Caregiver support

The situation

As Canada’s population continues to grow and age it faces new health challenges, including a rising number of cancer cases. Nearly half of Canadians are expected to receive a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime, and about 25% will die from the disease, making it our country’s leading cause of death. This is creating a growing burden on families, healthcare providers and our country’s economy. Cancer already costs Canadians more than $2.9 billion per year.

That’s why it is so important that Canada has policies in place to support Canadians living with cancer and the people who need to take time away from work to help care for them. Family caregivers are the backbone of our healthcare system. According to Statistics Canada, in 2018 roughly 7.8 million individuals – or 1 in 4 Canadians – provided care to a relative or friend with a long-term health condition.

How caregivers make a difference

When caregivers thrive, our healthcare system thrives as well. Our already-strained system could not function without caregivers, who provide 70-75% of care for people receiving home care in Canada. It is estimated that unpaid caregivers save the Canadian healthcare system upwards of $26 billion every year. 

Appropriate support for caregivers will allow our healthcare system to deliver more services at home or in the community, an approach that is often preferable to patients and families and that can lower the high costs associated with hospital care.

Our position

The Canadian Cancer Society has been advocating for better support for caregivers for more than 15 years. Over the years, various initiatives have been put forward at the federal level to better support caregivers. Progress has been significant, but gaps still remain.

We are calling on the federal government to:

  • eliminate the mandatory 1-week waiting period to receive the Caregiver Benefit and the EI benefits for Parents of Critically Ill Children
  • allow caregivers to continue receiving the Compassionate Care Benefit for a 2-week bereavement period following the death of their loved one (currently the compassionate care benefit ends when the death occurs)
  • work to improve flexibility criteria for the three EI caregivers benefits by allowing caregivers to receive benefits for partial weeks
  • work with provincial and territorial governments to ensure Canadians enjoy job protection when they claim an EI caregiver benefit