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Research finds caregiving in 'state of crisis,' prompting calls for national strategy

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For seven years, Katrina Prescott cared for her mom as she struggled with dementia.

Prescott kept her at home until her death about six months ago.

“I miss my mom’s laugh. I miss her smile. I miss connecting with her,” said Prescott.

But she said choosing to keep her mom at home was a difficult journey.

“It did take a severe physical and mental toll on me. No exercise, very little sleep. Some nights I would sleep one hour,” Prescott said.

“It was really hard and I definitely experienced caregiver distress.”

A new study by the Canadian Centre for Caregiving Excellence found that one in four Canadians is currently a caregiver. It’s a number that’s expected to grow significantly as the population ages.

“It’s been pretty alarming. We found that caregiving is really in a state of crisis,” said the centre’s Liv Mendelsohn. “Caregivers are really having a difficult time and unsupported.”

Prescott agrees.

“There’s definitely not enough support and the support that is there isn’t given freely, you really have to work to get that help,” she said.

The study found about 90 per cent of caregivers feel isolated and two thirds have experienced a deterioration in mental health. Many have to give up or cut back on paid work.

Among paid care providers, the study found only 50 per cent remain in the sector for more than five years.

“We know that caregivers need income supports. They need respite. They need support navigating systems that are really challenging,” said Mendelsohn, whose organization is calling for a national caregiver strategy.

“When caregivers have to take time out of the workforce, we are losing $1.38 billion a year in lost productivity. If caregivers were better supported, they would be able to continue to work,” she explained.

When asked about home support by CTV News, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said the province has seen a “historic” increase in home support as well as a significant increase in respite care.

But Dix admitted more is needed.

“The situation is going to become more and more challenging because there’s not just more people over 75 coming, but that number is actually going to double,” he said.

Prescott said despite her mom’s wish to remain at home, she was “consistently pressured to put her into some type of care.”

Prescott’s glad she didn’t.

Prescott said her mom did get government-funded respite, which was increased near the end, but it was never enough. Prescott also hired private care.

“I was very, very tired and exhausted and a little bit broken in some ways,” she said.

“I knew I had done right by my mom keeping her at home, but it did take a severe physical and mental toll on me,” she added.

“I wish it hadn’t… but it’s your mom. You only have one.”

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