Whether Canadians are ready to financially support their aging parents depends on a number of factors such as income and debt levels, age, number of dependents, and lifestyle. At the same time, a recent survey shows that many Canadians are not prepared to provide financial support because of outstanding debt and concerns about postponed retirement.
A survey by Chartwell Retirement Residences and FP Canada™ reveals that some 12 percent of Canadians are worried about debt repayment while 14 percent of respondents are concerned about having to postpone retirement. Only 22 percent of Canadians were found to be familiar with different forms of financial support for seniors such as rebates, loans, grants, and financial assistance programs.
According to Shulman Law Firm lawyer Rick Peticca, one of the main reasons is the higher rate of adult divorces which have an adverse effect on the ability of people to support themselves financially. This is especially true for people in their 60s and 70s who often rely on a limited income. In fact, government data shows that about 20 percent of Canadians in their late 50s have gone through a divorce or have split. In 2011, 18.9 percent of men and 21.6 percent of women in this age group were either separated or divorced. In 1981, in contrast, just 6.2 percent of men and 6.9 percent of women were separated or divorced. Getting divorced after 50 is a trend known as grey divorce and is particularly prominent among baby boomers. Baby boomers going through a grey divorce often struggle financially. In fact, a study at the Bowling Green State University shows that after divorce baby boomers experience a wealth decrease of about 50 percent. The main reason is that partners have to divide financial and other resources they previously shared. Women are more vulnerable as their standard of living declines by about 45 percent. In contrast, men experience a drop of just 21 percent after getting divorced. Women who looked after children and stayed at home for prolonged periods have difficulty entering the workforce and supporting themselves financially.
There are different federal programs that can help aging Canadians to become financially independent. Helping parents to inquire and apply under different programs can be of great help. Such programs are, for example, the Guaranteed Income Supplement and Old Age Security. Some programs target specific groups of people, including the International Benefits Program, Assisted Living Program, and War Veterans Allowance. There are also territorial and provincial programs under which older people are offered assistance provided that they are eligible to receive allowance or the Guaranteed Income Supplement. Different forms of assistance are available across Canada, including the bus pass subsidy, utility or fuel subsidy, and home support subsidy. Other forms of support for seniors are the prescription drug subsidy, rental subsidy, property tax relief, and property tax deferment.
Caring for aging family members can be challenging, exhausting, and emotional, especially when caring for parents with health issues such as sensory impairments, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease. The good news is that caregivers in Canada are offered government assistance to provide care to patients who are injured or critically ill.
Caregiver benefits are offered by Employment and Social Development Canada and come in three types – compassionate care benefits and family caregiver benefits for adults and children. Persons who provide end-of-life care are eligible to apply for compassionate care benefits. Those providing care for injured or critically ill adults may apply for the family caregiver benefit for adults. Family members providing care for children under 18 are eligible for the caregiver benefit for children. Applicants are asked to provide supporting documents such as record of employment, medical certificate, and attestation for non-family members. Applicants also provide details such as their social insurance number, mailing address, and the family member in need of care. They are also asked to provide financial information such as their account number, branch number, and name of financial institution. Finally, applicants must submit employment information such as dates of employment, addresses and names of employers, and reasons for dismissal or quitting.
Different organizations and community centres in Canada offer support and assistance to people who care for aging family members. Volunteers and professionals help older people by offering transportation, cooking meals, cleaning, and running errands. The Baycrest community day centre, for example, offers a number of services, including case management, support, counseling, and education. Other services for aging people include toileting, eating assistance, medication administration, and disease prevention. Healthcare professionals across fields work with seniors, including social workers, psychologists, occupational therapists, dietitians, dentists, and therapeutic recreationists.
Aging parents and family members need help with daily tasks and activities such as home maintenance, grocery shopping, and budgeting and personal finances. They also need help with tasks such as bathing and toileting, communication, dishes, laundry, and dusting and vacuuming. Other household chores that the elderly need help with include changing sheets, making beds, de-cluttering, and taking out trash.
Caregivers also offer help with personal care such as checking for pressure and bed sores, skin and toe nail care, grooming, and dressing. Tasks related to proper nutrition include meal planning, buying nutritional supplements and vitamins, and ensuring sufficient fluid intake. Companionship is also important for aging family members and can be in the form of watching movies together, playing board or other games, reading aloud, and accompanying to events, shows, theatre performances, and musicals.
Many older patients also have chronic conditions that require ongoing care, monitoring, and medications. Such chronic conditions include ischemic heart disease, hypertension, chronic kidney disease, anemia, and diabetes. Some patients have multiple chronic conditions that pose a considerable financial burden to the healthcare system, caregivers, and patients themselves. Medical care covers activities such as transportation to the doctor’s office and scheduling appointments, coordinating and discussing care with healthcare professionals, picking up and filling prescriptions, and planning ahead. Caring for aging parents often includes planning ahead for complications, relapses, or physical therapy. Caregivers must be familiar with symptoms such as mood swings and fatigue and to act accordingly. They should know how to use medical supplies and aids such as absorbent sheets, cooling scarves and pads, bed steps, and tub rails. Depending on the patient’s condition, there are supplies for pain management, incontinence, patient hygiene, fall management, bathroom safety, etc. Some patients also require transport chairs, rehabilitation equipment, slings and lifts, and canes and crutches. Caregivers must know how to use rehabilitation equipment such as therapy steps, exercise peddlers, and balance ramps. Bathroom safety equipment is also important as to prevent falls and encourage mobility. Caregivers often have to install aids such as toilet safety frames, hinged elevated toilet seats, and toilet seats with undergrips. Finally, aging patients often need diagnostic aids such as blood pressure monitors, pulse oximeters, and cholesterol home test kits. Diagnostic aids help monitor various conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood sugar levels.
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