The issue of caregiving is anything but simple. According to Leila Fenc, executive director for the Petro-Canada CareMakers Foundation, this issue is “massive”. It is also complex. The CareMakers Foundation was created when Canadian experts, caregivers, and care recipients “highlighted the need,” said Fenc.
The CareMakers Foundation notes one in four Canadians is a caregiver with most providing 19 hours of caregiving per week. Many of these individuals work a paid job while others have had to give up employment. Situations vary greatly. “Not everyone can take time off or quit a job”, said Fenc. Each caregiving situation is unique and can be rewarding but can also lead to anxiety and guilt.
Caregiving often occurs between the ages 45 to 65 years old ‐ notably the most productive work years for Canadians.
Most caregivers “do it out of love” and come to expect that it is part of life but caregivers themselves are not alone in this assumption. The CareMakers Foundation discovered that many healthcare officials often assume family members will become the caregiver. Little examination, however, seems to go into whether the caregiver has the skills, financial resources, emotional support or even desire to take on this role. Fenc admitted, that “COVID makes everything harder”.
It was shocking to Fenc when she realized the number of young caregivers, highlighting the concern that some do not have the time to figure out who they are before they jump to care for another loved one.
For an issue that affects so many Canadians with such different backgrounds, you would expect it to have more exposure. “I don’t hear a lot of conversations on the topic or see anything highlighted in the media,” Fenc said. This is a key reason for the creation of the CareMakers Foundation. It wants to begin societal discussions about the pervasiveness of caregiving and provide support.
Every caregiver and care recipient need varied types of resources. It is one of the reasons why Fenc wants to spread awareness about this issue.
Caregiving often occurs between the ages 45 to 65 years old — notably the most productive work years for Canadians. According to the Foundation’s website, “Seventy-five per cent of care is provided by unpaid caregivers, which equates to approximately $26 to $72 billion in unpaid work per year”.
Fenc knows about caregiving first-hand. Her mom is currently taking care of her dad. Her father was “once very independent”, Fenc added.
Providing resources is an important first step. Among other vital information, the CareMakers Foundation web site explains that caregiving full-time can work on a spectrum. One minute, you feel as if everything is under control and then the next, the care recipients’ situation changes, and you are suddenly faced with a new reality.
While there are services available, it is sometimes difficult to be honest and ask for help when you need it — assuming you know what you need. This is another aspect of caregiving that the CareMakers Foundation wants to change. There is no shame in admitting you need help. Asking questions is the first step.
Reaching out to fellow non-profits to create grants, and accepting individual donations are the long-term goals for the foundation. The Petro-Canada CareMakers Foundation is partnering with outreach programs. But right now, Fenc feels that awareness is imperative.
Fenc loves working with the foundation, because of its commitment to this issue. She feels that it intermingles with Canadian values.
She is right. Caring for others is a Canadian value. Few would disagree.
For more information, or to donate to the Petro-Canada CareMakers Foundation, please visit: www.caremakers.ca