Health Issues

If a disease such as Alzheimer’s, which impacts mental abilities, affects your parent, they may be unable to make decisions for themselves. Consequently, someone, usually a family member or members will have to take over that responsibility. This will be done with a Power of Attorney (POA). A Power of Attorney that deals with a person’s financial affairs is a Power of Attorney for Property. In addition, a Power of Attorney for Personal Care, sometimes known as a Living Will or Health Care Directive deals with a person’s health care. Your advisor can assist you in establishing this arrangement although it is advisable to also consult with a lawyer to ensure that it is structured properly and all legal issues have been considered.

The Enduring or Continuing Power of Attorney for Property

A Power of Attorney (POA) is a legal document that gives someone the right to act (as an attorney) in another person’s place. A general POA is a very powerful document which allows the attorney to do almost anything that the person granting it was able to do. For example the attorney could sell all the donor’s investments or sell their house. However, the agreement can be structured in such a way that the attorney only has specific powers or rights. When a general POA is granted it is assumed that the donor has the mental capacity to do so. Ordinarily, the powers granted would cease if the donor became mentally incapacitated. Therefore, if the POA is being established in the anticipation of the donor’s later mental incapacity, it is very important that it is structured as a Continuing or Enduring POA. This will ensure that the powers granted to the attorney will continue if the donor is no longer capable of making their own decisions.

Here is a link to a basic POA for property:

Power of Attorney

A lawyer should be consulted when a Power of Attorney is being considered. There are legal and family issues that need to be addressed if this route is taken.

Powers of Attorney for Personal Care

This document is sometimes known as a Living Will although there can be some differences depending where you live. It gives the designated person or people the power to make decisions regarding the medical treatment of the person when they are unable. Some of the issues that can be addressed by the attorney are:

  1. Hospice care
  2. Change of physicians
  3. Use of experimental treatments
  4. Nutrition
  5. The use of ‘heroic measures’ to prolong life

An advantage of having a POA for Personal Care in place is the ability to make health care decisions in a timely way. In the absence of this arrangement the concept of patient/doctor confidentiality may mean that you may not be able to determine all of the facts about your parent’s situation and cannot make decisions effectively. Ideally, to deal with a parent’s situation effectively there should be a Power of Attorney for Property as well as a Power of Attorney for Personal Care in place.

One person can be named as the attorney or it can be a joint situation. The attorney will generally have to be at least 16 years of age. Some people may be restricted from being the representative such as the individual’s doctor or nurse.

Generally, the POA becomes effective when a competent health care provider decides that the individual is no longer able to make their own decisions.

However, it is highly advisable to seek advice from a qualified lawyer.

Power of Attorney issues are a provincial/territorial concern and there is different legal treatment of these arrangements in different parts of Canada. As well, legal counsel will help to ensure that the document is structured in the proper way to deal with the specific situation.

Health Care Costs

Elderly people typically have far more medical issues and expenses than younger people and depending on the nature of those expenses the individual or their families may have to pay for them personally.

Although there are provincial/territorial variations, all Canadians can assume that their basic, essential health care needs will be met under the government programs. While we are quite fortunate as Canadians in regards to our health care, there are some expenses that are not covered by the government. Now that your parent has an illness, you may be concerned about what those expenses may be and how you will be able to pay for them.

For example, the cost of prescription drugs are the second largest health expense in Canada after hospital care. However, out-of-hospital drug costs are not covered under the Canada Health Act so any reimbursements for prescription drugs are a provincial and territorial concern. The amount of provincial/territorial coverage varies fairly dramatically across the country but as a general rule, seniors will receive assistance in covering drug costs. Those who receive social assistance will pay only as much of 35% of the costs. Consequently, it should be assumed that there will most likely be drug expenses incurred that will not be reimbursed by the government.

Fortunately, many retirees/seniors will have some degree of private or company insurance that will cover at least some of their drug costs. You should contact your provincial/territorial authorities to determine if your parent is eligible for government drug expense assistance. You should also determine whether they are covered under any company or private insurance.

Examples of some of the other health related expenses that will not be covered by provincial plans are:

  • wheelchairs or other transportation devices
  • hearing aids
  • alterations to a home to make it usable by a disabled person
  • in-home care
  • special vehicles

However, there are a number of government programs that can help your parents pay for these costs.

Your advisor can help you sort through the various types of assistance offered.

Health Canada website for senior health and well-being

Canadians are enjoying longer life spans and better health than ever before. The proportion of seniors in the Canadian population is expected to double by 2025. Health Canada is proactively conducting research and planning to better understand the needs of Canadian seniors and to ensure that programs and services respond to Canada’s demographic aging.

Visit Seniors – Healthy Living for more information.

Provincial 24-hour Health Lines

If at any time your parent requires important health information, he/she can call the following 24-hour health lines:

Alberta: 1-866-408-5465

British Columbia: 1-800-661-4337

Manitoba: 1-800-782-2437 or 204-940-2200

Newfoundland and Labrador: 1-888-709-2929

New Brunswick: 1-877-784-1010

Northwest Territories: 1-888-255-1010

Nova Scotia: 1-800-566-2437

Nunavut: 867-975-5700

Ontario: 1-866-797-0000

Prince Edward Island: 902-368-4947

Quebec: 811

Saskatchewan: 1-877-800-0002

Yukon: 811

For all health emergencies, you are advised to visit your local hospital or call 911.