Families, women, are bearing our health care burden

When my mum’s income slid over the GIS threshold ($20k/year), her in-home care went from free to an unaffordable third of her income – for only a half hour of daily service, to dress, bathe, feed and medicate her.

So we, her small family, had to take that on, in addition to the cooking, cleaning, shopping, laundry, transportation, and finances we already handled for her. Private care, with a two-hour daily minimum, cost $40/hour.(The care aides earn less than half.)

Long-term care seems a bargain at 80% of your income – including housing, all those home services, and 24/7 care. But nobody wants to sacrifice autonomy to live in an institution, with little say in your care, possibly sharing a room with three strangers.

We all hope to “age in place” at home, but won’t admit that will likely require years of in-home care.

Canada’s demographics and economy have changed drastically. When I was born, life expectancy was only 68; now it’s 80 for men, 84 for women.

None of us planned on an extra decade of being old. And there aren’t enough young people to care for us; a third of the Coast is already over 65, which will worsen as the Boomers age.

Many seniors’ services rely on a shrinking pool of volunteers, often senior women themselves. Our healthcare system depends annually on billions of hours of unpaid work by family caregivers – also mostly women – who sacrifice our careers, income, future pension, home life, and mental health for our loved ones. Canada’s convoluted caregiver benefits pay too little to too few; other countries pay family caregivers directly.

It’s time we planned better for our futures. Co-ops for in-home and long-term care, where seniors, families and staff are all voting members, are better options.