Caring for aging parents - MoneySense

Caring for aging parents

Canadians aged 85+ represent the fastest-growing segment of seniors.


Have you thought about what you’ll do when the time comes for your mom and dad to need extra help? It’s not something most of us think about. Used to parents who have been vital, who have been the ones doing the guarding, many of us are ill-prepared for the years when our parents may need extra care.

Canadians aged 85 and over represent the fastest-growing segment of the senior population. Eventually many of us are going to have to come to terms with parents who have fallen prey to the ravages of age. Our first instinct may be to bring them into our own homes. That’s the way it was when I was a girl growing up in Jamaica. My great-grandparents lived with my grandparents. Home care worked well because there were always bodies available to help. Here in Canada, where my grand aunt lived with my aunt and uncle, they eventually ran into the problem of having a parent who needed constant supervision when they both worked outside the home.

If you accept the responsibility for home care and you have siblings, you’ll not only have to deal with caring for your aging parent, you’ll also have to manage your brothers’ and sisters’ expectations, comments and involvement (or lack thereof). This can be no small feat. Some experts recommend that the sharing of the costs include a “salary” for the caregiver. So, the sibling with whom mom lives would pay nothing, while the others would chip in for support, medical care and the like.

Full-time care giving is not a responsibility to be assumed lightly. It is stressful. It is emotional. At times it can seem arduous. Ask for and accept support from family and friends. And watch for signs that you are burning out: changes in personal habits, depression and insomnia. You’ll be no good to a parent if you crack and then break.

Assuming you’re not prepared to give up your career, you’ll need some help. Paid-for home care can be very expensive—upwards of $5,000 a month for 24-hour a day care. While the government may cover a percentage of the cost of in-home nursing, when it comes to personal care—bathing, meal preparation and the like—you’ll have to foot the bill.

To prepare for the day when your parents may need your help, make sure they’ve executed durable powers of attorney for both financial and personal care. As your parents’ legally assigned representative, you’ll be able to access their bank accounts to pay for their expenses. You’ll also be able to make decisions about their long-term maintenance and health care.

You should also prepare for the day when at-home care is no longer a reasonable alternative. People tend to move to institutions as their metal and physical conditions deteriorate. To get your head wrapped around this option, visit your local seniors’ facilities so you know what’s out there, and if necessary, put your parent on the waiting list. Costs vary dramatically so make sure you have a back-up plan in case your first choice is too expensive. RBC Insurance has a list of long-term care provisions available by province.

If you’re worried about how you’re going to pay for all this, then you may want to look into long-term care insurance. Premiums aren’t exactly small change, but if you think your parents will live long and even slightly unhealthy lives, the premiums look like a drop in the bucket when compared to the out-of-pocket cost of long-term in-care.