Health Canada recognizes geography as an important determinant of health. People in rural and remote communities have poorer health status than Canadians who live in larger centres. For example:
- Life expectancy for people in predominantly rural regions is less than the Canadian average;
- Disability rates are higher in smaller communities;
- Rates for accidents, poisoning and violence are also higher in smaller communities; and
- People living in remote northern communities are the least healthy and have the lowest life and disability-free life expectancies (Romanow, 2002).
In rural Canada, the rates of informal caregiving are increasing due to health care restructuring, moving of health services to urban locations, aging of population, and the desire to age at home. In these geographic locations, the caregiving role is usually assumed by women (Crosato & Leipert, 2006). Caregivers living in rural and remote locations may experience different challenges than urban caregivers including transportation challenges and social/geographic isolation. An additional challenge is that it is difficult to recruit and retain home care workers in these areas due to a smaller labour pool and the need to travel long distances. Together, these issues can leave rural caregivers at a higher risk to stress and burnout, with limited resources for support. For more information on the unique challenges facing rural and remote caregivers in Canada, click here.