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(Yuri Arcurs/Getty Images/Hemera)
(Yuri Arcurs/Getty Images/Hemera)

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The next discussion we need to have: Caring for seniors Add to ...

Natalie Stechyson: Is caring for family members at home a possible solution to health care costs?

Susan Eng - CARP: CARP argues that if aging at home is properly funded and supported, with the potential to lever the contribution of family caregivers, there is the potential to divert massive amounts of demand from the health care budgets - leaving more money to build the long term care beds for those who need them. This requires political will - the vision was already provided in the Romanov reports - but the funding pursuant to his health care accords is coming up for renewal. How willing are people to hold their politicians' feet to the fire to get the change we need? money has in fact been spent but we are still waiting for demonstrable results - as outlined in the recent Ontario auditor general's report

André Picard: I agree with Susan. Aging at home is what most people want, and our system should be built to facilitate that choice. If done properly, it's not necessarily a cost-saving measure, but it is more humane and results in better care. But aging at home is not just about homecare; it requires a broad range of social policies, from flexible work policies for caregivers through to decent public transit and clean sidewalks for seniors living in the community.

Comment From Alan Burke: Your own newspaper shows that most of the problem is increased demand from the entire public. There's also gross inefficiency in the system. As I commented to the article, I'm caught in the middle, caring for both children and an 89-year old parent.

Natalie Stechyson: Do you have any advice for Alan?

André Picard: There are many people who, like yourself, are in the sandwich generation, caring for children and parents. our health and social system does a lot for parents with young children, but a lot less for children with older parents. To me, the problem is not necessarily inefficiency but a lot of consistent policies. We should be offering similar levels of care (though not identical services) to the young and old alike.

Susan Eng - CARP: The politicians talk about sandwich generation but offer little besides hand wringing. The ideas are out there - to make it easier for people to care for their loved ones - younger and older. Some financial relief for those people who have to take time off work - and in the case of older loved ones - sometimes unexpectedly. There has to be workplace protection so that people don't loste their jobs over taking time off - just as we have protection for maternity leave

Comment From MW-MD: As we focus our efforts on keeping our elderly at home longer before they absolutely need nursing home placement what financial help is there already in place and proposed in the future for the family looking after their loved one?

Susan Eng - CARP: Aging at home is an idea that resonates with most people - the trouble is whether we see anything on the ground that allows people to face their medical challenges at home. Are family members able to get the home care, respite care and training that they need to care for their loved ones? The Veterans program provides a "navigator" to help a person get all the services for home or institutional care [even if they have to pay for them] What about getting such a navigator in the public system for everyone?

André Picard: As Susan mentioned, our public policies have not kept pace. We need to have maternity benefits and paternal leave provisions at both ends of the spectrum, not just for parents of young children.

Natalie Stechyson: Is there any appetite for people to buy private insurance to look after long term care needs?

Susan Eng - CARP: This is something the CMA has been touting. People need to realize how much long term care costs - even with public healthcare. Even nursing home co-payments - which may be the cheapest option because the co-payments are regulated - run from $1,500 to $2,200 per month - on top of what govt pays for the nursing care. Add in a couple of drugs that are not covered, or a brace for a broken arm, or a walker etc. and you can see how the costs mount up.

André Picard: In an article I wrote recently about health insurance, I noted that the two fastest-growing products are 1) critical illness insurance, which pays out a lump sum when you have a grave illness like cancer and 2) long-term care insurance, which pays for nursing home care.

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