A similar service in Saskatchewan is provided through that province’s Regional Health Authorities. Services can include nursing, therapies (in some areas), personal care, home management, meals, respite and minor home maintenance. While some of the services are calculated on a fee basis, others such as visiting, security calls and transportation are free.
In British Columbia, informal caregivers are encouraged to apply to the B.C. Palliative Care Benefits Program, which provides eligible candidates access to the B.C. Palliative Care Drug Program and the Palliative Medical Supplies and Equipment Program.
In Prince Edward Island, contact the P.E.I. Home Care and Support Program (www.gov.pe.ca/government). The unit provides health care and support services including assessment, care co-ordination, nursing, personal care, respite, homemaking, occupational and physical therapies, adult protection, palliative care and community-based dialysis.
TAX CREDITS AND DEDUCTIONS
And don’t forget savings under the Income Tax Act. The informal caregiver (as well as those using a long-term care facility) can realize significant savings through a number of tax credits and deductions.
“The Income Tax Act provides for credits and deductions for families trying to help the infirm and disabled. But in order not to miss out, one has to make sure the preliminary paperwork is complete and the tax returns filed accurately,” says Saul Judelman, a Toronto-based chartered accountant. To make a claim, you must complete and file Form T2201, Disability Tax Credit Certificate, which must be certified by a medical practitioner. “I would advise checking with your tax adviser so as not to miss out, as the rules can get rather complicated,” says Judelman.
For informal caregivers thinking of leaving the workforce to care for a loved one, a call should be placed to the Employment Insurance Compassionate Leave plan. Normally, such benefits are paid when an informal caregiver is absent from work to provide care to a gravely ill family member at risk of dying within 26 weeks. Another financial lifeline is the early disability entitlement under the Canada and Quebec pension plans. The Canada Pension Plan/Quebec Pension Plan disability benefit is available to people who have made enough contributions and whose disability prevents them from working at any job on a regular basis. The disability must be long term or likely to result in death. The maximum benefit paid under both plans is $1,053.77.
ACCESSING EMERGENCY PENSION FUNDS
And if you are an employee participating in a registered pension plan, hardship rules allow participants early access to funds.
In Ontario, the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (www.fsco.gov.on.ca) will give “prompt and careful attention” to applications for the withdrawal of funds pursuant to Regulation 909 under the Pension Benefits Act. For example, investments in an Ontario Life Income Fund, Locked-in Retirement Income Fund or a Locked-in Retirement Account can be accessed prior to the regulatory set age of 55. The contributor must be suffering an illness or physical disability that is likely to shorten one’s life to less than two years. Extreme financial hardship is another basis for an application.
“You’ve got to make the case to FSCO. It’s on a case-by-case basis,” says Larry Berdugo, certified financial planner of Toronto-based Independent Financial Concepts Group Ltd. “Pension plan administrators cannot free up the funds until they get a letter from FSCO guiding us on how much can be released,” Berdugo says. “They might say: take some of it, all of it, none of it and then we can free up whatever that amount is.”