They say it takes a village to raise a child, but what about an elderly parent? With a rapidly aging population in Canada, the burden of caregiving has become a concrete and anticipated reality.
In 2016, for the first time in history, the number of Canadians over 65 was higher than those under 14. And with the aging baby boom generation, seniors are projected to make up one quarter of the Canadian population by 2036. As these demographics shift, children of elderly parents find themselves increasingly burdened with the caregiving responsibilities. In fact 44% of Canadian caregivers report caring for both an aging parent and a child.
Financial and emotional costs
The care of an elderly parent costs Canadians an estimated $33 billion dollars per year in lost income or foregone vacations, as well as out-of-pocket expenses not covered by federal programs. Less measurable is the psychological cost, with 60% of people caring for a parent reporting psychological factors related to their care-giving duties – including depression, anxiety, sleep problems and more.
So is there anything a family can do to prepare for this scenario? What constitutes the “village” that helps with elderly care-giving? Put simply, who cares for the caregivers?
One family’s struggle
Sandra became very aware of this potential burden when her mother passed away unexpectedly. “We had always thought mum and dad would take care of each other as they grew old,” she says. “Suddenly, dad’s future looked different.”
Sandra and her brother worried about their father’s psychological state. “He was sad and lonely, rattling around in that big house of theirs,” says Sandra. “We took turns visiting, but it was tough for us, too – every corner reminded us of mum.”
The whole family began to consider what would happen if Sandra’s father’s health began to deteriorate. “At first, nobody wanted to bring it up,” remembers Sandra. “We each, separately, felt guilty for even considering the idea.”
Eventually, it was Sandra’s father who broke the tension: “Over breakfast one day, he just grinned and said ‘I intend to stick around for a while – what are y’all gonna’ do with me?’” And the family finally discussed the practicalities – did he have enough money to live on? Did they want to sell the house? What did this new future look like?
Taking the First Step
Initially, Sandra was unsure how to proceed. Her father was in good health; health care didn’t seem immediately relevant. Nonetheless, she contacted a Health Information Specialist from Novus Health (and add-on program from her employee benefits package) to see what they had to say. “I figured they’d tell me they could only help with health problems,” says Sandra, “but I didn’t know where else to turn.”
To her surprise, she received a report from her designated specialist within days. It included financial projections based on the family’s actual situation, including possible scenarios if her father decided to downsize their property. Armed with this information, the family was able to make practical decisions quickly – Sandra’s father opted to downsize to a smaller house, and felt confident that his investments and pensions would support his lifestyle comfortably and help him avoid being a burden to his children.
One Situation at a Time
Sandra is aware that she may simply have set her role as caregiver down the road a few years. “We might eventually need to care for him physically,” she says, “but knowing that he’s financially and emotionally taken care of should help with that burden when the time comes.”
Sure, in a modern world, we no longer have the village to care for its elderly members. But perhaps, with a little foresight and some outside advice, you just might be your own village.
Discover how we help our clients and their employees, members and customers.