Victoria increases respite care for home caregivers by $75 million

June 18, 2018 

New spending of $75 million on respite care and adult daycare programs is expected to help reduce stress on family and friends who care for seniors at home, Health Minister Adrian Dix announced Monday.

The exact number of additional beds for respite care or day program spots will depend on how each of the province’s five regional health authorities decides to spend the money.

The daily cost per person of an adult day program is about $120 while respite care is about  $200 a day.

Dix said the $75 million over three years will go to help reduce stress experienced by family members and friends who provide unpaid caregiving at home.

“For the one million family and friend caregivers in B.C., this will mean that if they need a break for a few hours after work or on the weekend, options will be there,” Dix said at a news conference at Collingwood Neighbourhood House in Vancouver.

“For seniors, this means they’re supported to stay in their own homes as long as possible surrounded and cared for by the people they love.”

Dix acknowledged that the additional money is in part due to the report Caregivers in Distress: A Growing Problem released in 2017 by the B.C. seniors advocate, Isobel Mackenzie. In the previous two years, the report said, the number of caregivers reporting stress had increased by two per cent to 31 per cent.

The report cited a Statistics Canada estimate of about one million unpaid caregivers in B.C.

Dix said the new money for respite care addresses what had been a reduction during the past five years of respite beds and fewer adult day programs in many communities.

Dix said additional respite care will help combat symptoms of distress in caregivers such as anger and depression. Depending on the caregivers situation, the additional respite care might provide a much-needed break of a few hours a day or more to cook a meal, go for a walk, or connect with a spouse.

“When caregivers aren’t given the opportunity to recharge, (it) can affect their decision to continue to care — and maybe look at residential care,” he said. “Supporting caregivers is crucial to the quality of life of seniors.”

Dix said in the first year, an additional $10 million will go to respite care followed by $30 million and $35 million in years 2 and 3.

Respite care includes taking the person they’re caring for to a residential care facility (nursing home) for a day or several days. A day program is where someone with dementia can spend a day getting health-care and personal services such as nursing and bathing, have lunch and take part in group activities.

The new money will allow adult day programs to expand into the evening and weekends.

Mackenzie described the $75 million in funding as a “meaningful commitment” to the caregivers of the province.

“We do know if we can relieve (caregivers) of some of their caregiving burden — not all of it, just some of it — that those husbands, wives, sons, daughters, grandchildren will soldier on and support their loved ones to unbelievable lengths to maintain their …  independence and dignity of life in their own homes,” she said at the news conference.

Barb McLean, executive director of the Family Caregivers of B.C., said respite gives caregivers relief from their day-to-day work so they can keep caring. She said the announcement also gives them confidence that they’re a partner in the province’s health care system.

“Because we’re really focusing in our health system on person- and family-centred care, that feeling as a caregiver that you’re now going to be included as partner in a way that you weren’t before is really, really significant,” she said at the news conference.

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