The numbers tell the true story; one-third of dementia caregivers are daughters and wives are much more likely to care for their husbands. Of more than 400,000 older Canadians living with dementia, women represent some two-thirds or 61% of all informal dementia care.
Caregiver distress is a real and harmful result of gender imbalance. With this in mind, society must take on the role of encouraging family members, particularly able bodied husbands and sons, to shoulder the responsibility of dementia caregiving.
To bring dementia caregiving into focus, issues of paramount importance should be presented to the wider societal discussion on equity and gender discrimination. With that, the #MeToo movement could be paired with the dementia caregiving focus to bring about the most recent gains.
Gender imbalance issues need to be an open and honest conversation on every Canadian’s agenda to bring forth the best emphasis to be placed on husbands and sons playing a more substantial role in dementia caregiving.
The government could work with dementia caregiving efforts by offering training programs that coordinate knowledge, skills and emotional supports to those looking after people with dementia. Such training programs would present more positive expression of caregiving for both genders..
Federal and Provincial governments can do much more in support of dementia caregivers. A proposed increased access to long-term care facilities in and of itself does not provide a sustainable provision.
There are sensible recommendations such as the Government of Ontario’s Senior Strategy as well as the National Senior’s Strategy for Canada. These efforts propose building up provisions of home and community care services, insuring immediate access to relief strategies – these include adult day programs as well as overnight care for those with dementia and ensuring much needed income support and tax relief. The need is great and there simply is no time left, governments across the country must act on these recommendations now!
It must be emphasized that caregiver distress leaves women alone to deal with these key gender imbalances. Further, “caregiver distress” has not yet been taken seriously by those that could offer the most.. All the while, research proves that, as a society, we are tolerating significant physical, mental, social and economic hardships among dementia caregivers. These findings are supported by a recent report on dementia from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI,) a national organization focused on disseminating health information to Canadians.
Caregiving does provide a rewarding experience, however, some half (45%) of dementia caregivers in the report experienced distress related to their role. Taking on a caregiving role is associated with depressive and anxiety disorders , impairments in physical health, decreased preventive and self-care behaviors, acute care utilization and even increased risk of death.
With so much at stake it is paramount that we take a much closer look at dementia gender roles in caregiving! We need to enlist those who are in charge to bring about responsible solutions to what has begun to be an age old problem!