Every day in British Columbia, tens of thousands of people take care of loved ones with medical, physical, emotional and age-related needs – spouses, parents, grandparents, siblings, children, friends and neighbours. Care can look like picking up some groceries, or cooking a meal. It can be bringing a loved one to health-care appointments. Or it can be round-the-clock care.
If you find yourself in such a role, you are, in fact, a caregiver. In B.C., it’s estimated over 26 per cent of our population – or more than one million people – offer free care, equivalent to an economic value of $14.7 billion. Together, caregivers provide about 80 per cent of the at-home care for family and loved ones.
Unpaid caregiving is not only a pillar of our health-care system, it’s embedded in the fabric of our social and family structures. That’s not to say it’s an easy, ideal or appropriate role: anyone who has taken on the responsibility of care can speak to the burnout, stress, fatigue and frustration the role entails. Providing care and navigating the health-care system can be complex, confusing and exhausting.