In May, The Conference Board of Canada released a report commissioned by VON called Home and Community Care in Canada: An Economic Footprint. Since the demand for home and community care (H&CC) is expected to grow dramatically in future years, we need to better understand its current economic footprint in order to plan properly. Although the H&CC sector is an integral part of our health system, its contribution is not well understood or maximized. Very little information is collected about the sector, making evidence-based decisions and strategic planning difficult.
This report is an essential element in that planning process. In addition to capturing information on home care, the report examines the contributions of community support services and those of unpaid family and friend caregivers – two key contributors to health that traditionally have been overlooked. It also highlights the implications of caregiving employees for businesses, and sheds light on the potential spending implications of shifting some care from institutions to homes.
It is difficult to capture comparable national data since H&CC is organized, delivered, and paid for differently across the country. What you get is very much dependent on who you are, where you live and what you can afford. Even when care is being delivered, data isn’t necessarily being captured and tracked.
The statistics are very enlightening. About 1.3 million Canadians receive one or more forms of care to help them live at home. In 2010, spending on H&CC ranged from $8.9–10.5 billion, accounting for 4.6–5.5% of all health spending in Canada. This money supported an estimated 76,000– 99,000 paid jobs. At the same time, volunteers, family and friends provide a significant amount of unpaid care to help people remain in their homes. In 2007, for example, about 3.1 million Canadians provided some level of unpaid service to home care recipients. That same year, the estimated cost to Canadian businesses was over $1.28 billion in lost productivity as a result of caregivers missing work, or even quitting or losing their jobs.
Considering the aging population, the increase in chronic conditions, and the preference of Canadians to age independently at home, the reliance on the home and community care is undoubtedly going to grow. How H&CC is delivered, financed and organized requires a collective effort from government, employers, organizations and communities. If properly resourced and integrated into our larger health system, this sector has the potential to transform Canada’s health care and the many lives that depend on it.