Long Term Care Planning: What Is It and Why Should I Care?

June 3, 2019

We all take delight in planning for vacations and holiday celebrations, but when it comes to planning for old age, we literally run the other way. Ageing and death only happen to other people, so we don’t need to talk about it – at least not yet. Why is this?

Canadians have an attitude of denial and entitlement when it comes to ageing and care responsibilities. They say things like:

  • “I am a taxpayer and therefore the government will care for me in my old age.”

  • “It won’t happen to me.”

  • “My spouse will look after me.”

  • “The kids will look after me.”

  • “I won’t outlive my money.”

The reasons we should care about ageing and care planning are clear

  • Currently 225,000 Canadians are turning 65 every year

  • By 2038, over 1,125,200 Canadians will be living with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia. There currently is no known cure or disease-modifying treatments available. Most of us know someone suffering from dementia.

  • The government will not/cannot pay for all the care we need

These realities make it abundantly clear that we all need to plan for our old age – and not just financially. We need to understand the health care system where we live, plan where we wish to age and live out our lives, and communicate our wishes to family members, professional advisors and our health care providers.

Long-term care is not cheap. Depending on where you live, government-funded home care can be limited and staying at home can cost an individual up to $100,000 a year; in addition, governments do not cover the full costs of living in a publically-funded long-term care/nursing home or other specialized care home.

The bottom line: Long-term care planning needs to be a part of every financial and/or retirement plan written today.

How to begin? Start by asking yourself a series of necessary questions including:

  • How long do I think I will live?

  • How do I see myself ageing?

  • What chronic health conditions may I have to manage?

  • Am I looking after my health, so I can stay out of the long term health care system for as long as possible?

  • Have I discussed my wishes with my family, professional advisors and health care team?

  • Have I set aside funding for a critical illness or for the care I need in my ageing years?

  • Have I established clear legal and financial directions?

  • Is all my critical information stored in one place for easy access?

  • Who will look after me when the time comes?

Have a family meeting to discuss the ‘what ifs’ that will require care—what if I have that possible heart attack? What if my arthritis prevents me from getting around? What if my osteoporosis results in a broken hip?

Creating a care plan will take time, but once it is completed, you will have accomplished two very important goals:

  1. You will have added the missing piece to your financial/retirement plan

  2. You will have removed a huge burden from your family

As the saying goes—just do it!


As the result of a life changing 14 - year dementia care experience, Karen Henderson founded the Long Term Care Planning Network, Canada’s leading resource centre for aging and long term care planning and education. Her seminar series, web site, print and electronic tools are recognized as key long term care educational resources for Canadians and their families.

Since 1996 Karen has been a well-known speaker, educator, writer, media commentator, publisher and consultant in the field of long term care; she is a Certified Professional Consultant on Aging, and is author of a unique series of print resources including: The 10-Step Long Term Care Planner.

Karen has helped a wide range of Canadians and their families, professional advisors and employers understand the implications of aging and long term care on financial, personal and family well-being.

How to reach Karen:

This is a guest Commentary for the NIA. The views and opinions expressed are the author's alone.

Allan McKee