Finding ways to support unpaid caregivers

With an estimated 8.1 million Canadians providing informal or unpaid care to relatives or friends with health problems or aging-related needs - a number that is expected to continue rising as the population ages – it is imperative that health systems and society in general address the challenges of providing the right kinds of supports for caregivers.

The public will have the chance to hear the views of two leaders in the field of research and caring in an aging society at two events being held on consecutive evenings in December.

On Monday, December 8, Janice Keefe, a Canadian leader in research about preparing the health system to care for older adults, will deliver a public talk entitled Who Cares? Preparing the System and the Caregiver for What Lies Ahead. The following evening, Richard Schulz, a professor from the University of Pittsburgh and a leader in research on the health effects of caregiving, will talk specifically about the challenges faced by caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s disease.

Both events will be held at the McMaster Innovation Park, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., and will be webcast live for those who are unable to attend. The presentations by the keynote speakers will be followed by an opportunity for the audience to ask questions.

Keefe, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Aging and Caregiving Policy and is a director at the Nova Scotia Centre on Aging, will draw on her extensive research into the critical role that unpaid caregivers play, to provide insights on the health, financial and employment impacts for this population, and on what can be done to better support them. The Canadian Medical Association has noted that 80% of home care provided in Canada to seniors is provided by family and friends. With the number of people over the age of 65 expected to double in the next 20 years, it is critical to prepare both our system and caregivers to meet the challenges ahead. More details on Keefe’s expertise are available here.

Following the presentation, McMaster’s Allison Williams, who holds a Research Chair in Gender, Work and Health from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, as well Diane Charter, a retired professional and family caregiver, will comment on Keefe’s ideas, then all three will accept questions from the audience.

At the second public talk, Schulz will share some of the findings and views from his extensive research on adult development and aging, and from his significant contributions to the study of the health effects of caregiving. Those who provide care to people with Alzheimer’s face significant challenges and often report high emotional stress, severe fatigue and depression, and can experience social isolation. With the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease expected to grow and the important role that caregivers play in their lives, it is imperative to ensure they are supported. More details on Schulz’s background are available here.

McMaster’s Jenny Ploeg, who is scientific director of the Aging, Community and Health Research Unit, will comment on Schulz’s ideas, then both will answer questions from the audience.

The public talks organized by the McMaster Health Forum are supported by the Labarge Optimal Aging Initiative, and presented in collaboration with the Ontario Association of Community Care Access Centres and the Gilbrea Centre for Studies in Aging.

The live webstream will be available through this link, 15 minutes before the start of each talk.