre’s Keith Calbeck. And on top of that, it’s hard to find the right care.
“Changes in the life of an older adult can happen suddenly. You have a medical concern, you have a changed circumstance, a change in mobility, and if you’re an adult child of an older adult, you’re learning this very, very quickly.”
He adds that the centre has received dozens of inquiries with the number one issue of finding the best housing options for loved ones’ needs.
“People want to live independently as long as possible and that requires certain supports–access to medical and transportation, etc.–that continues for longer than we may have seen maybe 50 or 75 years ago,” said Calbeck.
Calgary Seniors‘ Shannon Janewski says she sees this every day.
“I hear a lot of people caregiving living separately. They’re trying to have that balance of caregiving or also working or raising their families or things like that,” she said.
“People are feeling guilty, too. They’re trying to do as much as they can for the person they’re caring for but they also need to be able to work and care for their families and have time for themselves.”
Korzinski says the poll showed the burden of caring for aging parents tends to fall disproportionately on women.
–with files from Kenny Mason