Supporting Family Caregivers

Supporting Family Caregivers

Care Renewal

The Foundation works with broad coalitions of health and social sector organizations to promote policy changes and improvements to service accessibility for Canada’s largely undocumented population of family caregivers. These initiatives have the potential to significantly ease their lives, enabling them to better sustain their caregiving activities.

The Foundation accomplishes this by supporting efforts to improve access to user-friendly information, respite and flexible working conditions, including ‘caregiving leaves of absence’ and other policies to relieve financial burdens and eliminate barriers to caregivers’ place in the workforce.

The Foundation is also supporting the dissemination of successful service delivery innovations such as the Care-Ring Voice Network and Tyze.com.

Launched in late 2010, The Belonging Fund makes Tyze’s online networks available to Canadian charitable organizations that work with those who are at risk of suffering from isolation. Expressions of interest from qualified charities are welcomed. Learn more about The Belonging Fund from Tyze’s website.

Strategic Vision

Through its Supporting Family Caregivers initiative, the Foundation envisions an inclusive society and health care system that recognize, respect and support the critical aid provided by family caregivers.

Granting Total

Phase I & II $4,700,000
Phase III $682,207
Total granted: $5,382,207

Program History

With the intention of better defining and promoting a vision for caregiver respite in Canada, the Care Renewal Program emerged from The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation’s Respite Initiative, and particularly the National Respite Care Study, whose key finding was that respite is an outcome – something to be experienced by caregivers. The story of this research finding is told in Silver Donald Cameron’s This Day is for Me, released by the Foundation in 2003.

While many caregivers themselves are looking for respite in its broadest sense, the concept of respite as a result of varied interventions challenged providers to move beyond thinking in terms of a set of fixed services towards a more individual, tailored, flexible and ultimately, more effective response.

The Care Renewal Program funded 13 community-based projects testing new ways of helping caregivers experience physical, emotional, psychological, social and spiritual relief. Some were focused on caregivers dealing with specific afflictions, while others provide supports for potentially all types of caregivers. The unifying themes were caregiver voice, respite, choice, empowerment and recognition. Knowledge building was also a priority, promoted through yearly meetings between project leaders through teleconferences, online knowledge forums and site visits, as well as through the documentation of the program by a researcher-evaluator.

Overall, the projects demonstrated that innovative and effective caregiver respite is possible with relatively modest funding.

Challenges identified by the Foundation include:

  • Difficulty in identifying or reaching families and caregivers in need of support
  • Matching volunteers’ needs with those of families
  • Maintaining contact and exchanging information with key stakeholders
  • Clarifying and accurately representing the needs of individuals and families
  • Determining communities’ capacities to respond to caregiver needs
  • Accurately estimating the time required for individual project activities
  • Acknowledging small successes as genuine progress towards proposed final outcomes
  • Coping with needs exceeding a project’s capacity to respond

Key Lessons

  • It is often difficult to identify or reach families and caregivers in need of support; similarly, it is a challenge to match volunteers’ needs with those of families.
  • Maintaining contact and exchanging information with key stakeholders is vital, as is the need to clearly and accurately represent the needs of individuals and families.
  • Oversight is necessary in determining communities’ capacity to respond to caregiver needs, accurately estimating the time required for individual project activities and in responding to situations where regional needs exceed a project’s capacity to respond.
  • Change is gradual. While it has traditionally proven more effective to invest in capacity building for caregiver support, as we increase activity in policy advocacy, it is important to acknowledge gradual successes as genuine progress towards proposed final outcomes.
  • Respite does not need to be expensive. Caregivers often want support and recognition that does not cost much. Small things can make big differences in the lives of family caregivers.
  • Caregivers need choices in order to experience respite. The same strategies and/or support will not work for everyone.
  • Programs need to respond to the priorities and needs of both caregivers and care receivers. Caregivers feel relief when they know that the needs of the family members and friends they care for are being met through quality care and enjoyable activities.

For more information, visit:

The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation 1002 Sherbrooke W., Suite 1800, Montreal, Qu├ębec H3A 3L6

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