Friday 27 April 2012

A Second Trip to Parliament Hill This Week - An Early One!

When Nicholas was about 16, he decided that he was too old to 'trick or treat' on Halloween.  Instead, he wanted to dress in the 'scariest costume he could think of' and hand out sweets to the children at our front door.  "Fine", I said, "I'll get you the costume.  So who is the scariest character you can think of?"

He thought a moment, then answered, "...You, Mum!"  Well, we dressed Nicholas up as me, before my morning coffee.  Now, I hate mornings and I know I look pretty awful before 10am.  So, we put Nick in my dressing gown, a bed-head wig, and we used make-up to put face cream and dark circles under his eyes.  We placed an empty coffee cup on his wheelchair tray and fuzzy slippers on his feet.  He looked almost as good as the Norman Bates' dead mother in 'Psycho'.  Any children who came to our door that night were terrified and many left in a hurry without candy (the more for Nick!).

So this week, when I agreed to attend a breakfast on Parliament Hill beginning at 7:30am, it had to be pretty compelling.  I was not disappointed -  Dr. Janice Keefe was presenting on the future policy directions for Caregiving in the Eldercare of Canadians.  Her talk was part of the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences Big Thinking Lecture Series.  And the basis for Dr. Keefe's remarks was her 2011 Institute for Research on Public Policy report titled "Supporting Caregivers and Caregiving in an Ageing Canada". 

Keefe's research reveals the startling truth about our ageing population:  by 2031, there will be 8.8 million Canadians over the age of 65 and 30% of those will not have children.  Keefe likened family support to the root system of a tree - invisible, but strong and necessary to the life of the whole living entity.   She posed the challenge to governments at all levels to see caregivers as individuals with rights - as 'clients'.  Keefe used demographics to underline the need for a comprehensive policy approach to support caregivers that would span the tax system, immigration policy, national insurance schemes and workplace/employment policy.

I am happy that I got up early yesterday morning to hear some big thinking on the big problem of our ageing population.  I came away thoughtful and encouraged.  I felt encouraged because we have people  who are as smart and compassionate as Janice Keefe working on the file.  She will provide the ideas for policy and then it is our job to advocate.  I will, because my future depends on it.

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