Family caregivers waiting on election promise

Brodie Thomas
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Nearly a year after the last provincial election, many people on the southwest coast are waiting for the provincial government to live up to an election promise on compensation for family caregivers.

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Doug Kendell of Burgeo is mainly confined to a wheelchair in his home. His wife works a day job at minimum wage, while a homecare worker comes to assist him through the day.

He said it would make more sense for the government to pay his wife the homecare worker wage, which is slightly higher than minimum wage, rather than her having to work a day job, and then come home to chores and homecare duties.

“It’s a lot of strain on my wife,” said Mr. Kendell. “If she was getting a wage and could stay home, she could have a better home life.”

He said he regularly watches the house of assembly on TV and he took note of the election promise when it was made.

“They came out and said they would change their policy for family members looking after disabled people in their own home,” said Mr. Kendell. “I wrote Minister Sullivan with a copy to the premier and that was in April of this year. I asked about the policy. What I got back just doesn’t make any sense they’re trying to talk around the issue”

The letter he received back from Minister Sullivan begins by recognizing the support family members and “informal caregivers” provide to people at home.

“The Department of Health and Community Services is currently exploring policy options to support the commitments which were made during the election campaign, including the development of a policy for the payment of family members as caregivers. Once the details of an option for paid family caregivers have been finalized, a public announcement will be made and the Regional Health Authorities will be informed for the implementation of any policy changes. Until that time, the existing Home Support Program remains unchanged.”

Mr. Kendell said he has nothing against any of his homecare workers who have helped him over the years. He just feels paying his wife would make more sense.

Not alone

Deanna Pike took her disabled sister into her home about three years ago. The family was unable to find a care home nearby that could meet her needs.

“We didn’t want to see her go out of town, so I said I would take her,” said Mrs. Pike.

Her sister has workers who look after her during the day.

“When they bring her back in the evenings, I am in the house seven nights a week,” she said.

Mrs. Pike also watches her sister when workers are unavailable due to illness or vacation. As her sister, she is unable to receive compensation for her care duties. Ms. Pike’s other siblings also share in care giving duties at times and help take care of their sister when homecare workers are unavailable.

“We can’t put in for one hour of pay,” said Mrs. Pike.

While Mrs. Pike said she always puts her family first, she would like to see better support for family caregivers.

“I have given up a lot. Before it was only me and my husband. We could jump in the vehicle, go and come when we want. Now I can’t do that.”

Burgeo-La Poile MHA and Liberal Health Critic Andrew Parsons wants to know what the hold up is on the promise.

“It’s another promise that looks right now to be an empty promise,” he said.

Mr. Parsons is aware of about 20 “exceptional” cases in the province where family members are being paid to deliver care. He wants to see it happen province wide for all family caregivers.

“There are a lot of people out there in this situation,” said Parsons. “This is a huge issue and they really thought this promise was going to happen.”

Organizations: Department of Health and Community

Geographic location: Burgeo

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