Canada’s ability to successfully respond to the climate crisis depends on the freely given, natural care provided by family, friends and neighbours. These caregivers (distinct from professional care providers) are the true first responders and the bedrock of our individual and collective safety and security. They serve the community in many ways, including
- caring for children, seniors and those with long-term illness who are at risk of being left behind during a crisis;
- utilizing a well-seasoned capacity to work in crisis environments, because, by definition, that is what they do as caregivers. This requires ingenuity and adaptability in the face of vulnerability and the unpredictable course of aging and disease;
- ensuring safety and security at home – as family, friends and neighbours – so emergency personnel, health-care workers and firefighters can do their work.
At first glance, caregiving and the climate crisis may seem like a strange pairing, but our health, well-being and survival during and after any disaster depend on it. Yet this crucial element is not identified, supported or co-ordinated in national planning for climate-related disasters. Unfortunately, Canada’s “whole-of-society approach” to disaster planning fails to capture the unrecognized strengths and talents of caregivers.
Carers Canada calls the nation’s caregivers our “invisible health partners.” This invisibility has resulted in widespread municipal disaster preparedness plans that fail to consult with, or specifically include, carers.
When her sister died three years ago, Ms. Ingersoll joined the ranks of older Americans considered “kinless”: without partners or spouses, children...