THUNDER BAY – Caregiving can often be a time-consuming and thankless job.
Yet with a quickly aging population, the job is needed now more than ever.
Paralympian and national wheelchair tennis champion Joel Dembe is embarking on the first leg of a cross-country tour for Canada Cares, a non-profit organization supporting the efforts of caregivers.
It is estimated that in Canada close to one in four people, more than 5 million, care for a family member whether it be a child, sibling, spouse, parent or any other relative.
“We’re promoting the great work caregivers do across the country,” Dembe said Monday at Pioneer Ridge.
“We’re trying to showcase their stories and network them with other organizations. We’re trying to see what we can do to help them and how more people know about it and are receiving help.”
Dembe knows what it is like to depend on caregivers on a day-to-day basis, and see the selfless nature of the role.
He said he wouldn’t be where he is now, especially with his athletic endeavours, without the help and support he received when he was younger.
“Back when I was a child both my parents had to make sacrifices to ensure I was receiving the best possible care,” he said.
Throughout their journey across Ontario, which started less than one week ago in Toronto, Canada Cares is hearing many common challenges facing caregivers.
Hearing the stories from front line caregivers sheds a light on how the organization can be most effective.
Dembe is particularly impacted by a meeting in Elliott Lake, where he found a 70-year-old woman caring for her 90-year-old mother.
“What we’re seeing is the elderly looking after the elderly and that’s becoming more predominant in Canadian society,” he said.
The goal of the tour is to hear from different organizations in each municipality that is visited and meet with industry leaders.
Mayor Keith Hobbs met with Dembe Monday morning and the two discussed the state of caregiving in Thunder Bay.
“We have the highest (per capita) population of seniors of any city in Ontario, as us baby boomers age we’ll have to make sure that’s in place for our seniors,” Hobbs said.
“We’re trying to keep our seniors in their homes as long as we can so they’re not put in homes so caregiver programs are huge initiatives.”
The tour is recognizing communities and employers who are making strides in supporting caregiver efforts.
Canada Cares is welcoming nominations for their Caregiver-Friendly Workplace Award and their Caring Communities Award, which will be presented to one business or organization and one community.
Dembe will wrap up his leg of the tour on Tuesday in Winnipeg, though the organization will continue to head west before concluding in Victoria, BC.
More information on the organization and nomination process can be found online.