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Family caregivers in Ontario now have a helpline if they’re needing respite, a support group or information on issues including tax credits.

The Ontario Caregiver Organization’s chief executive officer, Amy Coupal, says caregivers are experiencing frustration and even depression as a result of their responsibilities, and have responded to a survey saying it’s challenging to find support.

She says a third of caregivers are not coping well emotionally, and that number increases to more than half for those caring for someone with a mental-health issue.

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The helpline connects caregivers to a community resource representative 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and a live chat site is also available between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m., during weekdays.

An online survey by the Change Foundation and the caregiver organization included 800 caregivers, and was conducted provincewide in the spring, showing 56 per cent of respondents find the process difficult -- compared with 39 per cent last year -- and more of them are now under financial strain.

The groups say emotional support for both patients and caregivers is one area where more help is needed, and that hasn’t changed from the first annual survey in 2018.

Change Foundation CEO Cathy Fooks says this year’s survey provides important information on the impact of caregiving.

A margin of error is not applicable to the survey owing to its online methodology.

“The more insight we have into the caregiver experience, the better we’re able to improve that experience because it’s clear that without the tireless efforts of caregivers our health-care system would crumble,” she says in a news release.

The two groups say nearly a third of Canada’s population is providing care to a family member and just more than half of them are caring for an aging parent, mostly providing emotional support and transportation, as well as doing household tasks and scheduling appointments.

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“The survey shows that caregivers provide between 11 and 30 hours of care a week, and some provide so much care they can’t count the hours.”

They say in a report that most of the caregivers are doing such tasks while also parenting young children.

Caregiver Helpline: 1-833-416-2273; Live chat at ontariocaregiver.ca.

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