COVID-19 has highlighted the need for health management
The devastating effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic can hardly be overstated. From economic and financial, to social and personal, every sphere of life is going through a major upheaval. In Canada, the first large wave of the coronavirus hit the elderly population the hardest. From the inadequacies of our long-term care facilities, to the insufficient preparedness of our health care systems, the pandemic has laid bare many vulnerabilities in health care for Canadians 55+
In light of these events, Canadians are re-evaluating a number of financial and health care related aspects. Many have questions such as:
- How and where will I grow old? Who will take care of me?
- Can I afford a long term care facility that meets the minimum standards of care and hygiene?
- How do I cover the skyrocketing out-of-pocket medical expenses?
- Is it too late to plan or adjust my retirement finances?
- Will my retirement funds allow me to age in place and hire in-home health care services?
Many Canadians feel compelled to have difficult conversations with their families and financial experts to prepare or update their personal and financial matters. Here’s a closer look at health care, and what it entails in the coming months and years.
The significance of strong health and wealth plans in the COVID-19 era
The COVID-19 pandemic is undoubtedly a wake-up call in terms of sound long-term financial and health care planning for both individuals and institutions across Canada. Less than two months into the pandemic, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) report made some shocking revelations about certain nursing homes in Ontario. While the study exposed the shortcomings of just a handful of long term care facilities, it was a reflection of the overall state of health management in Canada.
Now combine this with some other startling facts:
- 86% of Canadians are unaware of Advanced Care Planning (ACP) – ACP is the process where an individual provides explicit instructions for their present or future health care choices. Essentially, it covers what they think should happen if they become incapable of refusing or consenting to treatment or personal care.
- 71% of Canadians do not have a signed Power of Attorney (POA) – Which means, most Canadians have not formally assigned a specific, trusted individual for a proper response or planned action in the event that they are in a personal emergency.
Given the lack of contingency planning on personal health or financial matters, many Canadian families with first-hand experience of the coronavirus find themselves in upsetting and demoralizing situations. It is fair to say that COVID-19 has accelerated and amplified the need for robust long term health care plans and sound financial planning for retirees in Canada.
How to go about advanced care planning?
Like a vast majority of Canadians, your first reactions to ACP may be “What is advanced care planning?”, or “Why do I need it?” The best way to answer this question is to ask yourself a few other simple questions.
- Do you want to stay in charge of matters related to your personal health and finances?
- Do you want to avoid putting your loved ones in a difficult position of making such decisions for you in case you unexpectedly become incapacitated?
- How would you feel about your family members experiencing confusion, chaos and disagreements, simply because you did not provide clear instructions on who should manage your personal or financial affairs, and how?
Save your loved ones from emotional and financial stress by creating or updating your advanced care plan. Even if you have never made an ACP, it is never too late to create one.
Basically, the advanced care planning process involves:
- Reflecting on your values and wishes: ACP kits provide a series of questions and potential situations that help you think and state your wishes about your current and future personal care.
- Naming an SDM: Designate a specific individual as your substitute decision-maker (SDM) and talk to them in detail about your future health care options and wishes. Your SDM can speak up or make medical decisions on your behalf, should you be incapable of doing that yourself.
- Communicating your wishes: Make your health care plan and preferences known to the relevant people and especially your family members to avoid any confusion or anxiety among your near and dear ones.
Why is advanced care planning important?
Advanced care planning is a way of respecting peoples’ rights and preserving their autonomy when they might not be able to speak for themselves. Creating an ACP is all about articulating “what matters most” to you. For example, some individuals have strong views about whether or not they wish to artificially and medically prolong their lives, if such a stage arises. Similarly, some individuals may have specific wishes regarding certain therapies or treatments that they may not want to go through, even if that is the only option to save their lives. Wishes, such as “Do Not Resuscitate”, if allowed in your province, can be made a part of your ACP.
While it is advisable to make an advanced care plan when you are healthy and able, the plan is applicable only when you are no longer able to make your own health care decisions.
A thoughtfully considered ACP has the potential to:
- Improve your ongoing and end-of-life care
- Increase personal and family satisfaction
- Reduce anxiety, depression and stress for your immediate family if you become incapacitated
- Save time, money and effort for health care professionals by avoiding unwanted treatment or unnecessary transfers to acute care.
What is the Right Time to Consider Advanced Care Planning?
Advanced care planning is particularly important for people who
- Have chronic illnesses, multiple diseases, or early cognitive impairment
- Are older, frail or approaching their end-of-life stage
However, ACP is equally important for healthy people who want to take control of their long term personal and health care. Don’t wait for an illness to start or an unfavorable situation to occur. Look up the Health Canada-managed website, Speak Up, for a wide variety of resources and tools on ACP. You can even create your own advanced care plan online through this website.
Remember, advanced care planning works best when you consider it a part of your holistic retirement plan. The COVID-19 pandemic is a strong reminder that Canadian retirees need to have:
- A Will: For end-of-life arrangements and other financial decisions once you pass.
- A POA: For financial and property-related matters when you are incapacitated.
- An ACP: For health and personal care related decision making, if you are unable to do it yourself.
Save yourself and your family from a host of difficult and stressful situations by formally documenting all of the above.
Strengthen your retirement finances with the CHIP Reverse Mortgage®
The COVID-19 pandemic has hugely impacted financial planning for many Canadians. Many who were close to retirement have delayed their plans. Some have been pushed into an unplanned early retirement. Those already retired have also seen a significant dent in their finances, especially if a significant portion of their portfolios consisted of equity. Add to this the health fears and economic uncertainty looming ahead of us, especially since a cure or vaccine for coronavirus may still be months (or years) away.
Whether you are nearing your golden years or well into retirement, it is time to create or update your advanced care plan and re-evaluate and boost your retirement finances. While an advance care planning process will help you make your health and financial wishes clear, a coordinated financial strategy will allow you to cover unexpected medical expenses, as well as other shortfalls in your retirement funds.
For Canadians 55 and older, one of the best ways to strengthen your retirement finances can be the CHIP Reverse Mortgage from HomeEquity Bank. You can access up to 55% of the value of your home in tax-free disposable cash and enjoy these benefits:
- No Impact on retirement benefits: The borrowed sum does not affect your Old Age Security (OAS), Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), or income from Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSPs).
- No title transfer: You retain ownership and continue to stay in the comforts of your home.
- No monthly repayments for principal or interest: The loan becomes due only when you decide to move, sell your home or pass on.
- Ample flexibility: Choose to receive the funds all at once in a lump sum, or in scheduled advances over an extended duration. Use your money your way. You can spend the cash on a variety of expenses.
Learn how the CHIP Reverse Mortgage fortifies financial planning for Canadians. Call 1-866-758-2447 and take the first step towards remaining financially secure despite the ongoing coronavirus crisis. Or check out our reverse mortgage calculator to see how much tax-free cash you can access.