The Increasing Need for Elderly Caregivers: What This Means for Patient Advocacy

Jun 26, 2024

As the global population ages, the need for dedicated patient advocacy for the elderly becomes increasingly critical. In Canada, the aging population is growing at a rapid pace. According to Statistics Canada, over one in six Canadians are 65 years of age or older, with a projected increase of 123.3% by 2073. This demographic shift underscores the importance of addressing the unique health care needs of older adults, who often face complex medical conditions and require coordinated care.

The Role of Caregivers in Elderly Care

Caregivers are the backbone of elderly care, providing essential support that ranges from daily living activities to medical management. The responsibilities of caregivers can include helping with bathing, dressing, and eating, managing medications, and coordinating medical appointments. Caregivers often find themselves juggling multiple roles, including being advocates for their loved ones within the healthcare system.

Polypharmacy: A Double-Edged Sword

One of the most significant challenges in elderly care is the use of many medications (polypharmacy), which is common among older adults. The more medications a person takes, the more adverse events that person is likely to have. There is also a great concern about how different drugs can interact with each other that can be very difficult manage, and very difficult to predict. According to a 2016 report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, nearly two-thirds of Canadian seniors take five or more prescription medications and more than a quarter of them take 10 or more. This scenario calls for vigilant medication management and regular review by healthcare professionals to ensure that all prescribed drugs are necessary and beneficial.

Caregivers can play a crucial role in mitigating the risks of polypharmacy. They can work closely with healthcare providers to review medication lists, assess the necessity of each drug, and advocate for deprescribing when appropriate. Additionally, caregivers can help patients understand their medications, including potential side effects and the importance of adherence.

Keeping Track of Appointments and Medical Records

Managing medical appointments and maintaining accurate health records are significant aspects of elderly care. Seniors often have multiple healthcare providers. As such, it is easy for appointments to be missed or medical information to be fragmented. A caregiver can help coordinate appointments, ensure that the patient attends them, and keep detailed records of all medical visits, treatments, and recommendations.

In Canada, digital health technologies are being increasingly adopted to streamline this process. The use of electronic health records (EHRs) and patient portals can facilitate better communication between patients and healthcare providers, allowing for more coordinated care. Caregivers can assist the elderly in navigating these digital tools. In doing so, they can also ensure that their health information is up-to-date and accessible.

Ensuring Access to Healthcare Services

Access to healthcare services is another critical issue for the elderly, especially for those living in rural or remote areas. In Canada, transportation can be a significant barrier to accessing healthcare, especially for the elderly who may not be able to drive. Caregivers can help arrange transportation services, ensuring that seniors can attend medical appointments and receive necessary treatments. They can also assist in navigating the healthcare system, including understanding insurance coverage and accessing financial assistance programs.

Legal and Ethical Considerations

Caregiving also involves addressing legal and ethical considerations. This includes ensuring that the elderly have completed advance care planning, such as living wills and power of attorney documents. Caregivers can help facilitate these discussions, ensuring that the patient’s wishes are documented and respected.

Addressing Social and Emotional Needs

The social and emotional well-being of elderly patients is equally important to their physical well-being. Loneliness and isolation are common issues among older adults, which can negatively impact their overall health. Caregivers can help connect seniors with community resources, social activities, and support groups. They can also provide companionship and emotional support, helping to alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Support for Caregivers

The role of caregiving can be demanding and stressful, often leading to caregiver burnout. It is crucial that caregivers receive adequate support to maintain their own health and well-being. Patient advocacy groups can play a significant role in providing this support. For example, the Family Caregivers of British Columbia offers resources such as the Caregiver Learning Centre where individuals can find articles, podcasts, courses, and videos on caregiving. They also offer  support groups, a support line, and 1-on-1 coaching sessions.

Advocacy groups, such as the Carers Canada, can also work to raise awareness about the challenges caregivers face and advocate for policies that provide financial and social support to caregivers.


The role of a caregiver for the elderly is multifaceted and essential in ensuring that older adults receive comprehensive and compassionate care. From managing polypharmacy and keeping track of appointments to addressing social needs and ensuring access to healthcare, caregivers are indispensable in navigating the complexities of elderly care. As Canada’s population continues to age, the demand for caregivers will only grow, highlighting the need for patient advocacy groups to provide support for those who undertake this vital role.

Core Curriculum

Introduction to Patient Advocacy in Canada

This course will introduce students to the core concepts and skills needed to be a professional patient advocate in Canada.

Advanced Curriculum

These courses will provide students with advanced concepts and skills to be professional patient advocate in Canada. The three different themes will focus on three common themes that patient advocacy leaders in Canada generally concentrate on:

  1. management/leadership
  2. changing policy, and
  3. advancing research.

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