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Personal vs. Professional

The choice between personal care and professional care can be very difficult. The time and responsibility involved with providing care yourself can be overwhelming. But the familiarity, comfort and personal interaction with someone close can be invaluable for an aging dependent. Professional care provides much more comprehensive service and won't require you to give up as much of your life. But professional care is a large financial burden and doesn't offer the same familiarity and trust between patient and caregiver.

Case Manager

A case manager can help you make decisions concerning what type of care is right for your financial, emotional and medical situation. The case manager is a referral service that, for an hourly fee, will help you develop a care plan. They can also manage the financial affairs of elder care, paying medical bills and insurance premiums, filing tax returns and other financial organization.

Deciding between personal care and professional care can be very difficult. The time and responsibility involved with providing care yourself can be overwhelming.

The familiarity, comfort and personal interaction with someone close can be invaluable for an aging dependent. Professional care provides much more comprehensive service and won't require you to give up as much of your own life - but it’s costly and doesn't offer the same familiarity and trust between patient and caregiver as personal care does.

Personal Care

If the person in your care is in fairly good health and would feel more comfortable at home, personal care may be the right option for you. Almost all communities in Canada have access to home-care services through local or provincial health boards or ministries. These programs may have various names, but most health-care professionals still use the term "home care." Home-care programs offer home nursing, homemakers and home-care supplies free of charge plus other services. In small communities where there is no access to home-care services, residents may find help through a local physician and/or nurses. Contact your provincial or territorial health ministry or the Canadian Home Care Association if you cannot find anything locally.

Many different programs and services are available for people who choose the personal-care option. They are provided by a range of sources, including government agencies, municipalities, homes for the aged, not-for-profit groups and for-profit organizations. Some of the services they offer include: personal nursing care, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, day programs, counselling, foot care, friendly visiting, transportation, homemaking, home maintenance and meal delivery.

Professional Care

There are several housing and care options — each providing different levels of accommodation, care and support — available to Canada's seniors. The one that's right for you will depend upon an assessment of your needs and your preferences.

  • Independent Living Options Independent/supportive living options — usually in apartment buildings — provide both the advantages of living independently and the access to the kind of supportive services and amenities that are typically provided in full-service retirement residences.

  • Retirement Residences Retirement residences are a good choice for seniors who can no longer manage all their day-to-day activities themselves. They vary widely in terms of care and supportive services available — and also in terms of their fees. Most retirement residences are privately owned and operated, and don't receive any government funding.

  • Congregate Care Housing Between in-home care and a nursing home, congregate care housing allows residents to live in their own private quarters while providing home maintenance and cleaning as well as group meals. In a congregate care setting, each resident has their own room. There is a staff to look after residents and make sure they are getting the care they need.

  • Assisted Living Facilities Assisted living facilities are a special combination of housing, personalized supportive services and health care designed to meet the needs of seniors who need help with activities of day-to-day life, such as bathing, dressing, eating and monitoring medications.

  • Long-Term Care Long-term care facilities are designed for people who are no longer able to live independently in their own homes and who require the availability of 24-hour nursing care and supervision within a secure setting. In general, long-term-care facilities offer higher levels of personal care and support than those typically offered by either retirement homes or supportive housing. Long-term-care homes include nursing homes and homes for the elderly. The latter always operate on a not-for-profit basis; some examples of the former are for-profit organizations. Only those individuals who qualify can become long-term-care-home residents. It sometimes takes a few months to get placed in a home, and even then, you are not guaranteed that you'll get the particular facility you want.

  • Hospice Care Hospice care provides services at home or in a home-like setting to people with life-threatening and terminal illnesses. Care is usually provided by a range of professionals and volunteers including doctors, nurses, therapists and clergy. Most hospice-care providers are charitable, not-profit groups that provide the services at no cost to the resident. To locate hospice or palliative care groups in your community, check your telephone book or contact the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association (www.chpca.net; 1-800-668-2785).

Not A One-Time Decision

The most important thing to remember if you have a relative or friend living in a nursing home is to stay interested and involved in his/her life. Visit frequently. Get to know the regular caregivers. Be attentive to changes in behaviour, habits or mood. If you think there may be a problem, talk to a supervisor or facility director. Keep a journal of any problems you encounter and the steps taken to solve the problems.

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