The True Cost of Care

When a family member gets ill, or just needs more support as they age, the costs can climb. Here’s what to put in your caregiving budget.

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The senior years can bring wisdom and reflection, but at some point many older people need care as time passes and their health declines. That task, and often the costs, falls to younger family members. More than eight million Canadians provide caregiving of some form to relatives or friends, most of them seniors.

When those caregivers have children to care for as well – about 28 per cent are considered part of the so-called sandwich generation – the time crunch and costs are an extra challenge.

Here’s how to budget for caring for someone in your life.

According to Statistics Canada, the most common caregiving tasks are providing transportation and doing household chores such as meal preparation.

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Provincial health care programs offer some home care, nurses’ visits, meals and more. You need to advocate for services – a time-consuming task itself – to be sure you’re getting as much support as possible. It depends on the patient’s diagnosis, and their needs.

According to Statistics Canada, the most common caregiving tasks are providing transportation and doing household chores such as meal preparation. These are inexpensive jobs, but they are time consuming and can impact a caregiver’s career and their own mental and physical health.

Budget for devices

Medical devices can make life easier for an aging or ill person. Some of the costs might be covered by provincial or private health insurance. (With regards to provincial care, you must apply and qualify.) Canadian retailers sell walkers for starting at about $150 while mobility scooters sell for about $2,500. Wheelchairs range from a few hundred dollars to closer to $5,000 for motorized models. You can rent mobility devices as well.

Also, when you care for an unwell person in their home, you may need to do some renovations to ensure safety and enable care. You could spend $10,000 or more on a fully equipped hospital bed (they can be rented for $100 to $200 a month), bath lifts, ramps and other safety devices.

Cost of care

Many government programs offer limited home care, and you may need to pay privately to get all the help you need to keep an elderly person safe and healthy at home. Personal care workers cost upwards of $30 an hour while registered nurses charge up to $70 an hour. Getting a live-in caregiver is a big expense: expect to pay as much as $3,500 a month plus room and board.

Alternatively, your family member may need the kind of support available in long-term care. In Ontario, that runs about $1,800 to $2,600 a month. Many provinces offer subsidies for care, depending on your income.

Plan ahead

Consider protecting yourself and family members by getting long-term care insurance. It provides financial assistance to cover care – both at home or in a facility – and money for other costs related to care, including paying for caregiving by family members.

Always keep your receipts, as the cost of caregiving can be used for various income tax credits, both federal and provincial.

Most importantly, keep the lines of communication open in your family regarding those who need care, or may need it in the near future. When all family members share the cost and time burden of caregiving, and work strategically to get the most support possible, it’s good for everyone’s health.

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