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Chapter 5 - How much is this going to cost?

There’s Cost - And Then There’s Value

"Can I even afford this?"

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 skillful 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.

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.

Staying in Your Home

Let’s assume you’re in a house, and that it’s mortgage-free. All that’s left are the taxes, insurance, general upkeep, utility bills and your monthly expenses. You’re eligible for home care, and now a few hours a week, someone comes by to help you bathe and take your medications. In between those visits, your daughter also pops by and helps where she can. So far, so good.

This continues for a few years, and in that time your daughter gets a new job, and she just can’t stop by as often. You’re finding you could use a bit more help, but the funding won’t cover the extra hours, so you’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 you 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 you’re finding you’re spending most of your 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 you 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 you can stay home.

These are the obvious costs of remaining in your own home. There’s also the social side to consider. Are you surrounded by friends and neighbours, or are you finding yourself spending much of your time alone — your closest friends no longer living nearby, your family spread out. It is important to weigh the cost of staying home with the cost of other options.

Moving to a Retirement Residence

With a retirement community, costs are generally fully covered by you or your family on a monthly basis. That said, you’ve got it 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 you can focus on what matters to you most. To say nothing of the gourmet meals. You also get the care and support you need to manage your health through onsite or visiting care professionals, or you can even choose to bring in home care through government-funded or private services.

Because each retirement community is distinct in its offering, and your needs will also be unique, the per-month costs range widely. Do you want a studio suite, one-bedroom or two-bedroom unit? Are you looking for 24/7 concierge services? Or are you looking for a residence that has care available 24/7? Do you want to live in a heritage residence or in the heart of a major city, or do you prefer a more suburban atmosphere? How much care and support do you need to maintain your independence? The answers to all of these questions determine how much you’ll end up paying.

When considering the cost of retirement community living, remember that you’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 you and the choices you make about the type of community you want to live in and the level of service you expect; the amount of care you require may also increase your 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, you can expect to pay somewhere in the range of $1,000 to $3,000 per month, depending on the province, your 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 designed around your health, comfort and well-being, 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, you won’t have the regular monthly expenses of managing your own home and should consider that when considering the cost of long term care.

Like most things in life, no matter which direction you decide to go, cost is a factor in senior living. Your situation, your needs, your choices, are uniquely yours. How much it all costs will be unique to you too. Where the costs and the value your choice brings to your life meet is the sweet spot.