- Boomers' Ability to Make Financial Decisions Often Declines With Age
- A break no one wants to make
- Canadian Health Charities urge Federal Political Parties to Recognize and Support Family Caregivers
Jul 26, 2011 (MARKETWIRE via COMTEX)
The BMO Retirement Institute released a report today which raises awareness of the potential impact on aging Canadians of declining cognitive abilities - often caused by Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia - and describes how this decline can affect their ability to make financial decisions.
Titled Financial Decision Making: Who will manage your money when you can't?, the report highlights Canada's rapidly aging population; Statistics Canada projects that, within the next ten years, the number of Canadian seniors will exceed the number of children aged 14 or under.
According to the report, the majority of Canadians 45 years and older believe that investment skill increases with age(1). However, several studies have shown that, as a person ages, their cognitive abilities decline, hindering their ability to make sound financial decisions.
"Financial capacity is considered a complex mental activity that may be particularly vulnerable to aging," said Tina Di Vito, Head, BMO Retirement Institute. "It's safe to say that, as one ages, one's capacity to make financial decisions will gradually deteriorate. This is particularly challenging for aging Canadians since we know that managing money is difficult even under the best of circumstances."
Dr. Michael Baker, Professor of Medicine at the University of Toronto and a member of the BMO Advisory Council on Retirement, notes that individuals who are suffering from conditions like Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia may not even be aware of it. "Often, these diseases have insidious onsets. They start slowly, and symptoms develop gradually. Frequently, it's unrecognized by the persons themselves and even their relatives until it starts to interfere with daily living. It's possible that they may function well socially, but have lost the ability to discuss complex subjects like financial matters."
The Importance of a Continuing Power of Attorney
"Canadians are aware of the need to plan for retirement and for the transition of our estates," said Ms. Di Vito. "However, we often don't think about the importance of incorporating a continuing power of attorney into our overall financial plan."
A continuing power of attorney is tailor-made to deal with incapacity planning. It is a legal document that gives another person legal authority to make decisions about your finances and property and helps ensure a proper delegation of financial affairs in the event one loses financial decision-making abilities.
The BMO Retirement Institute report reveals the following about CPOAs:
- 76 per cent of Canadians 45 years and older are aware of the need for a CPOA, yet less than two-thirds (59 per cent) have actually put one in place
- More than half (54 per cent) who do not have a CPOA do not think they need one yet
- More than one in five respondents believe they would still have the power to execute a CPOA after being found incapable of making financial decisions(2)
"It's very important for Canadians to appreciate that they should plan for mental incapacity while they are still mentally capable," said Elena Hoffstein, Partner, Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP and member of the BMO Advisory Council on Retirement. "Without a CPOA in place, often the only recourse is to have a court- appointed guardian manage your affairs."
The BMO Retirement Institute offers the following advice for preparing a CPOA:
Choose your "Attorney" Carefully - Make sure you appoint someone who has the time and willingness to fulfill the responsibilities that come with the role. It is also important to choose someone in whom you have complete trust.
Family Dynamics - If you are going to appoint one of your children, take some time to think about the best person suited for the role. Choosing among children can often create tension in the family, so it is best to be open about the decision.
Other Options - For those with larger asset bases and more complex needs, there are alternative sophisticated incapacity planning strategies that may be more appropriate, like trusts.
To view a copy of the full report, please visit: www.bmo.com/retirementinstitute
To view videos, please visit: http://www.bmomedia.com/bmori/fdm/tina.intro/
Elderly can take steps to prevent fractures
Special to the Spectator July 4, 2011
The old image of a forgetful senior hunchback does not have to represent senior citizens today.
We have enough knowledge and awareness about our minds and bodies today that we can still be fit and active well into our 90s and beyond.
This is the main message that a full house of about 170 seniors heard during a presentation on healthy aging at St. Peter’s Hospital on June 22.
The talk was by Dr. Alexandra Papaioannou, a geriatrician at Hamilton Health
Sciences. She is a project leader for the Ontario osteoporosis strategy for fracture prevention in long-term care, and a co-director of the Hamilton Canadian Multi-Centre osteoporosis study.
In her talk that focused primarily on osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease, Papaioannou presented some alarming statistics, as well as several practical tips for seniors to reduce their risks. Some of the numbers she presented are:
- Fractures in people aged 50 and more are four times more likely to occur than any other disease.
- If you have a fracture, you have a 10 per cent chance of getting another in one year.
- Every 10 minutes, somebody gets admitted to the emergency room at Hamilton Health Sciences with a fall.
- One in two women will have a hip or spine fracture by 85.
- One in four people with a hip fracture, and one in six with spine fractures die within five years after.
