Caring for the caregivers: Who is meeting the care needs of older adults?

The Bottom Line

  • Families of older adults continue to care for their loved ones when the need arises, despite changes in modern society. The formal healthcare system provides only about 20% of the care to seniors; families provide the rest.
  • As longevity increases, the chronic care needs of older adults have become more complex. Family caregivers are already providing the vast majority of care; to provide more complex care will require formal support. This formal support may include education, training, respite care, etc.
  • Despite gloomy forecasts, there are health care system changes that can be undertaken that will meet the needs of seniors, especially the baby boomer generation which has generated the greatest concern. An age appropriate and cost-effective system is possible without bankrupting the coffers.
  • In addition to a comprehensive home care program that is integrated with other services, several other areas require serious attention if the Canadian health care system is to be sustainable including for example, the ever increasing prescribing of medications.

Part 1: What are the care needs of older adults in Canada?


Part 2: Who is meeting the care needs of older adults in Canada?


Part 3: What can we do to assist caregivers/families in Canada


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Author Details


  1. Chappell, N.L. 2013. Aging in Canada, Oxford University Press, Don Mills.
  2. Daatland, S.O., & Lowenstein, A. (2005). Intergenerational solidarity and the family–welfare state balance. European Journal of Ageing, 2(3), 174-182.
  3. Glaser, K., R. Stuchbury, C. Tomassini, and J. Askham. 2008. The long-term consequences of partnership dissolution for support in later life in the United Kingdom. Ageing & Society, 28(3), 329-351.
  4. Goodhead, A., and J. McDonald. 2007. Informal Caregivers Literature Review: A Report Prepared for the National Health Committee. Wellington, New Zealand: Health Services Research Centre, Victoria University of Wellington.
  5. Hollander, M.J., N.L. Chappell, M.J. Prince, and E. Shapiro. 2007. Proving care and support for an aging population: Briefing notes on key policy issues. Healthcare Quarterly, 10(3), 34-45.
  6. Hollander, M.J., J.A. Miller, M. MacAdam, N. Chappell, and D. Pedlar. 2009. Increasing value for money in the Canadian healthcare system: New findings and the case for integrated care for seniors. Healthcare Quarterly, 12(1), 38-47.
  7. Keefe, J., J. Légaré, and Y. Carrière. 2007. Developing new strategies to support future caregivers of older Canadians with disabilities: Projections of need and their policy implications. Canadian Public Policy, 33, S65-S80.
  8. McAdam, M. 2008. Frameworks for Integrated Care for the Elderly: A Systematic Review. Ottawa: Canadian Policy Research Networks.
  9. Statistics Canada, Canadian Community Health Survey – Health Aging 2009;

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Many of our Blog Posts were written before the COVID-19 pandemic and thus do not necessarily reflect the latest public health recommendations. While the content of new and old blogs identify activities that support optimal aging, it is important to defer to the most current public health recommendations. Some of the activities suggested within these blogs may need to be modified or avoided altogether to comply with changing public health recommendations. To view the latest updates from the Public Health Agency of Canada, please visit their website.