Supporting Family Caregivers with Online Education

 

There’s one group of people without whom our health and social care systems would be unaffordable -family caregivers. About 1 in 4 Canadians provide unpaid care to another person, such as a spouse, parent, friend or another person in their life. These unpaid services contribute $25 billion annually in off-set costs to our health care systems.

With proper and adequate training, Canadian caregivers can confidently support older adults to age in their place of choice. Unfortunately, Canadians who do take on caregiving duties often do so suddenly and without formal training. In the recent report, Why Canada Needs to Better Care For its Working Caregivers, the NIA makes the case that every Canadian caregiver should have access to information, education, and training to support their work as family caregivers. Caregiver support and training should be integrated into our health care systems. However, health care professionals often face time and resource constraints that prevent adequate training and support for family caregivers.

The NIA report also calls on employers and insurers to recognize the challenges faced by working caregivers, who juggle work with care. A 2017 report from the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) found that approximately 30% of caregivers for older parents took time off work, with the average time taken off estimated at 450 working hours per year. Many caregivers are forced to withdraw from work entirely. When caregivers are forced to leave their jobs unexpectedly, employers lose something as well. They lose the knowledge, skills, and experience of these employees and must also spend more time and funds to hire and train new employees.

Trualta Care Network aims to fill this training and skills gap. It’s a health innovation start-up housed at the Biomedical Zone, which is a unique partnership between Ryerson University and St. Michael's Hospital. The Biomedical Zone is a start-up incubator and innovation hub that helps early-stage health technology companies to validate their need-based solutions directly in the hospital setting with clinicians, business experts and innovative thinkers.

Trualta Care Network aims to “transform caregiver burden into caregiver confidence.” Trualta works with employers, community groups, insurers, and health care providers to support caregivers within their networks. It seeks to fill the information, training, and education gaps that leave many caregivers tired and alone in their efforts. The training is delivered in an informal and interactive online learning environment tailored to the learning needs of each caregiver.

To ensure that older Canadians remain as independent as possible, we will need to support their caregivers with adequate education and training in both formal clinical settings and informal online environments. Trualta, with support from Ryerson’s Biomedical Zone, is working toward a future in which caregivers have the resources and confidence to provide the vital care that benefits older Canadians and our limited healthcare resources.

The National Institute on Ageing (NIA) is a university-based think tank focused on leading cross-disciplinary research, thought leadership, innovative solutions, policies, and products on ageing. The NIA’s mission is to help governments, health care systems, pension plans, businesses, and Canadian families to best meet the challenges and opportunities posed to ageing Canadians and by an ageing demographic. Follow us on Twitter and sign up for our mailing list.

By Allan McKee, Communications Officer, National Institute on Ageing | Email: allan.mckee@sinaihealthsystem.ca


 
Allan McKee