Many Canadian families caring for elderly parents are struggling to fill the gaps left by our already strained public system, and some are spending their own savings to provide that care. Many seniors are better prepared financially for their death than for life in their retirement years.
A recent survey estimated that 70% of caregivers will provide financial assistance to parents or other relatives, and 50% of these will be forced to modify their own retirement plans as a result.
A common misconception is that provincial or federal governments will cover home care and nursing home cost, but people need to realise that it comes with limits. Many families aren’t prepared for how much things cost. For example, good wheelchairs can cost from $4,000 to $5,000 and new walkers from $400 to $500.
Statistics Canada reports that 75% of eldercare is provided by those between 45 and 64 years of age. Dubbed the “sandwich generation”, they are caught between supplemental care for their parents and funding their kids’ education, while still trying to save for their own retirement!
But when your parents need extra care, how can you deny them? The local health authority may send a personal care worker to help her bathe once a week, but what if she wants to bathe every day? And what if the workers at the assisted-living facility are unavailable to change your father’s incontinence products as quickly as he’d like?
A personal care worker can cost $20 to $30 per hour, and registered nurses cost $40 to $70 an hour. A full-time, live-in caregiver can cost $1,900 to $3,500 a month, plus room and board. For round-the-clock care, labour laws may require two or three full-time caregivers when considering maximum daily hours and time off.
Electric hospital beds, scooters, walkers, bath lifts, ramps and medication dispensing machines to make a home comfortable and safe can easily exceed $10,000. From private retirement homes which offer prepared meals and housekeeping, to assisted living facilities that provide help with bathing and changing, costs can reach $5,000 a month.
Subsidies may be available for those can’t pay for basic accommodations. In these cases the province will assess the ability to pay based on the senior’s income. Medical and other needs may impact how quickly you are placed in a home. You can’t put your name on a list for five years from now, as you need to be ready to move in tomorrow!
People generally want to stay in their homes, and provincial governments will help make that possible. You can contact your local health agency directly, or get a referral from your physician. The agency will likely send a case manager to assess your loved one’s needs and in some jurisdictions, their ability to afford care.
For short-term equipment needs, the Red Cross in your area may have a loan program, or look online for second-hand finds.
The reality is that most of us will face these issues with aging parents and eventually for ourselves. So don’t wait until forced to make some tough decisions. Do the research now and be prepared, as there’s a tidal wave of baby boomers ahead of us.