The good news is that the chance of breaking another bone after the first fracture can be reduced by 40 to 60 per cent, said Papaioannou.
“In this day and age, we can prevent this. This is not normal aging.”
Much of the advice for preventing osteoporosis is not new. But, there are many who are missing the message. Of all Hamiltonians age 50 or more, who have had a fracture, less than half receive the right treatment to prevent the next
Papaioannou says that 80 per cent of seniors will often have fractured bones in their spine without even knowing it. It is these fractures that cause the familiar stooped look many seniors have.
An easy way to judge whether you may have fractures in your spine is to see if you can fit three finger breadths between your ribs and pelvic bone. If you can’t, an X-ray may be in order. A hunchback or a height loss of 2 cm over two years is
also a good indication of spinal fractures.
While there is no known cause or a complete cure for osteoporosis, exercise and sufficient intake of calcium and vitamin D have been shown to reduce the risks. Osteoporosis Canada recommends no more than 1200 mg of calcium from both diet and supplements. It cautions against taking more than 500 mg of elemental calcium at one time because there is an associated risk of kidney stones and a small risk of cardiac arrest with high-dosage pills.
Between 800 to 2000 International Units of vitamin D3 is recommended for people older than 50.
Walking, especially with a dog, and other low-impact exercises help reduce the severity of osteoporosis. But it’s not enough. Weight-bearing exercises are crucial, says Papaioannou. The YMCA and YWCA have partnered with Hamilton
Health Sciences to offer bone-building exercises that can reduce the impact of osteoporosis.
Exercise is also linked to a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease. It reduces inflammation to the brain, and has been shown to do a better job than some drugs, said Papaioannou. She recommends a Mediterranean diet high in fruit, vegetables, fish, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds and olive oil. Challenging one’s brain with puzzles and by learning something new also helps slow the progression of Alzheimer’s. And contrary to popular opinion, medical research shows that gingko biloba does not improve memory function.
Papaioannou also emphasizes the importance of friends and family as a support network.
“A broken bone is like a heart attack of the bone. You’re at high risk for having another heart attack.”
Risk factors for osteoporosis
According to Osteoporosis Canada, one in four women and one in eight men over the age of 50 in Canada live with osteoporosis. Risk factors include:
- having had a prior fracture with minimal trauma
- if either parent has had a hip fracture
- use of medications like prednisone for more than three months
- having rheumatoid arthritis
- history of falls in the past 12 months
- high alcohol intake (three or more drinks per day) and
- weight loss greater than 10 per cent since age 25.
Although less common in men, research is emerging that shows men are more likely to die when they break a hip. Men who take stomach blockers for acids are at greater risk as these medications also block the absorption of calcium.
3. Canadian Health Charities urge Federal Political Parties to Recognize and Support Family Caregivers
OTTAWA, April 4 /CNW/ - Health charities and coalitions from across Canada have come together to pay tribute to family caregivers - the often invisible workforce that can be called to duty on a moment's notice. "On behalf of all who
are, have been, or will be, involved in caregiving responsibilities, we ask our political leaders to use their influence to give voice and recognition to this important social issue," says Deirdre Freiheit, Executive Director, Health Charities Coalition of Canada.
"Governments have a vital role to play in raising awareness about the importance of caregiving and in establishing measures to better support this crucial group of people who contribute so much to our society," says Sharon Baxter, Executive Director, Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association (CHPCA). "Family caregivers face very real challenges in accessing services, balancing responsibilities, supporting loved ones and maintaining their own wellbeing."
According to a February 2011 survey conducted by the Canadian Cancer Society, 84 percent of Canadians say increased financial support for family caregivers should be a priority healthcare issue in the federal election. "Many caregivers suffer financial difficulties as they deplete personal savings and take unpaid time off from work to care for a family member," says Dan Demers, Director, Public Issues, Canadian Cancer Society. "Canadians are greatly concerned about this issue and are looking to our federal political parties for solutions."
"Financial support for those who must take time off work is a critical component of effective policy for family caregivers," says Nadine Henningsen, Canadian Caregiver Coalition (CCC) President. "It is an important element of a Family Caregiver Strategy that the CCC believes is essential to engage all levels of government and sectors of society to support family caregivers." The intensity and length of caregiving can be significant, with 60% of caregivers providing care for more than three years.
The CCC's Caregiving Strategy includes:
- Safeguarding the health and wellbeing of family caregivers and increasing the flexibility and availability of respite care
- Minimizing excessive financial burden placed on family caregivers Enabling access to user friendly information and education Creating flexible workplace environments that respect caregiving
- obligations Investing in research on family caregiving as a foundation for evidence-
- informed decision making.
