Holding Mom's Hand

It is the phone message we all dread but one that more and more Canadians will receive. Mom’s neighbour called. She was found on the kitchen floor. She had been there for two days. She tripped. Her hip is broken. Her wrist is badly strained. She couldn’t lift herself off the floor. She’s severely dehydrated. The paramedic said he’d seen worse. She could have fallen on the stairs, or in the backyard in January. Mom will recover but can’t live by herself anymore and she needs our help.

It’s a fact of life that people will grow old and eventually pass away. Another fact that is becoming evident — but one many people have a hard time facing — is that Mom or Dad may live to a ripe old age but will need specialized care to deal with mild or severe physical or mental challenges. The truth is that, as seniors live into their 80s or longer, their middle-aged children must now become their main caregivers and provide them with appropriate housing and financial and emotional support. But are they up to the task?

Canadians living longer than ever before

The statistics tell the story. In 2015, the average Canadian woman who was 60 could look forward to living another 26 years, while men could confidently live another 23 years. With life expectancies climbing and birth rates falling, seniors 65 and older could represent up to 25% of Canada’s population.

Many Canadians are helping their parents with their time and money but the types of situations and intensity of senior care differs greatly — from cleaning grandpa’s eaves troughs to becoming an around-the-clock nurse. The costs of healthcare expenses also vary widely, as does government funding, subsidies, and the quality of private and community care. Whatever the bottom line, the costs may play a significant part in a family’s finances. For example, in-home care can cost $20 to $30 an hour while a registered nurse could cost $40 to $69 an hour. For those who need a full-time nurse, that could cost upwards of $100,000 annually.

When your parents need you

For adult children, there are warning signs your elderly relative may need increased care. Trigger events, such as a fall, are obvious accidents that can immediately make an independent senior immobile.

Signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease are more subtle. A parent may gradually forget to care for a pet or about their own hygiene. More alarming is a behaviour called ‘exit seeking,’ where a senior is compelled to leave their home and wander. While it is natural to regard some of these instances as forgetfulness, these warning signs could lead to danger if a senior forgets to take medication.

When a family does finally accept that a parent needs help to get them through day-to-day activities, the family is sometimes dealing with their own stress and confusion over what kind of care is needed, who is responsible for providing the care, what role the family plays and how much it will all cost. It becomes more complicated when families are spread out across the country.

Ensuring you can act on their behalf

When children first begin managing parent care, they may not be able to access their parents’ bank account or even buy medications if the parent is incapacitated and is unable to give consent for an adult child or family to act on his or her behalf.

The power of attorney — for property or personal care — is the legal tool to help families support parents when they become debilitated or unable to make decisions concerning their assets, property and health. The document allows the person appointed by the parent to act on his or her behalf.

The other function of power of attorney is for personal care, which deals with the type of healthcare a person may want if they become incapacitated, such as where they will live or what they will eat, and how they would like to manage end-of-life situations.

In all scenarios, working with an advisor and discussing the needs of your family can help you take control of costs and challenges as your elderly relatives age. It will help to ensure you are prepared for the day when you have to step into the caretaker role. For example, there are often viable insurance solutions available for critical and long-term care. There are many different solutions that MacDonald Wealth Group can offer a family in helping to plan for these types of scenarios. Please feel welcome to contact us to discuss a solution that might work for your family.

Meghan MacDonald, CIM® is an Investment Advisor with the MacDonald Wealth Group, who serves, retirees, business owners, professionals and their families throughout the Okanagan. Meghan specializes in building relationships with, and meeting the unique wealth management needs of women investors.

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