Spotlight on Canadians: Results from the General Social Survey

Portrait of caregivers, 2012

Portrait of caregivers, 2012: Highlights

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  • At some point in their lives, nearly half (46%) of Canadians aged 15 and older, or 13 million Canadians, have provided care to a family member or friend with a long-term health condition, disability or aging needs.
  • Over the past year, more than one-quarter (28%) provided this type of care. Levels of caregiving varied regionally, with residents of Ontario (29%), Nova Scotia (31%), Manitoba (33%) and Saskatchewan (34%) being more likely to care for an ill family member or friend. Only one province – Quebec – reported rates of caregiving below the national average (25% versus 28%).
  • Age-related needs were identified as the single most common problem requiring help from caregivers (28%). This was followed by cancer (11%), cardio-vascular disease (9%), mental illness (7%), and Alzheimer’s disease and dementia (6%).
  • Contrasting the overall picture, cancer was the leading reason behind spousal caregiving (17%), while problems with mental health, such as depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, were the most common reasons for parents caring for a sick child (23%).
  • Most often, parents were the recipients of caregiving activities. About half (48%) of caregivers reported caring for their own parents or parents in-law over the past year.
  • Adult children were almost four times more likely to report caring for a parent than a parent-in-law, and 2.5 times more likely to report caring for their own mother than father. Other recipients of care included friends or neighbours (16%), grandparents (13%), siblings and extended family members (10%), spouses (8%) and sons or daughters (5%).
  • Overall, caregivers spent a median of 3 hours a week caring for an ill or disabled family member or friend. While spouses and children were among the least common care receivers, caregivers spent the greatest number of hours per week caring for these family members (median of 14 hours for spouses and 10 hours for children).
  • Caregivers perform a range of tasks in caring for their family member or friend, with providing transportation being the most commonly reported (73%). Other tasks included housework (51%), house maintenance and outdoor work (45%), scheduling and coordinating appointments (31%), managing finances (27%), helping with medical treatments (23%) and providing personal care (22%).
  • Women represented the slight majority of caregivers in Canada at 54%. They were also more likely to spend more time per week on caregiving activities than did male caregivers.
  • Caregivers reported having multiple responsibilities. In 2012, 60% were working at a paid job or business and 28% had children under the age of 18. Despite these competing demands, 73% of employed caregivers were satisfied with their current balance between work and home life, with one in ten saying they were dissatisfied.
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