Time is ticking

AT RANDOM: federal government has finally realized the value of a loved one’s final moments

Well it’s about time! Our federal government has finally realized the value of a loved one’s final moments and is extending the compassionate care benefit.

The changes mean that instead of just six weeks, residents can qualify for up to 26 weeks (that’s almost six months) of Employment Insurance benefits while they care for a dying loved one. It means caregivers can now claim up to $13,624 in benefits, where previously it was $3,144.

Too late for some, just in time for others and a nest egg for those who may need to hatch it one day down the road.

With our aging population, it’s about time some extra consideration went into looking after our elders.

As most know, losing someone close to us can be one of the most devastating periods in our lives. Often we find ourselves saying, “If only I’d had more time with him/her.” But what if you could have taken an absence from work to spend that extra time with a loved one?

It’s a wonderful idea, both in reality and on paper.

Unfortunately, the newly improved program is still far out of reach for many Canadians. Those working part-time, temporary, casual or freelance, seasonal, contract or on-call jobs likely won’t be afforded the opportunity.

Consider that women are more likely to be in such non-standard employment than men. And also that women are more likely to take on a role of caretaker than men.

There’s also the whole job aspect.

Aside from whether provincial legislation lines up with the new federal offering, some employers may not be so keen on it.

A small company likely can’t afford to go six months without a key employee. It will be forced to fill the position in the meantime, or co-workers will have to rally to get the person’s job done. It’s an unfortunate reality in many companies.

However the hope is that this extension will actually play into the employers’ benefit. Versus just six weeks, which is hardly worth hiring someone to fill-in for, businesses are given more time to fill a position.

Therefore they are more likely to agree to the leave, with no hard feelings.

What I would have given to have had this opportunity three years ago, before my mom died.

We couldn’t afford to hire a nurse or someone to come in and look after mom, nor would she stand for it (stubborn as she was).

Instead, like many, my brother and I were forced into what has been termed the ‘sandwich generation,’ caring for children and our ill parent. Trying to juggle all those relying on us, plus work a full-time job is draining. It leaves one stressed, void of any social life, not to mention self-care – something caregivers are constantly reminded of so they don’t burn out.

With more time, perhaps we could have tended to her needs more. Made her more comfortable. Taken her out for walks. Enjoyed each other’s company, rather than just looking after her. Gone to that show she would have loved. Listened to the stories we never got to hear – or the ones she loved to tell over and over again, just one more time. Done her nails. Taken a family photograph. Said ‘I love you.’

Maybe, just maybe, that extra time and attention would have made a difference on her quality of life, perhaps even extending her time with us.

Either way, it would have been nice to be there a little more.

While it’s too late for some, there are many more loved ones who can benefit from this leave. Let’s hope the province gets its butt in gear sooner than later to make it happen.