Supporting care at the beginning and end of life
In August, Justine Trudeau, Leader of the Liberal Party, announced his plan to allow new parents to have more flexibility in accessing parental leave benefits. The new plan would allow the splitting up of benefits over a period of 18, rather than taking leave all at once. Although it is not clear how the plan would role out in practice, the idea left me wondering why the federal government wouldn’t consider the same flexible approach to end of life care?
Currently, Canadians have access to the Compassion Care Benefit which provides access to Employment Insurance for up to six weeks to support a loved one “who has a significant risk of dying within 26 weeks” (servicecanada.gc.ca). Changes to the program were included in the 2015 Federal budget to make the program more accessible when Canadians need it most. As of January 2016, benefits are to be expanded to 6 months. However, paperwork is very important to apply for the program, including medical documentation from a doctor. It is also not clear how family members might learn of program, other than self-directed information seeking. In my own case, my father’s doctor mentioned the program to me at one of my visits home. However, by that point my dad’s health had been declining quickly, stress levels were high and I was juggling travel between cities, work commitments and child care. I couldn’t begin to focus on working through government paperwork to apply for a program that I may not gain access to in time. Instead, I used all my vacation and took unpaid time off.
Why couldn’t we take the same approach to the Compassion Care Benefit program as Mr. Trudeau is suggesting for parental leave? No increase in the amount of money Canadians would be able to access, however encourage caregivers, and particularly distance family members, to apply for the program early and ensure benefits are there for them when they need them —over a longer period of time. Design the Compassion Care Benefit to reflect the reality of lengthy illness trajectories and create a program that provides support so Canadians can be with their loved ones at different times as end of life approaches.
From a design perspective, I wonder how might we design a service experience to ensure potential beneficiaries of the Compassionate Care Benefit know about the program early enough to take advantage of it, and are able to do so at different times in an illness trajectory?