Personal Finance

The financial cost of dementia, and how to prepare for the worst

Neela White, senior portfolio manager at Blue Wing Advisory Group, Raymond James, joins BNN Bloomberg to discuss how to plan for the cost of dementia.

Neela White knows the financial cost of dementia firsthand.

“I was a caregiver for two parents with dementia for a decade of my life,” White, a senior portfolio manager at Blue Wing Advisory Group, told BNN Bloomberg during an interview on Tuesday.

A certified dementia care provider, White advocates for financial preparation amid increasing dementia diagnoses across Canada.

According to a study by the University of British Columbia, Canada will see a rise of about 187 per cent of people living with the degenerative cognitive disease by 2050.

“One thing we know is all of us need to be saving, but it’s saving for what?” White said.

“When we look at our healthcare system, I think it’s understanding most trajectories the disease involves (will) increase costs, and I think the government is less and less able to support that,” she said.

From a planning standpoint, White says the first step is simple: “Step back. Take a breath. Don’t panic. Don’t react.”

The next step, she says, is opening dialogue about budgets, care plans, and trajectories of illness.

“Once you’re diagnosed, a couple things need to actually happen,” she said. “Once you have the discussion on who could provide the care, it’s discussing if I need to bring care into the home, what’s it going to cost?”

Right now, White says the cost of in-house assistance is between $35 and $50 an hour.

Aside from evaluating costs like this, White also mentioned that a harsh truth needs to be accepted: patients with dementia are not going to get better.

“Eventually (patients) will need assistance with every aspect of (their) life,” she explained.

“Do the investigation of the long-term care facilities in your area so you can make that decision with knowledge as opposed to just (being) reactionary.”

As of the beginning of July, White said the standard cost of a private room in a retirement home could be around $2,909 a month.

“That is your portion. If you can’t afford that you could actually apply for a discount – that’s a yearly application. The government actually pays the other half which covers your nursing care and your personal support care.”

For patients who want to lessen the financial burden on their loved ones who may be tasked with caring for them, White suggests setting aside a healthcare budget.

“You could say: ‘My TFSA, that’s going to be my healthcare fund.’ I think within retirement planning you need to talk to your advisor or your financial planner.”

She also mentioned getting “your documents in order,” including the power of attorney for care and the power of attorney for finance.

White suggests scouting for programs through the Alzheimer’s Society, which offers complimentary and limited-cost programs.

“Part of it is investigating what services are available,’ she said.