Disability, physical and mental, all too often comes with age. And as the baby boomers get older — in 2016, 16% of Canadians will be over the age of 65 — the economic and social costs of disability will climb, for families and communities.
According to Statistics Canada’s Participation and Activity Limitation Survey, 43.5% of people aged 65 to 74 have a mental or physical disability while 56.3% of people 75 and over are disabled. Dementia is of particular concern. Currently, about one in 11 Canadians over the age of 65 lives with dementia. Within a generation, says the Canadian Study of Health and Aging (CSHA), that number will double to two in 11.
CSHA and the Alzheimer Society of Canada have calculated the economic costs of this changing demographic. Over the next 25 years, the cumulative economic cost of dementia, which includes Alzheimer’s Disease, the most common form of dementia, is expected to exceed $872 billion. The number of family caregiving hours will triple to 756 million hours in 2038 from 259 million hours in 2010.
Dementia hits women particularly hard: 72% of all Alzheimer’s cases and 62% of all dementia cases are female. According to Statistics Canada 2008 Elder Care: What we know today, women have traditionally been the caregivers. That means the burden of care will need to shift to others in the family or the community.
This is a devastating and significant issue and the federal government has started to recognize the costs to families of dealing with vulnerable family members. In the 2011 federal budget it introduced the Family Caregiver Amount. If you care for a disabled dependant, when you prepare your 2012 taxes the following non-refundable tax credits will increase by $2,000:
- Spousal amount;
- Amount for eligible child (claimed by a single parent for one child);
- Amount for dependants under 18;
- Amount for infirm dependants 18 and over;
- Caregiver amount.
Granted, the value of the additional amount is $300, a small reward given the sacrifices made when caring for a vulnerable person. Nonetheless, that $300 will help pay for some much-needed respite. Also, if you qualify for the credit and pay your income taxes on a quarterly basis, you may wish to change your withholding tax rate for the final quarter of the year or reduce your quarterly instalment payments accordingly.
It’s Your Money. Your Life. Caring for the vulnerable is a community issue. We need to prepare for that with our precious resources of time and money, because it’s an honor and a privilege to give back with compassion and empathy to those who have done so much for us.