Impact of Canada’s aging population: Part 3

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BY: FAZAAD BACCHUS 

There are lots of decisions you will have to make at some time in your life as you age.  These decisions will be based on estate planning, your powers of attorney, completing your wills, and possibly long-term care. But before we do, let’s examine the role of a caregiver and how that works in our society.

Of course, you may remember that earlier I mentioned that times have changed and many families today are caught up in a sandwich generation which makes caregiving even more difficult. Imagine having to take care of both your children and your parents at the same time. According to statistics 48% of either parents or parents in law will need caregiver assistance.

Caregivers are usually females, and that doesn’t mean that men don’t do anything, they do most of the work around the house. In addition to family obligations and personal commitments, about 60% of caregivers are also juggling the demands of paid work. This can result in disruptions to normal work routines. About four in ten employed caregivers indicated that they arrived to work late, had to leave early, or take time off during the day to care for their ill family member or friend.

How is the caregiver’s job affected? A reduction in paid work hours can have consequences on both employee benefits and household income. Among employed caregivers who reduce their hours of work, 14% lose some or all of their benefits, such as extended health benefits, dental benefits, and employer-provided pension, life insurance, and prescription drug plans. This adds further financial burden to the caregiver’s family.

It’s hard to be a family caregiver: You are rarely considered part of the care team…often ignored and isolated…the last person to receive any support…caught between multiple, competing priorities….caregivers do not feel they have a right to complain about the pressures and losses. It’s hard to be a care recipient: no one wants to be cared for all the time…no one wants to be dependent on another and have to ask for help…no one wants to lose their independence.

So, aging may not be what everyone wants! When someone has reached the point where they can no longer be independent, either from a critical illness such as stroke, or have had an accident, a family meeting is needed.  Among the specific concerns that may trigger the needs for a meeting concerning the physical or mental condition of the elder, concerns about current living arrangements and/or the elder’s ability for self-care. It is at this time that the family has to pull together.

Before a family meeting takes place, it is a good idea to prepare a structured agenda.  Someone in the family will generally introduce the idea of a meeting and arrange the date and location. The agenda should address such matters as: Can someone be hired to help with some tasks and activities? What can other family members do? Are friends and neighbors available to help?

If not done early enough, by the time a decision has to be made it would have to be done through the power of attorney which might be too late. In our next issue, we will take a look at the POA and its place in your planning.

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