Checking our understanding of who is in need

Let’s take a closer look at the description of caregivers that was in place when the CCB was created. According to the survey conducted by Statistics Canada in 2002, millions of people were caring for aging relatives and needed help. But many more millions were caring for dependent relatives, such as adults and children with disabilities, and sick or dying relatives who were not necessarily seniors. These caregivers and their needs and experiences were not captured in the survey and so were not considered in the design of the program.

The CCB also took shape without attention to the role of sex and gender in caregiving. Although the 2002 Statistics Canada survey found that equal numbers of women and men provide care to aging family members and friends, many other studies have reached the opposite conclusion. For example, research conducted in the late 1990s found that the majority of caregivers were women and a 2007 Statistics Canada Survey revealed that 6 out of every 10 caregivers for seniors are female. [1]

Even if we accept that equal numbers of women and men provide care, as those who developed the CCB seem to have done, it is clear that women and men provide different kinds of care related to gender roles and expectations. Men typically take care of outdoor work (e.g., mowing the lawn and snow shovelling) and household maintenance (e.g., painting and garbage removal) while women perform the majority of personal care (e.g., dressing, feeding and grooming) as well as the bulk of household chores (e.g., making beds, preparing meals and cleaning).

Graph 1: Proportion of women and men aged 45 years and older, providing different types of care for seniors, Canada , 2007 [2]

Furthermore, these differences in the type and intensity of the care provided by women mean that they are more likely than men to experience negative effects to their health as well as their social and economic well-being. [3]

Graph 2: Percentage of informal caregivers 45 years and over who experienced consequences due to caregiving, 2002

Graph 3: Percentage of informal caregivers 45 to 64 years who experienced employment consequences, 2002

Not only do women provide the majority of care, the nature of the care they provide means that they have the greatest need for support with and relief from caregiving responsibilities.

Sources: [1] Fast, J.E. & Keating, N. (2001). Informal Caregivers in Canada: A Snapshot. http://www.uofaweb.ualberta.ca/rapp/pdfs/Informal_caregivers_in_Canada.pdf; http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/11-008-x/2008002/article/10689-eng.htm#a2 [2] General Social Survey, 2007 , http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/11-008-x/2008002/t/10689/5801407-eng.htm#asterix [3] http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/11-008-x/2008002/t/10689/5801407-eng.htm; Armstrong, P. & O’Grady, K. (2004) Compassionate care benefits not compassionate enough, http://www.cwhn.ca/node/39518

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