Now is the time to re-imagine aging in Canada, says CMA
As the first baby boomers reach their 75th birthday this year, a new study commissioned by the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) estimates the cost and demand for elder care will nearly double by 2031. The analysis, Canada’s Elder Care Crisis: Addressing the Doubling Demand, conducted by Deloitte, estimates the demand for long-term care and home care over the next decade, and the costs to meet these care needs.
The report estimates that 606,000 patients will seek long-term care in 2031, up from 380,000 in 2019. For Canadians aging at home, the demand for home care will increase to roughly 1.8 million patients, up from nearly 1.2 million. This increase is projected to cost $490.6 billion over the next 10 years, with the annual price tag of elder care services growing from $29.7 billion per year in 2019 to $58.5 billion per year in 2031.
“We know the pandemic has exposed major cracks in seniors’ care,” says Dr. Ann Collins, CMA president. “It is not hard to imagine what awaits them in the next decade with no plan in place to address a growing demand for care along with changing expectations for aging at home. Planning and investment by all governments should be underway today to cope with this unprecedented demographic shift and the disruption to our current model of institutional care.”
The study highlights potential solutions that could lower the cost of services, while also building better alignment with the needs of seniors, but it is quickly becoming clear that these measures alone will not adequately address the crisis in elder care, nor will they alter the trajectory of significantly increased funding needs.
The study identified, for example, a downward trend in the use of long-term care by seniors. If that trend can be sustained by making better use of home care, 37,000 Canadians could be diverted from long-term care by 2031, saving the system an estimated $794 million per year.
Further efficiencies can be found by moving patients who are currently in hospitals waiting to be transferred to other levels of care. Moving these patients to more appropriate care settings could save an additional $1.4 billion per year by 2031.
“Time is not on our side,” adds Dr. Collins. “Searching for efficiencies is always a valuable exercise, but we are beyond the point where tinkering around the edges will solve this problem. Our window of opportunity to re-set how we care for and support seniors is now.”
The CMA is using this report to continue to press the federal government for new demographic-based annual funding to the provinces and territories to support improving elder care, as well as a pan-Canadian plan to improve elder care in Canada, including committing to working with the provinces and territories on new national standards for long-term care.