For many adults with chronic illnesses or disabilities, the majority of their day-to-day health care is provided not by a health care professional, but rather by a family member or friend. Often referred to as “family caregivers,” these unpaid caregivers are an integral, yet often invisible, part of British Columbia’s health care system.
To help physicians support family caregivers and include them as partners in care, Doctors of BC has developed a physician Tool Kit that includes a resource guide providing practical suggestions to:
- Identify caregivers
- Involve caregivers in patient care
- Monitor the health of caregivers, and
- Provide information and support to caregivers
The Tool Kit accompanies a new Doctors of BC policy paper, Circle of Care: Supporting Family Caregivers in BC, that makes a number of commitments and recommendations aimed at recognizing, including, and supporting family caregivers as partners in care.
In Canada, family caregivers provide an estimated 70-75% of care to people receiving home care. A 2012 Stats Canada Survey estimates that in any given year, 8 million Canadians actively provide care as a caregiver – in BC that number is roughly one million. And, here in BC, most family caregivers provide care to seniors – the prevalence of which we expect will increase along with BC’s aging population.
By taking care of patients in their homes – patients who otherwise would be in hospital or long-term care facilities – family caregivers are lessening the burden on our health care system while at the same time saving the system money.
However, caregiving can be stressful, causing caregivers themselves to be more susceptible to physical and mental burnout. In fact statistics show that close to one-third of family caregivers in BC are under distress. If left unaddressed, burned out family caregivers could potentially contribute to poorer health outcomes for patients and for themselves, adding to the already high demand on hospitals and long-term care services.
But, caregivers who are healthier, recognized for their contributions, and included in patient care plans can positively impact the health outcomes of the people they care for. Physicians have an important role to play, and as a first step recognizing them as partners in care can positively influence patient care planning and implementation and ensure family caregivers themselves are well supported.
Doctors of BC is committed to supporting physicians and working with government and other partners to develop and implement a health care approach that recognizes, includes, and supports caregivers as partners in care.
For the full Doctors of BC news release, click here.