Caring for aging family members

Learn about the facts regarding Canadian caregivers and financial factors to consider when faced with caring for an aging family member.

What comes to mind when you think about caring for your aging family member?

  • the physical and emotional well-being of your family member
  • the impact on you and your family
  • the costs associated with caregiving (being the caregiver, hiring one or using a long-term care facility)
  • caring for the financial affairs of the care recipient 

Each of these are integral factors to consider when faced with this circumstance. If the financial matters are not addressed as part of this process, they will find their way to the forefront. 

Canadian caregivers

First, let’s look at the facts. According to a 2014 study performed by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), 19 per cent of older Canadians care for a person living with an age-related problem.

  • 47 per cent do so at least 10 hours per week
  • 76 per cent are family members
  • 34 per cent experience stress, anger or depression

Overall, 28 per cent of Canadians over age 14 are family caregivers, according to the results of a 2012 Statistics Canada study. Our growing, aging population and increase in the average life span indicate that this percentage has probably risen since then, and will continue to do so. This increased number of family caregivers will result in financial challenges for Canadian society.

Caregiving and associated costs 

It is surprising that only five per cent of caregivers for aging parents received governmental financial assistance and, of those, 28 per cent would have liked to receive more (2012 Statistics Canada study). It is thus important to identify the direct costs related to caregiving, and assess the impacts on you and/or your family.

These are some of the out-of-pocket costs that can be associated with caregiving:

  • transportation
  • meal preparation
  • grocery shopping
  • personal hygiene
  • medical procedures and/or treatments
  • prescription and non-prescription medication
  • medical equipment
  • private home care or nursing home/assisted living/continuing care retirement facility

Keep in mind there are hidden costs as well, which can include:

  • lost/reduced employment income
  • lost productivity
  • psychological impact (stress, anger, depression)

These hidden costs should not be underestimated. 

Although there are government resources available, unfortunately the financial support is not substantial, and this can contribute additional stress to providing caregiving. The following federal benefits are available:

  • Non-refundable Family Caregiver Tax Credit
  • Employment Insurance (EI) Compassion Care benefits
  • Non-refundable Caregiver Amount
  • Non-refundable Medical Expense Tax Credit

In addition, all provinces provide a number of weeks of protected leave for compassionate care, as well as funded respite services and caregiver tax credits, which vary by province.

Caring for financial affairs

Now that you have identified the costs of caregiving, someone needs to ensure your family member’s financial affairs are in order as well. A checklist can help you identify tasks you should keep in mind, the person(s) responsible, and the timing of performing the task. Some examples with which a cost may be associated can be found in this table. This can give you a starting point for creating your own table.

Caring for an aging family member is a multi-faceted experience providing rewards and challenges. Financial affairs are an integral part of this experience, so seek the advice of others who are skilled or experienced in this area, like a CPA. There is no need to do this alone.

Keep the conversation going

What was your experience like when caring for an aging family member? Post a comment below.

Disclaimer

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of CPA Canada.

About the Author

Kathy Lempert, CPA, CGA

Kathy has a strategic and business advisory services consulting practice. Her experience in the aerospace, medical, real estate, pharmaceutical, telecommunications and manufacturing industries includes management of IT software development, treasury back office, development of policies, process and procedures, business process improvement, business plans and budgets. Kathy co-founded a charity in 2014 called Kehilla Montreal Residential Programs, whose mission is to provide a variety of affordable housing solutions that will help break the cycle of poverty. She has also served as a director on various charitable boards, including being treasurer of a large Montreal charity.