Spotlight on Home Care in Canada

Would you be able to age in place if you wanted to?

While there is much that could be improved upon in Canada’s healthcare, we are fortunate to have within our arsenal the Canada Health Act, Canada’s federal legislation for publicly funded health care insurance, which insures in person hospital stays or physician visits.  Unfortunately, when it comes to receiving homecare/home health care, the government does not cover all costs.

Homecare or home health care refers to care in the home for:

  • short-term care for those recovering from surgery or acute medical conditions;
  • long-term support for those with chronic conditions;
  • specialized programs such as end-of-life care or rehabilitation.

It can entail nursing care, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, personal care such as bathing, dressing and feeding, speech therapy, respite care, homemaking, meal preparation.

While we might wish otherwise, for many of us, aging can mean that at some point in the future we need in home support with our activities of daily living, either after a temporary setback, or on a more ongoing basis. If you’re living a life of independence, the thought of needing care can be a hard thing to contemplate.  It’s also difficult to predict just what your future needs or those of someone you care about might be.

Still, the matter of care at home is an important part of contingency planning for the future.

For many, without resources in place, home care or home health care support from the government means unmet needs.  Because home and health care is the responsibility of provinces and territories, there are major differences across the country in terms of how the care is accessed, wait times, standards related to care, extent to which needs are met, and cost of private services for any unmet needs.

In general, individuals who find their care needs exceed governmental support are left to pay privately. Due to the high cost of private alternatives, the vast majority of home care needs in Canada could not be met without the fundamental support of family funded care (unpaid, informal caregivers), who, according to a recent University of Alberta study, deliver the health system an estimated $66 billion of care annually. In other cases, where there are simply not resources, individuals end up in hospital care or in nursing homes.

What are your options, should home care be needed temporarily or on a more ongoing basis?

Asking yourself some key questions and having conversations with close people in your life can be a critical step in putting a plan in place and getting some peace of mind.

Issues to consider:

  • How is my current living environment? Would any changes be helpful to make aging in place more possible?
  • Are there any conditions or illnesses that my partner or I have that might increase the changes of needing more help in the future?
  • Are there people in my life who would support me as family funded caregivers (unpaid, informal caregivers) if needed?
  • Would I be able to afford self-pay options to supplement governmental support?
  • Would my preference be to age at home or do I see myself moving somewhere else like a care facility?

As always, knowledge is power.

CARP recommends planning for future needs by thinking about your preferences, as well as becoming informed of available resources, the scope of government funded programs available to you, and your options for family funded care. Families can then consider how they can, and will, best leverage publicly and privately funded options to achieve the type and level of care and support they will want and need

Home Instead is a company focused on home care services.  It has several free senior care resources to help with planning which you can access at

How is CARP advocating?

As well as fighting for a culture change in long-term institutional care, and support for caregivers, CARP believes better home and community-based solutions are critical to resolving Canada’s long-term care crisis.

96% of CARP members tell us they want to age in place, and nearly a quarter have admitted to supplementing publicly funded home care with private alternatives.

Compared to other Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, Canada spends significantly less of its long-term care spending on home and community care v/s institutional care (long term care facilities, nursing homes)

Long-term care spending

OECD country average:   65% on institutional care     35% on home care

Canada:                               87% on institutional care    13% on home care

CARP is fighting for national home care standards and sustainable funding that would allow Canadians to age at home for as long as possible.