It’s widely acknowledged that the global population is aging and as the Baby Boomer generation reaches retirement age and life expectancy lengthens, the number of elderly adults requiring care will soar. But how governments will fund public long-term and nursing care for an estimated triple the number of seniors isn’t clear. And with shrinking birth rates, there are fewer adults to provide unpaid caregiving to aging family members.
According to the Globe and Mail, a report by the National Institute on Ageing at Ryerson University predicts that Canadian public long-term care costs for seniors will triple over the next 30 years. That’s an increase from $22 billion to $71 billion. Long-term care is funded with general tax revenue in Canada, and at present, there is no special fund to cover long-term care. In many families, unpaid caregiving picks up the slack when long-term care needs are not being met.
Informal caregiving, however, takes a toll on families, not only financially when caregivers must cut back or give up their paying jobs to take care of an elderly loved one, but also emotionally. Caregiving, especially for older adults with dementia, can be extremely stressful and isolating. Family caregivers may find they have very little time for self-care, to enjoy activities with friends, get regular exercise or even visit the doctor themselves. And with fewer siblings to share the responsibility of caring for aging parents, smaller families and single adults will be carrying a heavier caregiving load.
Many adults today can expect to live into their 80s or 90s, and with advancing age, many seniors will have complex health care needs. A shortage of long-term health care workers compounds the problem of meeting the future needs of the impending “silver tsunami” of aging boomers.
Older adults can start now to plan for their future care needs by evaluating finances, investigating local government long-term care practices and policies and talking openly with family about elder care. By planning ahead, some of the burdens can be lifted from the shoulders of family caregivers during an emergency; which is so often when decisions must be made quickly in terms of care needs. Learn more about planning for long-term care with this resource guide by the AARP.