We’ve been waiting for this question. Because as good as it all sounds, everything comes with a price.
There’s a great misconception that senior care is free, and that the government covers all the costs. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. You will get some government funding for home care or long term care, but you’ll usually have to pay part of the cost. For retirement residences, it’s generally all on you. These costs can range widely, and calculating them requires some skilful accounting.
But before you start figuring out ballpark costs, we’ve got a question for you: what do you value? Costs related to a lifestyle change such as this are much more complex than what you’ll see on a spreadsheet. There are many things to consider, so let’s examine a few of them.
Home Care Costs
Let’s assume your mom or dad is in a house, and that it’s mortgage-free. All that’s left are the taxes, insurance, general upkeep, utility bills and their monthly expenses. They’re eligible for home care, and now a few hours a week, someone comes by to help with shopping, laundry and other stuff. In between those visits, you and your siblings also pop by and helps where you can. So far, so good.
This continues for a few years, and in that time you get a new job, and you just can’t stop by as often. They’re finding they could use a bit more help, but the funding won’t cover the extra hours, so they’re paying a private provider for additional care that ranges between $25 and $100 dollars an hour for more complex care services. There are special programs for lower incomes, if they qualify, which help people age at home, but those don’t necessarily cover everything.
Then there’s the house itself. It’s in good shape, but they’re spending most of their time on the main floor, avoiding the stairs. It needs some accessibility upgrades: a lift for the stairs, a chair in the tub and handrails. These upgrades cost a few thousand. You’re also paying someone to cut the grass, remove the snow and do odd jobs around the house to keep things in order. But it means they can stay home.
These are the obvious costs of home care. But there’s also the social side to consider. If they’re surrounded by friends and neighbours, then they may not wish to make a move. But if they’re finding themselves spending much of their time alone — their closest friends no longer living nearby, their family spread out — then it’s time to weigh the cost of staying home with cost of other options.
Retirement Living Costs
With a retirement community, costs are generally fully covered by the individual or their family on a monthly basis. That said, it’s all covered: a place to live, social activities, a thriving environment and the ability to let someone else think about mundane tasks like cleaning, so that they can focus on what matters to them most. To say nothing of the gourmet meals. They also get the care and support they need to manage their health through onsite or visiting care professionals, or they can even choose to bring in home care through government-funded or private services.
Because each retirement community is distinct in its offering, and their needs will also be unique, the per-month costs range widely. Do they want a studio suite, one-bedroom or two-bedroom unit? Are they looking for 24/7 concierge services? Or do they need care available 24/7? Do they want to live in a heritage residence or in the heart of a major city, or do they prefer a more suburban atmosphere? How much care and support do they need to maintain their independence? The answers to all of these questions determine how much they’ll end up paying.
When considering the cost of retirement community living, remember that they’ve also eliminated the monthly expenses we discussed earlier related to maintaining a home. So while we can’t give you a definitive answer, some ballpark numbers would be $2,000 per month on the low end with minimal service, to $4,000 per month for a mid-range option and upwards of $10,000 per month on the high end. Remember, it all depends on the person and their choices about the type of community they want to live in and the level of service they expect; the care they’ll require may also increase costs.
Long Term Care Costs
There’s a misconception that long term care is free. It’s not. The cost of long term care is actually shared by the government – who pays for everything to do with care – and the resident, who typically pays for accommodation. In long term care, residents are provided with basic furnishings as well, including a bed, bedside table and chair.
The monthly accommodation fee varies depending on the province, and is set by the government. Generally, they can expect to pay somewhere in the range of $1,000 to $3,000 per month, depending on the province, their income, the accommodation type and how old the building is. Some provinces may be able to provide more financial support for lower income residents.
Long term care homes provide seniors who are no longer able to live independently with more care, available 24/7, for complex chronic conditions or cognitive challenges. With on-staff health professionals and programs like rehabilitation, wound care and specialized dementia care, it can be the right place for those who need high levels of care. As we discussed earlier, they won’t have the regular monthly expenses of managing their own home and should consider that when considering the cost of long term care.
Like most things in life, no matter which direction that’s taken, cost is a factor in senior living. Your mom or dad’s situation, their needs, their choices, are unique to them. How much it all costs will be unique too. Where the costs and the value that their choice brings to their life meet - that is the sweet spot.