Disability and Illness in Canada
There is an estimated 14% of the Canadian population, or 4.4 million people, whose lives are affected in some way because of a chronic condition (Stats Canada, 2006). As well, mental health disorders and substance dependencies affect 1.4 million women and 1.2 million men (CMHA, 2008). These individuals share a common bond-their activities are restricted because of a physical or mental condition.
The other side of the equation consists of the over 3 million Canadians who provide support to a family member or friend with a disabling condition. Therefore, disability and illness touches almost every Canadian in some way of another (Council of Canadians with Disability).
Caregiving as a Family Event
Caregiving is a family event because when illness or disability strikes, all members of the family are affected. Often, the person needing care becomes the focus, and children adapt by taking on caregiving tasks. Young carers, with the proper supports, become superstars-resilient and compassionate adults in our communities. Without support, young carers can become “overburdened” by their caregiving…this can result in anxiety and stress related conditions, and they are more likely to become adults with addictions and depression. It is important to support caregivers (young and old), in order to ensure happy and healthy children and families…(see “Ways to Help” below)
What Do Young Carers Do?
·Housework (cooking, cleaning, & laundry)
·Budgeting & banking
·Parenting younger siblings
·Providing translation to overcome language barriers (eg. for deaf or newcomer parents)
·Acting as the memory for someone with a brain injury or dementia
·Bathing & dressing
·Assisting with mobility
·Provision of “comfort” support
·Counselling and providing advice
What Do Young Carers Need?
Being a young carer has ups and downs, and it is important to ensure their resilience and well being. Some things they may need are:
·To have a voice and be heard
·Support and counselling-someone to talk to about their worries & coping tools
·Recognition of their caregiving roles
·Practical support-relief from daily housework tasks
·Peer support-to spend time with other young cares to decrease feelings of isolation
·Age appropriate information about their family member’s illness or disability
·Social and recreational activities to have fun and just “be a kid”
The Powerhouse Project helps families address these needs.
Ways Organizations and Community Members Can Help…
Young carers are a silent population in many ways in our community. In order to provide supports to young carers, we need to identify them! One way is to change the ways we assess adults accessing services…by asking a few more questions:
- Do you have children in the home?
- Do they assist the person with illness/disability? How are they affected?
- What support do other family members need?
The Powerhouse Project has many “on the road” programs we can deliver at other locations. Some examples are Acting Up!, Cooking with Care, The Power of You, and Balance. All of these programs are creative ways to teach children practical skills in a way that is both fun and educational. These programs can be offered at the same time as support groups, allowing parents and children to access services that will serve to benefit the entire family. Feel free to contact any of the staff to arrange programming in your space.
In addition, the Powerhouse Project provides presentations in the community free of charge…chatting about young carers and our services. Please
contact Angela Arsenio to arrange an informative and dynamic presentation. All staff information can be found in the “Contact” section. Feel free to refer clients to our agency…however, referrals are not necessary.
Remember: healthy and happy children are the building blocks of our community. It is our societal duty to “inform, support, and protect” children (Frank, 2002)