In late June, I participated in a ground-breaking panel discussion that raised awareness of the important role played by non-professional caregivers—usually family members. These men and women play an increasingly important role in our communities: a recent study by Ontario Caregiver Organization estimates that non-professional caregivers deliver 75% of all patient care.

The Research and Caregiving Engagement Session was part of a three-day conference hosted by the Perley Health Centre of Excellence in Frailty-Informed CareTM, an organization based in the Alta Vista ward that is dedicated to researching and sharing best practices in care. During the first part of the conference, international experts presented the latest research into the health and well-being of non-professional caregivers. On the final day, researchers and non-professional caregivers from Ottawa discussed various aspects of the major demographic challenge facing our city, our country and all Western democracies.

Canada’s population of seniors is expected to triple in the next few decades and threatens to overwhelm our current approaches to housing and caring for seniors, particularly those living with frailty. The effects of this surge also threaten to overwhelm non-professional caregivers—often adult children and other family members. Millions of non-professional caregivers already feel overwhelmed, and the problem will get much, much worse. The Session promises to take us a step closer to effective, evidence-based solutions, and it was a pleasure for me to participate.