The pandemic has caused a great deal of distress and suffering, globally. One of the reasons behind this is due to how vulnerable populations, such as older persons living in institutional settings were treated like prisoners and isolated to their rooms and ‘visitors’ were restricted access. As a result, many died alone, many suffered illness alone and many suffered medical errors because there was no one there advocating for them or watching over them, many were just all by themselves.
In response to these issues and lack of rights caregivers are afforded, Plan Well Guide has collaborated with multiple organizations across the country to make improvements that will incite change for caregivers and their rights. This recent collaboration resulted in the launch of a brand new site, called Caregivers4Change and the release of a Declaration of Family Caregiver Rights and Responsibilities. An online petition has also been created to help champion and encourage caregivers’ rights.
Currently, 1 in 4 Canadians are caregivers, it truly is something that impacts many of us. The former US first lady, Rosalynn Carter said it first and she said it best, “There are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers”. Plan Well Guide acknowledges that family caregivers are more than just visitors and wants to help support those in their planning journey, regardless where they are at.
The creation of the Declaration of Family Caregiver Rights and Responsibilities is something Dr. Heyland, founder of Plan Well Guide and first author of the Declaration, believes all Canadians need to be aware of. As someone who has been studying older and vulnerable people and their family caregivers for decades and as a family caregiver to older parents and in-laws, Dr. Heyland understands the essential role that family caregivers play in supporting patients in their illness experience. He has described significant medical errors that occur in hospitals every day and stresses the important role family caregivers play with respect to advocacy and decision-making.
There have been too many stories of family caregivers who were unable to perform their caregiver’s duties for a variety of reasons. Plan Well Guide is focused on helping families and caregivers prepare for future decision-making of their loved ones which is a main reason behind the collaboration with Caregivers4Change. Our aim is to influence policy and practice so that family caregivers are never excluded from their essential role as part of the health care team. We believe family caregivers are more than just visitors and should be treated as such.