The health charities and coalitions commit to working with all parties to shed light on the important work of family caregivers and to taking action to ensure that their contribution is noticed.
BACKGROUNDER for: Canadian Health Charities urge Federal Political Parties to Recognize and Support Family Caregivers
Caregivers and the Compassionate Care Benefit Program
Facts about caregivers:
According to Statistics Canada, between 2002 and 2007, the number of family caregivers in Canada aged 45 years and older increased by 30 per cent (over 670,000 people). In 2007, the number of family caregivers aged 45 years and older was 2.7 million
In 2009, the cost to replace family caregivers with members of the paid workforce at market rates (entitled to benefits, vacation, supervisory support, education etc.) in Canada was estimated to be between $25-26 billion (based on adults aged 45 and greater caring for those 65 years and older with long term health or physical limitations). (Hollander M, et al (2009) Who Cares and How Much? The imputed economic contribution to the Canadian healthcare system of middle-aged and older unpaid caregivers providing care to the elderly)
According to the CHPCA, more than 259,000 Canadians die each year, and most die in old age. With the aging of our population, by 2026, the number of Canadians dying each year will increase by 40% to 330,000. Each of those deaths affects, on average, five other people - family and loved ones who care for others.
A 2007 survey of health care in Canada (Health Care in Canada Survey 2007) suggests that 41% of Canadians use personal savings to support themselves when caring for loved ones at the end of life and 22% of these individuals miss one or more months of work.
A 2009 study published in Palliative Medicine (Costs associated with resource utilization during the palliative phase of care: a Canadian perspective) indicates that Canadian families frequently shoulder 25% of the total cost of palliative care due to costs associated with home-based services such as nursing and personal care services.
An Ipsos Reid study in 2004 showed that Canadians age 55+ estimated caring for a dying loved one at home was approximately 60 hours a week and approximately two thirds of Canadians said they could not devote the estimated number of hours per week to take care of a dying loved one given their current schedule.
In its August 2010 study, CIHI reported that nearly 20,000 family caregivers (16%) of seniors receiving home care reported distress related to their role. The rates of distress were significantly higher among those - Providing more than 21 hours of care per week (28%) and - Caring for seniors with symptoms of depression (32%).
About the Compassionate Care Benefit
The Compassionate Care Benefit (CCB) is part of Canada's Employment Insurance program. Successful CCB applicants can receive up to 55% of their average insured earnings, to a maximum of $413/week, over a six-week period to care for a family member at risk of death within 6 months. The six weeks of income assistance can be taken at once, broken down into one-week periods spread over six months or shared between family members. Applicants must meet the designation of "family member" (or a significant person who is considered to be 'like family') and provide a medical certificate from the doctor of the gravely ill family member indicating that death is imminent (i.e., within 6 months).
Facts related to the CCB:
In order to qualify, applicants must have worked a minimum of 600 EI- insurable hours over the preceding 52 weeks and be able to demonstrate that regular weekly earnings from work have decreased by more than 40 percent.
The CCB only covers six weeks, with a two-week waiting period, with no extensions for illnesses with a longer trajectory to death. The two-week waiting period can be challenging for low-income Canadians or those who are already experiencing financial difficulty due to the loss of income from a dying spouse.
The application process can be quite complicated for caregivers with a limited education or language barriers. As well, having the medical certificate filled out properly has been recognized as a barrier to a complete and successful application.
In a 2007 study, respondents who had applied for the benefit (whether successful or not) repeatedly cited difficulty accessing reliable and accurate information from a variety of sources, including websites and government offices. It also does not appear to be well-known to Canadians, particularly at the point of care, where this information would be most useful. (The Information Transfer and Knowledge Acquisition Geographies of Family Caregivers: An Analysis of Canada's Compassionate Care Benefit (Valorie A. Crooks, Allison Williams, Kelli I. Stajduhar, Diane E. Allan, and S. Robin Cohen)
Canadians may believe that health care is 'free' (or at the very least covered by taxes), however the cost of care for drugs, home-based services and other expenses can be staggering. Canadian families frequently shoulder 25% of the total cost of palliative care due to costs associated with home-based services such as nursing and personal care services (Costs associated with resource utilization during the palliative phase of care: a Canadian perspective, Palliative Medicine, Dec 2009).
The CCB can be particularly difficult for caregivers who are caring for patients with an uncertain trajectory of death, such as a child with a life- limiting illness. PedPalNet, a consortium of researchers working in pediatric end of life care, is currently studying parents who are caring for a child with a life-limiting illness to better understand their stress over time and the factors that help them survive through this experience
(see: http://www.pallpedsnet.ca/index.htm for more information).