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When it comes to retirement, many people fantasize about days spent playing golf, using their new-found free time to socialize or pursue a new hobby, or jetting off to a sunny beach location every winter. A life of leisure is a wonderful goal to work towards, but you can’t ignore the reality of life as a senior. In addition to the usual costs of living that most of us think about, such as housing, transportation and food costs, a senior’s new reality can include some pretty hefty healthcare costs that may not have entered your mind yet.

According to the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), healthcare for the average senior can cost up to $12,000 per year. That’s compared to just $2,700 for the average non-senior!

So, what "additional" costs do you need to prepare for as you age? Here's what you need to know about senior healthcare costs, including the possibility of long-term care, whether you're looking for senior living in British Columbia or elderly care homes in Toronto, or anything in between.

Dental Care

Dental care isn't just for the young! It's just as important to continue with proper oral healthcare as you age. In addition, your dentist is often the first to detect any kind of oral cancer.

Once you’re retired, you may no longer have your employer's health insurance coverage to rely on for proper dental care. And you likely won't get much help from provincial healthcare coverage.

The Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP), for example, only covers certain emergency dental surgeries done in hospital; nothing that's done at a dentist's office. On the other hand, the Medical Services Plan in British Columbia provides the same coverage, plus some orthodontic services.

So, you need to consider your average dental care and factor in a little more for potential emergencies, then add that to your budget for life as a senior. If you’re in the low-income bracket, you should start looking into to provincial or federal assistance. For example, in Ontario, low-income seniors may be eligible for assistance through the Ontario Seniors Dental Care Program. Even dentures are partially covered through this program!

Vision Care

Proper vision care, including regular eye exams and prescription eyewear, is a must for most of us as we get older.

However, eyeglasses and contact lenses are not covered by provincial healthcare in any province. Eye exam coverage ranges from yearly, to every two years, to none, depending on the province you live in. Other optometry services may or may not be covered as well, though emergency eye-care due to injury or disease does normally fall under provincial health coverage.

This means that you likely need to plan for some out-of-pocket eyecare expenses at some point during your senior years, either by budgeting for it in your retirement savings or by getting private health insurance.

Hearing Problems and Devices

Another health challenge many seniors face is hearing loss. But the hard truth is that expenses related to this common issue are not covered by provincial healthcare.

With the high cost of hearing aids—ranging from $1,500 to $5,000—this can be a financial burden if you’re not prepared. Make sure you consider the potential need for this kind of healthcare in your retirement savings and take a look at what private insurance may offer in this area.

Dementia

Dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, is something no one wants to plan for, whether it's for themselves or a loved one. But there are currently 565,000 Canadians living with dementia, according to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, with that number expected to rise to 937,000 by 2035. It’s a real possibility that can't be ignored when planning for the future.

There are potential drug treatments and therapies to help slow down or treat dementia, most of which are not covered by your provincial healthcare plan. Plus there are costs associated with family caregiving, homecare, private "memory care" and long-term care. While you can't plan for every eventuality, these are possibilities you can at least look at, especially if dementia runs in your family.

Depression

Depression is a common issue that many people don't talk about, including seniors. It can also present a significant financial burden, so it's something you should think about in terms of future expenses.

According to a 2004 University of Michigan study, seniors experiencing moderate to severe depression can require a lot of extra help and care, paid or unpaid, from the people around them. They estimated the average amount of unpaid help given to depressed seniors to be worth a whopping $9.0 billion a year. And that doesn't include actual paid help with daily tasks, therapy, doctor's appointments, or medication, all of which may be directly come out of your pocket.

So this kind of expense is two-fold: a major time commitment from loved ones and also actual costs related to paid care.

Long-Term Care or Assisted Living

Seniors in Canada are living longer, with a better quality of life, than ever before. However, aging can be unpredictable when it comes to chronic and acute health issues and mobility problems, so one thing we all need to consider when saving up for our golden years is the potential need for retirement or long-term care.

A long-term care residence provides a higher level of care than an assisted living residence.

Both provide accommodation, meal services, housekeeping, social and exercise programs, assisted living and the other usual amenities of a senior’s residence. Assistance with daily activities, such as bathing, personal hygiene, mobility, dressing, eating, medication management and skin and wound care, may be available in an assisted living residence, but are usually an additional cost that depends on time spent and may cost from $1,500 to $2,500 per month more than accommodation costs.

Long term care residents are typically frailer and require 24-hour nursing care and medical assistance.

Most provinces fund the care in long-term care homes, but you still have to pay a basic daily/monthly rate for "room and board". In some provinces, there are special subsidies to help seniors who need to move into this kind of residence. For example, in Ontario, if you cannot afford the basic accommodation cost of a long-term care residence, you can see if you're eligible for the Long-Term Care Home Rate Reduction Program.

The most important thing when it comes to long-term care is to do your just-in-case research ahead of time. Even if you don't currently have a health condition or disability that requires extensive care, do some homework on what the costs would be in your province should you need to go into a long-term care residence. This way, you know what to expect should this be part of your expenses in your senior years, so you can choose the best residence, save more for it now, and also check out long-term care insurance rates and coverage.

Find the Best Long-Term Care Home with The Care Guide

The last thing you need in your senior years is to be blindsided by hidden healthcare costs. Here's what you need to do, so you can be as prepared as possible:

  • Take these hidden costs into account in your budget for your retirement years
  • Put away extra savings, if possible
  • Check into government assistance programs for senior healthcare in your area
  • Look at private insurance options<
  • See if there are tax write-offs related to various healthcare needs
  • Research long-term care homes in your area, to see which you'd prefer if this becomes necessary

For extensive help with your long-term care residence research, check out TheCareGuide.com. Here you will find ideas for long-term care homes and other retirement living residences, valuable information about your options, and checklists to take with you as you visit each location you are interested in.

More information on elderly care homes in Toronto, Ontario, senior living in British Columbia, or long-term care in other provinces be obtained by contacting us at 1-800-311-CARE or info@thecareguide.com. We look forward to helping you prepare for your senior years.

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