The High Cost of Caring for Our Old Parents

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Last week’s data release from Statistics Canada showed that Canada now has more old (over 65) than young (14 or less).  The shift in the country’s demographics brings with it important issues that span society, including housing, consumer choices, political agendas, and health, with the latter issue (health) often getting the most attention. Little wonder – with age comes increased use of health care facilities and greater costs associated with health care.

When we talk about the health needs of an aging population, we tend to think of the brick and mortar type costs of health – the cost of hospitals, beds, and the health teams that work within them. But community costs, including the costs that families must pay for health care provision, are an additional and important part of the costing associated with aging. A new study by CIBC, a large Canadian bank, reports the high cost of caring for our older parents, estimating that it costs the Canadian economy an estimated whopping $33 billion a year in out-of-pocket expenses and time off work, including vacation time! Of course, that estimate will increase as the number of Canada’s old increases.

Of the $33 billion, a comparatively small amount ($6 billion, or about $3,300 per caregiver per year) is associated with out-of-pocket costs for caregiving to older parents. The majority of the cost – some $27 billion annually – comes in the form of time taken off of work to care for parents, money that is not spent elsewhere in the Canadian economy. There are also significant variations in the amount paid, with the cost of care higher for low income Canadians who tend to spend more time caring for their parents as compared to higher income earners. Women are also associated with higher caring costs.

Would costs for caring be similar in other countries? Broadly speaking, ‘yes’, as there would be costs associated with time off work and out-of-pocket expenses, with individuals having lower income and women likely bearing a larger burden. But, different health care systems and different insurance coverage would alter the picture.

Further Reading:                                                 

Benjamin Tal and Royce Mendes. 2017. Who Cares: The Economics of Caring For Aging Parents. In Focus, 8 May 2017. Available at: https://mma.prnewswire.com/media/508410/Canadian_Imperial_Bank_of_Commerce_Caring_for_aging_parents_cost.pdf?p=original

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