People in the N.W.T. who are caring for an aging parent or community member could one day be paid for their services.
The territory’s health department is looking into compensating community caregivers, as part of their Continuing Care Services Action Plan, which will be finalized in the fall. It includes plans for enhanced home and community care services, and expanded palliative care services with an additional $2.5 million in funding.
“This is exciting, groundbreaking stuff,” said Health Minister Glen Abernethy.
According to Abernethy, the number of seniors over the age of 70 is projected to nearly triple in the next two decades. One of the objectives of the plan is to “support elders to live in their own homes for as long as possible.”
Abernethy says the value will be “both from a health perspective, a spiritual perspective, but also a cost perspective.”
The program is still being designed, but caregivers could be family members or members from the community.
Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh MLA Tom Beaulieu says he knows many family caregivers facing financial difficulties, and a paid caregiver program would be a positive thing.
“It’s going in the right direction, and it’s very applicable in the communities I represent,” he said.
Beaulieu said it can be difficult to find caregivers and it’s essential so elders can remain at home.
“Usually the caretaker in small communities, they’re there to take care of one of their parents or both of their parents,” he said. “And then have no income.”
According to Statistics Canada, in 2012 only five per cent of caregivers of parents in Canada were receiving government financial assistance.
Fort McPherson has 1 caregiver
Mackenzie Delta MLA Frederick Blake Jr. also thinks it’s important to have the right support for elders, especially in Fort McPherson, a community of about 800 with a growing number of seniors.
“At the moment, we have one worker. Although the person is doing a great job, there is always need for more support.”
The option of a paid community caregiver would not be forced on any family, but presented as an option.
The N.W.T. Department of Health hopes that Health Canada will allocate funding from its 10-year First Nations and Inuit Home and Community Care plan to help develop the program.