Informal caregivers refer to friends and family who provide support to individuals that are unable to function independently. There are at least 8.1 million Canadians providing care to family and friends with long term health conditions, disabilities or aging needs. These informal caregivers account for over $25 billion in unpaid labor to the health care system and $1.3 billion annually from lost productivity (Canadian Caregiver Coalition, 2013).
Of the informal caregivers who are working, an estimated 20% of them have multiple health and emotional issues that they were already dealing with before becoming caregivers. These issues compounded with the stress of looking after another individual can have severe negative effects on the caregivers’ health. This may result in them potentially becoming patients within the health care system themselves. Hence, the health and well-being of the caregiver are equally as important as that of the patient; more resources should be provided to educate and train them to benefit both parties and the healthcare system as a whole.
Watch TVO’s video presentation, The Hidden Patient, to find out more.