The True Cost of Care

At some point in their lives, many older people will need additional care as time passes on and their health declines. Providing this care, and often the associated costs that come with it, often fall to the shoulders of younger family members.

More than eight million Canadians currently provide caregiving of some form to relatives or friends and many of these caregivers have their own children to care for at the same time. Here’s five tips to help budget both your time and money while caring for someone in your life:

1. Get Help – Provincial health care programs offer a variety of benefits including in home care, nurses’ visits, meals and more but you need to advocate for these services. Advocating can be time consuming in itself but will often be well spent for those with already busy schedules.

According to Statistics Canada, the most common caregiving tasks are providing transportation and doing household chores. These are inexpensive jobs, but they are time consuming and can impact other aspects of the caregiver’s own life. Splitting up these duties among other family members can help distribute the workload.

2. Budget for Major Devices and Renovations – Medical devices can make life easier for an aging or ill person but the costs can be high. A basic walker may only cost $150 but a motorized wheelchair can be $5,000 or more.

When you care for someone in their or your own home, you may need to do some renovations to ensure safety and enable care. Fully equipped hospital beds, bath lifts, ramps and other safety devices can put serious strain on a budget if not properly planned for.

3. Plan for Costs of Care – Many government programs offer limited home care and you may need to pay privately to get all of the help that you need to keep an elderly person safe and healthy at home. Personal care workers can cost $30-70 per hour and a live in caregiver costs much more.

The funds to pay for this ongoing care may come from the senior’s own retirement savings, the caregiver and other family’s finances or both. A Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) professional can help assess your family’s overall financial situation and provide guidance on how to best pay for these services without completely derailing your own retirement plans.

4. Consider Insuring Yourself – Protecting you and your family by getting long-term care insurance is worth exploring. It provides financial assistance to cover care – both at home and in a facility – as well as money for other costs related to care, including paying for caregiving by family members.

5. Keep Your Receipts – Always keep all your receipts as the cost of caregiving can be used for various income tax credits, both federal and provincial. You can see a list of available tax credits here:

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