Our neighbors to the north have taken some bold steps to make it more possible for seniors to stay in their own homes, recognizing that 88% prefer to stay home, and that those who do experience better outcomes and longer lives. The number crunchers in the Parliament even find it less costly. Here’s their proposal; not a bad idea, eh?
Quebecers want to grow old at home and the government will invest an extra $2.7 billion over five years to help seniors achieve this.
However, in 2012-13, the government will add only $195 million in new funds.
Finance minister Raymond Bachand defended his decision by saying there is little additional money in this year’s budget and the lump sum is dedicated to seniors.
“We have to take care of our parents, we owe them everything,” Bachand said Tuesday.
Quebec is on the verge of an ominous demographic crunch: by 2031, more than a quarter of the population – 2.3 million people – will be 65 or over. That’s one million seniors more than in 2011.
Thanks to a rising life expectancy, Quebecers are also healthier and living longer. The vast majority, 88 per cent according to the government, want to remain in their homes.
To meet that demand, Quebec is boosting funds dedicated to its Growing Old at Home policy over the next five years.
“Gradually, we are going to bring the services more and more to the parents at home,” Bachand said.
He noted that, by 2017, the annual new investments for seniors will reach $900 million.
Details of the plan will be released this spring, but the 2012 budget laid out the four major components:
– $2.3 billion over five years for adapted health services, notably home-support services;
– $172 million in tax credits to help seniors stay at home and for informal caregivers;
– $86 million for new afford-able housing units for seniors in 2015 and 2016;
– $76 million over five years for community-based project for seniors.
By 2017, the government expects to provide home-support services or accommodation to an additional 56,000 seniors.
The government’s goal is to help seniors stay at home longer to improve their quality of life, but also to save money. According to figures released in Tuesday’s budget, the annual cost of keeping a senior in an institution is $56,000, while offering services to allow a senior to stay at home ranges from $1,000 to $30,000.
“If we succeed in helping our seniors stay at home, that will reduce tremendously the cost for our institutions,” Bachand said. “They are much happier living at home and it is our ultimate goal.”
To respond to the recent crisis in some public long-term health facilities and private seniors’ homes, the government is adding $4 million annually to its budget to conduct inspections. As part of that, last week Quebec announced four new inspectors would be hired to scrutinize residences for the elderly that have been criticized for poor hygiene and housing conditions.
Tuesday’s budget also included two new tax credits for seniors.
The first will help seniors age 70 or over adapt their homes or feel more secure. The tax credit will apply to the purchase or rental of equipment such as an emergency call system, a hospital bed or a walk-in shower or bathtub.
For example, if a senior living in a private residence were to spend $6,100 on a walk-in shower, a remote supervision system and a panic button, he would receive a tax credit of $1,120.
The second credit applies to the costs incurred by seniors for a stay in a rehabilitation centre, generally following a stay in hospital.
Those two measures are expected to cost $15 million annually when fully implemented in five years and should benefit some 33,500 seniors, the government said.
Bachand also noted two existing tax credits will be boosted. As of 2013, the maximum tax credit for home-support of seniors will rise from $4,680 to $6,045 for independent seniors, and from $6,480 to $7,095 for dependent seniors. Those amounts will then be raised each year until 2017, to $6,825 and $8,925 respectively.
The refundable tax credit for informal caregivers of a spouse with reduced autonomy will go up from $607 to $700 in 2012, and will be increased gradually to $1,000 in 2016.
The Parti Québécois opposition lashed out, saying the measures amount to “peanuts” in comparison to the needs of the aging population.
“For example, a tax credit increase of $87 is more insulting than anything else. It’s ridiculous,” said PQ Treasury Board critic Sylvain Simard.