Blog Jan 28, 2021

We need to care more about those who care for others


Kris Smith
Executive Vice President
Downstream, Suncor

Carla has two young boys, both diagnosed with Sickle Cell anemia. They make a lot of trips to the hospital.

Bruce’s wife had cancer which spread to her brain, resulting in dementia. He took care of her, as well as their young daughters, aged 14 and 10.

Kevin’s two young sons both have neurological disorders. He does his best to make life as “normal” as possible for them.

They are just three of the more than 8 million Canadians – one in four of us – who spend time, every day, or every week, taking care of someone close to them who needs help.

They are family caregivers.

They help family members, friends or neighbours recover from injury or accident. They are there to support people through long-term or recurring health challenges.

According to Statistics Canada, caregivers provide roughly 75 per cent of all patient care across the country. Among other things, family caregivers provide transportation, meal preparation and housekeeping. They schedule appointments, help with medications and provide emotional support. In dollar terms, it’s estimated they deliver help worth as much as $72 billion annually.

Their dedication is unshakeable. But it comes at a cost. Sixty per cent of caregivers say they struggle to manage being there for those who need them, while also managing their jobs as well as their own family responsibilities and personal commitments. The most commonly reported need of family caregivers is for financial help.

They’re tired, often frustrated, and sometimes overwhelmed. More than three-quarters of Canadian family caregivers say they wish there was somewhere they could go for help and advice.

“The greatest challenge I faced taking care of my wife was not knowing how to do it,” said Bruce. “It was something that I wasn’t prepared to do, and it really stretched my abilities to cope.”

Hearing stories like these reinforced Suncor’s desire to help, by setting up a new charitable foundation in our Petro-Canada business, aimed at making life better for those who provide care or help to a family member or a friend with a long-term health condition, a physical or mental disability, or aging related needs.

The Petro-Canada CareMakers Foundation is intended to provide grants to charitable organizations in Canada that support family caregiving, to enhance and amplify their work. Their efforts are already underway, already having provided support to: Baycrest Foundation, Circle of Care: Mount Sinai Hospital, BC Neighbourhood Houses, and Community Care City of Kawartha Lakes.

And there will be many more, as we scale up our organization and fundraising.

We also want to help create new resources and tools for family caregivers, because it’s clear that they need support too. A caregiver never stops caring and we want to recognize them and say ‘thank you’ for the work they do every day to make our communities stronger.

Awareness of what caregivers are going through, and the support they provide every day, needs to be raised so that we can have a national conversation about how best to help those who help so many.

Our Foundation is just beginning its work. Raising awareness of the needs of caregivers and working toward a goal of ensuring they get the kinds of supports, information and assistance they deserve is a long-term proposition – as is the national conversation we need to have. But it’s a journey we need to undertake, because looking out for each other and taking care of each other is a fundamental Canadian trait. We need to make sure the ones who do the caring are being cared for too.

Kris Smith is the Executive Vice President, Downstream, at Suncor, the proud owner of Petro-Canada.