Hart College of Cardiac Sonography & Health Care Inc.

Senior caregivers in canada

Senior Caregivers in Canada | Training the Next Generation

As Canada’s population continues to age, the need for expanded and improved training for those providing care to seniors has become increasingly evident in 2024. By this year, over 7.2 million Canadians were aged 65 or above, with nearly 900,000 in the particularly vulnerable category of 85 and older, often referred to as the “oldest old.” These demographics represent over 18.5% of the total population and are putting significant strain on the nation’s healthcare system, long-term care facilities, home care services, and community support.

The healthcare system is struggling due to staffing shortages, widespread burnout, and a severe lack of properly trained personnel to care for a large population of frail seniors. Many older adults are not receiving the help they need and are placed in inadequate situations. Canada is facing a crisis in providing a skilled workforce to support the complex needs of the aging population. This issue should be a top priority, and we need to focus on expanding education, upskilling, and credentialing programs.

First and foremost, there should be a significant increase in training programs for personal support workers (PSWs), home health aides, and other frontline caregiving roles that offer the majority of daily hands-on assistance to seniors. This could involve accelerated vocational programs, intensive upskilling courses, experiential apprenticeships, and improving the accessibility of credentialing.

The work is challenging, and personal, and requires a specialized set of capabilities beyond physical tasks such as bathing, dressing, feeding, and transferring patients. Effective training must also cover areas such as age-related dementia care, palliative practices, mental health, abuse prevention, culturally competent care, and therapeutic activities. Personal Support Workers (PSWs) need to be trained as “life ambassadors” to help seniors maintain dignity and enrich their lives.

Canada should consider establishing robust national standards, best practices, and licensure requirements for essential roles that deserve similar professional stature as fields like nursing. This will not only improve quality but also make such work more attractive and prestigious.

Simultaneously, more “generalist” healthcare workers such as nurses, physicians, social workers, therapists, and others need access to specialized education in gerontology and geriatric medicine. They must have a strong foundation in unique preventative care, chronic disease management, assessment, and treatment needs for older adults.

Canada should consider exploring innovative models, such as gerontology-focused nurse practitioner programs, to establish new specialized senior care providers. Programs aimed at credentialing internationally-educated healthcare workers could help address urgent gaps in the workforce.

Efforts are needed across various disciplines to enhance senior care capabilities. This includes training more experts in elder law, financial planning for long-term care needs, and social services for aging populations. Additionally, it involves teaching architects, engineers, and urban planners the principles of age-friendly community design..

The main objective of comprehensive training should be to equip the Canadian workforce with interdisciplinary skills, knowledge, and human-centric approaches focused on empowering older adults’ autonomy, independence, and quality of life for as long as possible. This aligns with the increasing desire from seniors to “age in place” by utilizing home-based services, technological supports, preventative interventions, and community integration.

Moreover, integrating gerontology principles and senior care best practices into foundational curricula for students entering caring professions such as teaching, social work, and counselling will help create an “aging literate” society capable of meeting the needs of the aging population.

Simultaneously, this expanded training initiative must be accompanied by efforts to increase the compensation, benefits, and professional status for senior care roles. Competitive wages, programs to attract immigrant workers, and career advancement pathways could help address the systemic undervaluing of this vital work in Canada.

The need for these changes is clear and is becoming more urgent with each passing year. Investing in holistic, specialized training for a new generation of passionate, empathetic senior caregivers—whether in healthcare, community services, or any caring field—might be the key to not only managing Canada’s aging demographics but also to upholding the dignity and honouring the invaluable contributions of our elders as a society.