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The true cost of long term care

Pete Aarssen's picture
Mon, 05/08/2017 - 10:32 -- Pete Aarssen

Many of us have participated in the challenging decision to register a loved one in a long term care facility. This decision is often made necessary due to the consequences of old age; that time when an aged person loses the ability to completely care for themselves in the activities of daily living; called ADL’S (Activities of daily living). Things like dressing and bathing, walking, cooking and feeding oneself. While the wait for placement is long, about 103 days, there are more than 637 facilities in Ontario to choose from. Finding the right one is important as the average stay exceeds 18 months. Remarkably, many elders can function well in an environment of assisted living. Despite the genuine challenges of physical limitations and/or cognitive impairment, they can yet live an engaging and active social life, for their circumstances. What do I mean?

With more than 5% of Canadians, over the age of 65 live in a long term care facility and rising, people are starting to ask: What is the cost of obtaining long term care? Well, while it can vary, a private room in an Ontario based long term care facility can run about $2500.00 a month. A semi-private room is about a $400.00/month less. Sometimes lower cost ward coverage is available, though not often, and there is financial assistance to enable lower income Canadians support but for most people, the private and semi-private costs cited are reality. Canadians mistakenly believe that they can count on the government to fund their care as they age. There is considerable support provided but it is limited to the genuine health costs and doesn’t approach the full cost of staying in a long term care facility. So what do you get for your money? While I can’t speak from broad personal experience, I can share what I have. We recently registered a loved one in a care facility. While the decision to do so what tough to swallow, the price for a private room was a close second. When calculating anyone’s minimum fixed monthly living expenses, we don’t arrive at anything near $2500.00; perhaps $800.00 in rent, utilities and food, insurance and miscellaneous expenses and you arrive quite short of that number and those costs are often shared across multiple residents! So how is $2500.00/month justified? Well, for one thing, it is a care facility. The first and foremost value being that any resident can be assured of a reasonably high and full time level of professional health care. With a fall as we age being so consequential, assistance with limited mobility, care for most circulatory and respiratory disorders and of course feeding and bathing services as well as ensuring a well managed pharmaceutical regimen, is a lot already. In addition, while we were initially quite skeptical of the monthly costs, our loved one’s room is large, well appointed and attractive. We were able choose where to place things, bring in some furniture from home and were invited to decorate the room to our tastes. Their handyman even did the work for us! At meal time, initially our siblings and my wife and I took turns being there to help. We still do so yet, with the recently legislated increased number of personal care workers per resident and in our case, the long term care facilities own decisions on staffing, we find there is staff everywhere and they truly seem to love their work! There are other aspects of care that go a long way to making the resident’s stay enjoyable. A variety of engaging social and Faith based programs are facilitated and there are some pets right on property; birds and fish and companion animals that often make the rounds. Our facility has a well stocked library and video cupboard and the grounds are beautifully kept with ample, safe sidewalks and courtyards with a variety of trees and amenities. The food is quite good; who among us gets the choice of two different deserts, everyday! There is a wide spectrum of personal experiences to be found in this area but you know, while our loved misses living at home, he doesn’t mind so much where he now lives, given that his experience has stood the test of some time. So what is the real cost of long term care? Well, if you ask me, I would say that when a well equipped and attractive facility demonstrates above average care and treatment of your loved one, that cost is priceless!

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