Caregiving is an investment in your aging parent’s comfort, well-being and dignity. And caregiving also comes with real, and often significant, financial costs. Here's a guide to some of the most common costs of caregiving, and how caregivers can find support and resources along the way.
Types of costs to expect
Caregiving costs depend on so many things: your parent’s level of health and independence, whether they live at home or in an assisted-living facility or nursing home, what part of the country they live in, their own preferences, and how much care they need.
Care at home
With the right family and external supports, many Canadian seniors can live safely and independently in their own homes. Expenses here might include transportation costs, renovations, help around the house and supportive or nursing care.
You and your parent will need to consider the location of their home: Can your mom, for example, easily get to her doctor, the grocery store, the pharmacy? If she doesn’t drive, is public transportation reliable and nearby? Could you set up an account with a ride service? Do supportive family members live nearby? Are neighbours willing to help out?
Your dad wants to age in place in his own home. What renovations and modifications can help make his house more senior friendly?
Throughout the house, you might consider:
- rearranging or renovating to give your parent a bedroom and bathroom on the main level
- widening doorways and hallways, and increasing floor space to accommodate wheelchairs or walkers
- replacing door knobs with lever handles, which are easier to use
- installing sturdy handrails, as well as non slip flooring and non-slip tape on stairways
- increasing lighting, and installing motion-activated night lights or lights on timers
In the bathroom, aging-friendly renovations and modifications include:
- installing safety grab bars in the shower and toilet areas
- replacing the tub with a walk-in shower with a seat
- setting the water temperature to a safe level to avoid scalding and injuries
In the kitchen, you can consider:
- installing drawers instead of cabinets, and putting microwaves and other small appliances on countertops so that they’re more easily accessible
- replacing cabinet knobs with door pulls and switching out knob-style for lever-operated faucets
- installing an induction cooktop stove to reduce the chances of burns
If you’re not sure where to begin, it can be helpful to consult a home contractor who has completed the training required to become a Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist.
Tax credits for renovations
Renovations can be costly! Fortunately, some financial help is available. Some provincial and federal tax credits are available for renovations designed to make your parent’s home more accessible.
In Ontario, for example, the new Seniors’ Home Safety Tax Credit provides seniors and their families with tax credits of up to $2,500 when they spend up to $10,000 on renovations to make their homes more senior-friendly. The credit is currently available only in 2021. The federal government provides a Home Accessibility Expenses tax credit for eligible seniors with a disability and people over age 65.
Help at home
Many seniors can live safely and comfortably at home with a little bit of outside help. Some provincial public health units — for example, Local Health Integration Networks, or LHINs, in Ontario — may provide limited home-care services. Services like Meals on Wheels provide nutritious, low-cost meals (and regular check-ins) delivered right to your mom or dad’s home.
Part-time home caregivers
If your mom or dad needs a bit more help, they — or you and your siblings — may be able to pay for a few hours of private help each day with tasks like cleaning, dressing, or meal preparation. You can expect to pay a personal support worker (PSW) $20-$30 per hour for this kind of care. Nursing care will be more expensive, in the range of $60–$75 per hour and up.
Unsurprisingly, 24-hour home-care from a live-in caregiver will cost much more than part-time visits, and could run upwards of $10,000 per month.
Assisted living: Retirement homes, adult communities & retirement care facilities
Faced with the tasks of maintaining their own home, or the costs of help in the home, many seniors opt for assisted living.
Assisted-living facilities go by many names: retirement homes, retirement care facilities, independent living facilities, active adult communities, adult lifestyle communities, supportive housing. Whatever they’re called, they can be a great option for older adults who are mostly independent but might need some help with basic activities of daily living (ADLs), like showering, getting dressed or taking medication — or who just want the convenience and freedom not to have to worry about cooking, cleaning and laundry. They also provide company and community, through social and recreational activities, communal meals, and exercise programs. Many also offer transportation services.
It’s important to note that assisted-living facilities do not offer medical or nursing care.
Costs of assisted living
Residents of assisted living facilities (or their families) must pay for the costs themselves. The cost will vary depending on location, the facility itself and what kind of care residents need or opt for. Across Canada, costs range from about $1,500 to $6,000 a month or more at the highest end of the spectrum. Costs are highest in Ontario, and tend to be higher in cities.
Nursing homes & long-term care homes
Many people don’t understand the crucial difference between assisted living and nursing or long-term care homes. As discussed above, assisted-living is for adults who can live mostly independently but would like or need a bit of help.
Nursing homes (also known as long-term care, or LTC, homes), on the other hand, are for people who need medical care and significant, day-to-day help with the activities of daily living and medical help. They offer the full spectrum of medical care, from nursing, rehabilitation, medication management, memory care for people with dementia, and more. A person can’t simply decide that they’d like to move into a nursing home. Rather, they must be assessed by a provincial health unit as needing round-the-clock care.
Residents of nursing homes pay for the accommodations, while governments cover the cost of care. The costs will vary according to the type of accommodation (single or double room) and the province. Costs can range for zero in Nunavut to about $3,400 in BC; in Ontario, residents pay about $2,700 a month for a private room.
Fortunately, federal and provincial governments provide some financial assistance with the cost of care:
Each province and territory offers drug benefit plans for seniors and other groups who need help.
Tax benefits for caregivers
The federal medical expenses tax credit lets your parent (or their spouse or common-law partner) claim eligible medical expenses — including costs associated with assisted-fliving or LTC homes — in order to reduce their income tax.
The federal disability tax credit (DTC) also helps reduce income tax. If your parent has a disability that markedly restricts their basic activities of daily living, they may qualify for the DTC.
Compassionate care benefits
If you need to take time away from work to care for your elderly parent, you may be able to get Canadian government support through Employment Insurance benefits.
- The Family Caregiver Benefit for adults allows up to 15 weeks to care for a critically ill or injured person aged 18 or over.
- Compassionate care benefits (sometimes referred to as “compassionate care leave”) provide EI to provide up to 26 weeks to a person of any age who needs care at the end of life.
Generally, recipients can receive up to 55% of regular earnings, up to a maximum of $595 per week. You can learn more about these benefits and apply online.
Easily share and track all of your caregiving expenses
From minor home renovations to full-time nursing care, the costs of caregiving can add up quickly. And that can get overwhelming. The CareEasy app can help: it lets you keep track of all the expenses associated with your loved one’s care, and to share those expenses with the other partners in your circle.