By Janet Mclean
According to a new report from CIBC, the cost of caring for family members and friends comes with a big price tag for unpaid caregivers. Many Canadians juggle the demands of employment along with providing care to family members and friends and it is estimated that this is costing them $33 billion in out-of-pocket expenses, time off work and foregone vacation time, a number that is expected to continue growing.
The report, “Who Cares: The Economics of Caring For Aging Parents”, co-authored by CIBC Deputy Chief Economist Benjamin Tal and Senior Economist Royce Mendes suggests nearly 2 million Canadians (14% of those with parents over the age of 65) spend about $3,300 each per year – an overall cost to the Canadian economy of ~$6 billion. The bigger cost comes in the form of time taken off work. The survey showed close to 30% of workers with senior parents also sacrifice about 450 working hours per year.
The report goes on to predict the costs associated with unpaid caregiving will mushroom by more than 20 percent over the next 10 years based on the changing demographic of Canada. “An aging population combined with longer life spans and strained social services has in recent years seen more and more Canadians taking on the role of caregiver for their aging parents, and in the coming years, that tendency is only likely to intensify,” explains Tal.
This prediction is difficult to refute given the findings of the latest Statistics Canada census. For the first time in the survey’s history there are more Canadians over the age of 65 than under the age of 15 and Centenarians are the fastest growing segment of the population. Consequently, these growing costs will be borne by a shrinking proportion of the population as those of working age (15-64 years) are on the decline, now at 66.5% of the total population, down from 68.5% in 2011. Tal goes on to say “Add in the fact that costs associated with the elderly are already rising faster than the pace of inflation because of the high demand for such goods and services, and you can see that this will be a major concern for a growing number of Canadians in the years to come”.
And all of this is a double whammy for lower income Canadians and female caregivers. The report found that caregivers with lower incomes are more likely to have
parents with less savings so this trend will have a more significant impact on them. And females who continue to constitute the majority of adult caregivers are also at a disadvantage.
A Statistics Canada review conducted in 20121 found that 54% of caregivers in Canada are women. According to Tal, “Women take 30 per cent more time off than men to care for an aging parent”. A recent CIBC poll found that women spend an average of 10 hours a week aiding aging parents compared to less than 8 hours reported by men and a 2015 study by the Institute for Research on Public Policy found Canadian women aged 45+ reported spending ~ 6 years caring for a family member compared to less than 3 years for men. This has a huge implication for women’s finances, especially since women are also more likely to leave the work force to look after a family member. This early retirement shaves years off of savings and forces women to tap into retirement funds earlier.
The bottom line – we all need to be thinking and planning ahead – for our parents and ourselves. In March we had a webinar on Advance Care Planning which is now available as a recording on our website: https://www.familycaregiversbc.ca/events/webinars/. The Nidus website is another source of excellent information for thinking through future needs: http://www.nidus.ca/.
1 Sinha, M. (2012). Portrait of caregivers. Catologue no. 89-652-x—No.001. Statistics Canada. Analytical Paper. Spotlight on Canadians: Results from the General Social Survey.