Are the growing number of aging baby boomers steering the future of long-term care into a crisis? Over the past decade, we’ve heard a lot about the impending surge in the number of seniors our society will need to care for in an increasing longer old age, but what has been done to meet these needs beyond lip service?
The “2030 Problem,” when the number of elderly people will double the current population, is looming and although there is a big push to offer assistance in keeping seniors as healthy as possible while “aging in place,” nearly 42 per cent of people who live to 70 will spend time in a nursing home before their death, according to the National Institutes of Health. And boomers, who may enter long-term care later in life with complex medical issue including dementia, are likely to create a need for changes in staffing ratios. And it all costs money.
According to a recent Canadian Medical Association survey, 61 per cent of older Canadians doubt that hospitals and long-term care facilities will be able to meet the needs of the elderly population or that there will be enough services to help seniors who live at home.
While much of the care of our elders has been done with the unpaid assistance of family, most commonly by adult daughters, the rising number of women in the work force, increasing childlessness, higher divorce rates and smaller family sizes may mean women aren’t as available to provide care. It is uncertain if men will fill this care gap. It is expected however, that the number of paid hours of help for seniors will rise significantly over the next 20 to 40 years.
Long-term care insurance and increased retirement savings boosted with incentives as well as setting aside public funding are all good strategies to meeting the long-term care financing challenges of the near future. But with a shrinking work force, ongoing funding increases may not be a viable solution. Many boomers fear they have not put away enough and will outlive their retirement savings and are frequently working past 65 or taking part time jobs in retirement to hold on to savings longer.
In Ontario, nursing and personal care is funded by the government but room and board is paid by the resident unless the individual qualifies for a subsidy due to low income. The maximum monthly rate of a basic room (shared) is $1,774.81, semi-private accommodation is capped at $2,139.81 and a private room at $2,535.23. The average stay in long-term care is roughly a year but 20 per cent of seniors are expected to require care for up to five years.
While a national seniors’ care strategy is being called for by interested groups across the country, one has yet to be adopted at the federal level. However, the Canadian Medical Association has developed a policy framework to guide such a strategy. To read the framework online visit: https://www.cma.ca/Assets/assets-library/document/en/about-us/gc2015/policy-framework-to-guide-seniors_en.pdf .