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Informal Caregiving in New Brunswick: and the future of homecare in Canada.

Aging Canadians, financial demands on the federal and provincial governments for healthcare, an increase in persons living with chronic illness, and human resource statistics predicting an insufficient number of healthcare providers, are leading decision-makers and researchers to look at the importance of 'home care' and the 'informal caregivers' who are providing services to close friends and family members.

Recently, three students who are pursuing studies in a Bachelor of Social Work program at Saint Thomas University (Morgan Downs, Erin Jackson and Carly Furlong), shared results from their research on informal caregivers. The students focused on informal caregivers who provide care to an older adult (60-plus years), within the province of New Brunswick. The objective of their research was to uncover the socio-economic costs associated with caregiving, with hopes to find out how informal caregivers may be better supported.

From 92 informal caregivers across the province (both Anglophone and Francophone participants), the following results were retrieved. As a result of their caregiving responsibilities:

* 79% of participants reported they have had to sacrifice social time;

* 69% of participants reported experiencing changes in personal relationships;

* 57% of participants reported experiencing physical health changes;

* 90% of participants reported experiencing emotional stress;

* 32% of participants reported that they do not take time off to relax when they are feeling overwhelmed; and

* participants identified that services such as Meals on Wheels and adult day programs would be beneficial to both the informal care provider and the care recipient.

The participants in this study reported positive attributes to being an informal caregiver, such as better relationships with the care recipient; a sense of personal growth; feelings of satisfaction with the care they provide; and the opportunity to spend quality time with the care recipient.

Home care, obviously has to be a priority for all Canadians--both formal and informal caregivers, the receivers of care, and the governments. For the 2015 Federal Election, the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) asked for the following in their election campaign meetings with Federal politicians:

* common standards for homecare across the country;

* more support to family caregivers; and

* improved community-and-home-based health promotion.

A national action plan was published in October 2016 with the purpose of setting out recommended actions, measurable indicators and considerations for both federal and provincial/territorial governments. This action plan can be retrieved at: http://www.thehomecare Better-Home-Care-Report-Oct-web.pdf and is a collaborative document from the Canadian Home Care Association, the Canadian Nurses Association and the College of Family Physicians of Canada.

An essential theme throughout this national action plan and other related literature, is the importance of continuity of care between the acute care setting, the community health programs and the care received in the home. The collaboration and communication between formal and informal care providers, along with the care receiver, need to be detailed and continuous, with mutual respect for the contribution of everyone on the team, including the wishes of the care receiver. The overall goal should include Canadians receiving the right health care services by the most appropriate person and in the most appropriate place.

Stronger support for the informal care providers and meeting the care needs of Canadians requiring homecare, should result in patients and their informal care providers having a better quality of life, good quality care in the home regardless of where one lives, less days in acute care facilities and improved health spending by governments.

As nurses working with patients and their families within all domains of nursing and the healthcare system, we are in a pivotal position to:

* become informed on initiatives such as the Better Home Care in Canada: A National Action Plan;

* inform key stakeholders such as government on what we observe;

* report to key stakeholders the success stories or the effective initiatives already in place regarding home care; and

* advocate on behalf of patients and family members who are requiring home care.

Home care programs will need to complement the efforts of informal care providers and the individuals who are receiving the care assistance from family and close friends. Research demonstrates that rates of burnout and compassion fatigue* are lowered when care providers feel they are understood and supported (Mathieu, 2012).


Accreditation Canada & Canadian Home Care Association. (May 2015). Home Care in Canada: Advancing Quality Improvement and Integrated Care

Canadian Home Care Association, Canadian Nurses Association & College of Family Physicians of Canada. (October 2016). Better Home Care in Canada: A National Action Plan

Mathieu, F. (2012). The compassion fatigue workbook. New York, NY: Routledge.

* Compassion fatigue refers to the emotional and physical depletion or exhaustion that a care provider experiences over time. Compassion fatigue may result when a person has given physically, emotionally and maybe even financially over a period of time without adequate support to replenish or rejuvenate one's self.
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Author:Priest, Susanne
Publication:Info Nursing
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Mar 22, 2017
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