Strategic Vision

Canada’s family caregivers, play a critical — but formally unrecognized — role in our society. We envision a health care system that respects and supports them. Family caregivers, like those they look after, also need assistance. With help in the form of respite, they can better sustain their invaluable caregiving activities.

About the program

Launched in 1999, the Care Renewal program funded 13 community-based projects. They tested new ways of helping family caregivers experience relief physically, emotionally, psychologically, socially and spiritually.

Knowledge building was a priority. Project leaders exchanged learnings and best practices with one another through meetings, online knowledge forums and site visits. A researcher-evaluator documented the program as well. Overall, the projects demonstrated that with relatively modest funding, innovative and effective caregiver respite is possible.

In addition to the 13 community projects, we worked with broad coalitions of health and social sector organizations. This helped to promote policy changes and improvements to service accessibility for family caregivers, including:

  • better access to user-friendly information
  • respite and flexible working conditions
  • “caregiving leaves of absence”
  • financial burden relief
  • the elimination of workforce barriers facing them

For more information about support for family caregivers, visit Care-Ring Voice Network and

Granting total: $5.4 million

Key Lessons

  • It is often difficult to identify or reach families and caregivers in need of support. Similarly, it’s a challenge to match volunteers’ needs with those of families.
  • Maintaining contact and exchanging information with key stakeholders is vital. Equally important is clearly and accurately representing the needs of individuals and families.
  • Oversight is necessary in order to:
    • determine communities’ capacity to respond to caregiver needs
    • accurately estimate the time required for individual project activities
    • respond to situations where regional needs exceed a project’s capacity to respond
  • When it comes to capacity building and policy advocacy for caregiver support, change is gradual. It is important to acknowledge incremental successes as genuine progress.
  • Respite does not need to be expensive. Caregivers often want support and recognition that does not cost much. Small things can make big differences in the lives of family caregivers.
  • Caregivers need choices in order to experience respite. The same strategies and/or support will not work for everyone.
  • Programs need to respond to the priorities and needs of both caregivers and care receivers. Caregivers feel relief when they know that the needs of the people they care for are being met.