Written by Troy Peart
One of the most well documented demographic trends in Canada is the aging of the population as baby boomers (those born from 1946-1966) approach retirement and beyond. In the realm of financial planning, the widespread aging of the population has created an elevated level of awareness of issues surrounding the elderly and the financial implications that may result. As individuals age, one of the progressively important areas of concern is maintaining their independence and dignity for as long as possible. Unfortunately, as one continues to age this becomes increasingly more challenging. Medical advances have significantly increased Canadians life expectancies but this has also resulted in a greater likelihood of requiring physical assistance in maintaining oneself. It is often at this point in the thought process that individuals wonder what options are available should they be unable to physically or mentally perform day-to-day activities that they have for so many years taken for granted.
The first option often pursued if individuals lose their physical or mental capacity to take care of themselves is assistance that is provided by the government. As health care is the jurisdiction of provincial governments via Canada’s universal health care system, benefits vary from province to province. In order to be eligible for subsidized assistance in British Columbia, individuals must be: residents of the province, a Canadian Citizen (or have permanent resident status) and be unable to function independently because of chronic, health related problems or have been diagnosed by a doctor with an end-stage illness. An assessment by a case manager from the Regional Health Authority (RHA) will determine one’s eligibility for services, their health care needs as well as whether the client will be required to pay anything towards the cost of the service. During the assessment, the case manager may ask for recent tax returns as the fee for subsidized home care or nursing homes is based on income level. Costs for subsidized nursing homes or home care depend on one’s income and currently can cost up to $2,154 per month. Subsidized services are also subject to availability as there are often significant waiting lists prior to being able to receive them.
If services that are subsidized by the government are either insufficient or unavailable, individuals (or their families) also have the option of paying for any additional costs themselves. For example, skilled nursing for private home care usually costs between $35 and $75 per hour depending on whether a Licensed Practical Nurse or a Registered Nurse is utilized. Private nursing homes are also available but it’s important to note that they are not eligible for any government subsidies. The cost and level of service in private nursing homes vary widely but are generally within the range of $2,700 and $9,000 per month.
Thinking about the prospect of one day not being able to perform the activities of daily living that one has become accustomed to is never a fun exercise. However true this may be, the prospect of being dependent or a burden on one’s family is usually much worse. Adequate financial planning should be utilized to ensure that there are either enough resources or enough long term care insurance to ensure that one can maintain their lifestyle and dignity even if they are not able to do it all independently.
Troy Peart B.B.A., CFP, CFA can be emailed at email@example.com
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