A financial strategy for caregivers

“Most people don’t consider what their employers provide for elder care. Many employers have an employee assistance program that does provide family counselling, information and referral around elder-care issues,” says Schroeder, who adds that many plans extend beyond the employee’s tenure.

For example, Veterans of the Canadian armed forces are eligible to a wide range of home and institutional support programs. The Veterans Independence Program (www.vac-acc.gc.ca) offers help with preparing meals, housekeeping, yard work, home adaptation and transportation. (In a recent case, a Second World War veteran who was paying for a private long-term care facility in Toronto found out he was eligible for free care at the veterans long-term care wing of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.)

Another veteran support program is the Assistance Fund (AF). This provides funds to War Veterans Allowance recipients to meet emergency needs that threaten their health and/or safety. Veterans may also qualify for grants for emergencies that affect shelter, clothing and health or for the repair or replacement of appliances and furnishings.

The second stop for many is the publicly funded and community-supported home-care services. Although free services are somewhat sparse, every province and territory funds home care support. Some are provided by regional units and health authorities of that jurisdiction’s ministry of health, while others are offered by non-profit community support services.

In Ontario, for example, seniors hunting for publicly funded services visit the nearest Community Care Access Centre (CCAC). The CCACs are the point of access to home-care services such as nursing, personal support (help with bathing, dressing, etc.), physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech-language therapy and medical supplies and equipment. (Home care is assessed and delivered in a similar structure in other provinces and territories.)

For five years, the Samuels used CCAC no-cost services for Fred’s bathing assistance three times a week for one hour a day.

“Most people who call us have never really heard of the CCAC at all. We will always direct them back to the CCAC for the publicly funded system,” says Susan Vanderbent, executive director of the Ontario Home Health Care Providers’ Association.


Once informal caregivers have maximized no- or low-cost services from the CCACs in Ontario, they should contact partially funded community support services agencies. For example, the 360 members of the Ontario Community Support Association (www.ocsa.on.ca) provide a wide range of home care support services to 750,000 clients.

“They are all funded differently. The cost for each of the services varies. There is some financial aid. Some might be free; some might have a small client fee. There could be an opportunity for a subsidy,” says Lori Payne, manager of communications and development, Ontario Community Support Association.

For example, Lambton Elderly Outreach Inc. in Wyoming, Ont., 100 kilometres northwest of London, is funded by the United Way, Ontario’s Ministry of Health and private donations. According to Lambton’s community support supervisor, Linda Needham, the basic rate for most caregiver support is $16 an hour. These rates can drop as low as $8 an hour based on a family financial means test. In some limited situations, Meals on Wheels is available for free as well as respite for caregivers who cannot leave their family member alone.