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Caring For Aging Parents Far Away

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More Canadians are driving farther to care for aging relatives, says a new report documenting more missed work days and increased expenses of those thrust into the role of caring for an elderly person living more than an hour’s drive away.

Using data from the 2007 General Social Survey, the study found about 1.65 million people over age 45 to be providing care for a family member with a long-term health problem or physical limitation and living far enough away that significant travel was required.

The Statistics Canada report says 22 per cent of caregivers now drive at least an hour to reach the person they care for while over half (62 per cent) lived more than half a day’s travel away.

The report says caregivers log more missed days of work and incur personal expenses which grow in proportion to the distance covered. Women were more likely than men to take time off work.

“As the population of seniors increases and families live farther apart, many Canadians face the challenges of caring for an aging parent from a distance,” the report notes.

It’s a reality long faced by rural residents, says a retired nurse in Sprague. She’s leading the charge for more personal-care and assisted-living housing to be built in southeastern Manitoba.

Elsa Laing says she could cite many examples of families split up because, without care facilities in the community, the elder relative has had to move away. The pressure is not only on the family who still has to travel to see their relatives, but on the relocated individuals themselves, who feel socially uprooted and isolated.

“Long-distance care issues are what’s really behind the push for more housing locally,” Laing said.

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