Understanding Caregiver Financial Distress
“There is a financial struggle in our particular situation. You know, we do dip into our savings and our investments and our lines of credits to pay these things, to get the support and care that not only they need, but that they deserve. So there is a great financial impact and with financial impact comes emotional impact because you are always thinking about money. You are always thinking about debt. You're always thinking about how to pay off that debt. You're always thinking about that line of credit.” (OCC Member)
When family, friends and neighbours take on the responsibilities of unpaid care for a loved one, they may expect to face intense time pressures, the emotional weight of their responsibilities, the difficulties of system navigation, or the shortfalls of Ontario’s acute care system, all of which are serious and significant challenges for caregivers. What frequently surprises caregivers is the financial impact of caregiving, a challenge that receives little public attention or policy response.
To improve understanding of caregiver financial distress, encourage development of the evidence base for policy change, and support caregivers and those who support them to advocate for change, the OCC has developed information, tools and resources about caregiver financial distress. We will continue to add material. Check back in to see more!
Understanding caregiver financial distress
While financial distress is a common and pressing issue among caregivers, it is little discussed and often poorly understood. These resources provide an overview of the caregiver financial distress, including what it is, how common it is, what causes it and ideas for addressing it.
OCC's Briefing Note on financial distress gives you the key facts that you need to understand caregiver financial distress and to advocate for effective change.
Read OCC's Policy Paper to understand the nature of caregiver financial distress in Ontario, its causes, and directions for change.
OCC's slide deck can be used as a quick resource to share the key points about caregiver financial distress in Ontario.
Benefits of providing direct financial supports to caregivers
Direct financial supports for caregivers are the right thing to do. Financial supports recognize that what caregivers do is valuable – indeed, essential – and that it requires effort, skill and sacrifice.
Providing caregivers with financial supports can also protect the physical, mental and emotional health of caregivers, as ongoing financial strain can undermine health. Financial supports for caregivers also benefit care recipients, because they support caregivers in providing quality care.
Finally, direct financial supports benefit the health and long-term care systems by supporting care in the community and reducing system pressures. Financial distress can force families to resort to costly institutional arrangements. Providing financial supports can delay or even avoid placement to long-term care or other congregate settings, or reduce repeated resort to acute care settings.
OCC has undertaken a cost benefit analysis of direct financial supports for caregivers, using the Nova Scotia experience with their Caregiver Allowance as a test case.
Read the full research paper on the impact on government finances of providing direct cash benefits to caregivers. Or, for a quick overview, read our briefing note.
Developing effective policy solutions
There has been relatively little focused policy attention on identifying the best means of addressing caregiver financial distress. Who should be targeted by a caregiver benefit? How should such a benefit be delivered – through the tax system or otherwise? What size of benefit is necessary to have a positive impact?
To examine these questions, the OCC has partnered with the Public Good Initiative, an initiative of the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Public Policy. Over the course of 2022 – 2023, the consultants at the Public Good Initiative used their skills in policy research and analysis to look at what has been done in other jurisdictions and to develop recommendations for an effective financial benefit for caregivers.
There are effective, implementable policy solutions available to address caregiver financial distress. The OCC has identified practical steps that the government can take now, that will benefit caregivers, those they provide care to, our health and social systems, and all of us.
As a first step, the Public Good Initiative reviewed programs across Canada that provide direct financial supports to caregivers, to see what can be learned from their experiences.
The Public Good Initiative has developed detailed recommendations for an effective and implementable Caregiver Support Benefit. Effective financial supports can sustain caregivers, and in doing so, also sustain our health, long-term care and community supports systems.
To learn more about the Public Good Initiative, click here.
OCC has been working to gather information and resources on caregiver financial distress, including statistical studies, academic and policy research, and report and recommendations. These resources are a good starting point.
If there is something that you think we should include, let us know!
Coming soon ....