Recognizing Essential Caregivers During the Pandemic

On April 5th, Canada observed National Caregiver Day – a day dedicated to recognizing the essential labour that caregivers do and the contributions they make to the health and quality of life of so many Canadians. National Caregiver Day takes place each year on the first Tuesday in April.

John Tory, Mayor of Toronto – where one in three residents are caregivers – also acknowledged the contribution caregivers make to society, in a statement proclaiming April 5th as Family Caregiver Day. The City of Toronto has partnered with the Ontario Caregiver Organization to acknowledge National Caregiver Day and offer resources for caregivers and for others who want to support them.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been especially difficult for caregivers. They have been restricted from being with their loved ones in hospitals, preventing them from assisting their loved one and from providing companionship during critical illness. “Soon, it will be one year since my brother died in hospital without his family around him,” wrote Lisa Machado for Healthing on April 5th. She cites a multitude of stories of patients who had to spend the final days or weeks of their life in hospital while caregivers or loved ones were barred from entering.

In CCSN’s third survey on the impact of the pandemic on cancer care, 13 per cent of caregivers expressed dismay that they could not accompany their loved one to the hospital. Some feared that they would not be able to see their loved one before they die – especially if their cancer was advanced or untreatable. Others were concerned because they could not assist their loved one in communicating with doctors and in remembering medical information.

Even during a public health crisis, patients must be able to see their essential caregivers and loved ones. Denying access to caregivers puts patients’ quality of care at risk and causes distress for both. CCSN honours the irreplaceable expertise and tireless dedication of Canada’s caregivers, and urges the recognition of their vital role in our healthcare system.