Labour of love: Canada sees increase in elderly caregivers
Rubab Abid, CTVNews.ca
Published Sunday, May 11, 2014 10:15PM EDT
With an aging Canadian population and the increasing cost of nursing homes, the number of Canadian seniors providing at-home care to elderly patients has increased in recent years.
In the last decade, the number of senior caregivers across the country has grown from eight per cent to 12 per cent – a looming issue among an increasingly aging Canadian society.
For Roy Warren, taking care of his 92-year-old wife Tamara is a labour of love.
Roy, who is 89, spends his days feeding, bathing and taking care of Tamara from their home in Kitchener, Ont.
“After her breakfast, I change her diaper and give her a sponge bath,” Roy said in an interview with CTV News.
Roy and Tamara met in 2002 and married late in life.
Tamara, who was University of Waterloo’s first vice-president and was named to the Order of Canada, fell ill soon after their wedding.
After suffering a fall, Tamara’s eye sight began to worsen and she began losing her memory.
She relies on Roy to help take care of her growing medical needs as she is now completely blind and bedridden.
Tamara says the idea of going to a nursing home and being away from Roy is too much to bear.
“I just couldn’t face going to a nursing home,” Tamara said.
Support workers from the local Community Care and Access Centre (CCAC) drop by the Warren’s home throughout the week to help Roy take care of his wife.
Christine Rupert, a CCAC occupational health worker who co-ordinates care for the couple, says Roy is determined to take care of Tamara in any way he can.
“It is such a big duty. Such a big task and he does it so well,” Rupert said.
“They are very much committed. They are very much in love. For some families it is very much an expectation. They know that is part of being a couple, of being a family,” she added.
While Roy is grateful for the extra help from CCAC, which totals about 90 hours per month, he is left to take care of Tamara on his own on evenings and weekends.
“I can do it for evenings, weekends, and at the end of the weekend…I am pretty well paved out…you get edgy and tolerances drop,” he said.
“And those four day weekends, when you have a holiday, it’s pretty hard deal for me,” he said.
Roy said he would love to get extra help on the weekend, but he has reached his limit for government-sponsored home care and can’t afford to hire help on his own.
Dr. Janice Keefe, a gerontology expert from Mount St. Vincent University, says Roy’s predicament is similar to many elderly Canadians who are struggling with at home care services.
“We have an aging population, it is not going away,” Keefe told CTV News. “We have to prepare for a future where people can live in their homes as long as possible.”
“We cannot afford individuals to all be in long term care facilities or hospital,” she said.
“In the future, there will be more spousal caregivers, they will live together longer in that spousal relationship and you may end up with two people both needing care, but not necessarily wanting to seek out because they tend to try and compensate for each other,” she said.
Ray says his health is good and that, aside from some arthritis and a hearing problem, he is able to take care of Tamara for the time being.
“It’s a relationship and a love story – how it should be,” he said.
With a report by CTV’s medical correspondent Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip
Are you a senior caring for another senior? Let us know your challenges in the comments section below.