Long-term care costs set to triple to $71 billion

by James Burton09 Oct 2019

The National Institute on Ageing (NIA) has released a report projecting that long-term care costs will more than triple within 30 years, from $22 billion today to $71 billion by 2050.

With baby boomers starting to turn 75 next year, time is running out to improve system sustainability and the availability and quality of long-term care options in Canada. A generation of Canadian seniors is at risk of going with unmet care needs as they age.

This projected increase in cost would amount to 19% of personal income tax by 2050, up considerably from 9% today - expressed as a proportion of total provincial and federal personal income tax revenue.

The Future Cost of Long-Term Care in Canada by Dr. Bonnie-Jeanne MacDonald, Dr. Michael Wolfson, and Dr. John Hirdes, builds on Statistics Canada’s population microsimulation model to project the future costs of long-term care in Canada to both the public purse as well as the care support provided to Canadian seniors by their families.

By quantifying the economic and personal costs that Canada will face in home- and nursing home care by continuing to follow its current path, the report is intended to promote informed and targeted discussion by governments, providers of long-term care, and individual Canadians on how best to move forward on this pressing national concern.

“Baby boomers are strongly advised to take a long and hard look at their own personal circumstances and plan ahead, to the extent that they have the health and means to better protect their future and possibly more vulnerable selves,” says Dr. Bonnie-Jeanne MacDonald, NIA Director of Financial Security Research.

“At the public policy level, the availability and sustainability of long-term care in Canada should be an immediate and high national priority.”

The report also raises concerns about Canada’s current reliance on unpaid care for seniors by family and friends. Between 2019 and 2050, there will be 30% fewer unpaid caregivers in Canada available to provide unpaid support to seniors in need. This means that by 2050, the average Canadian unpaid caregiver would need to increase their efforts by over 40% to keep up with current levels of unpaid care.

This is a burden Canadians may not be able to shoulder, which would further increase costs to public services. If all the projected hours of home care provided by unpaid caregivers were instead paid publicly, $27 billion would be added to public sector costs by 2050.

This report follows a landmark report by Dr. Samir Sinha, Enabling the Future Provision of Long-Term Care in Canada, which profiles long-term care across Canada and the challenges of meeting the needs of our rapidly ageing population. These two reports are part of a three-part NIA Policy Series on the future of long-term care in Canada.

The third and final report will provide recommendations for much needed reforms to our systems of care for seniors.

This report is sponsored by and in collaboration with AdvantAge Ontario, the Canadian Institute of Actuaries, the Canadian Medical Association, Essity Canada Inc, and Home Instead Senior Care.


Marc Tardif (FCIA), president, Canadian Institute of Actuaries, said: “Because actuaries help develop and maintain programs that deliver financial security to Canadians, we see significant risk in the increasing costs of long-term care. The actuarial profession is on board to help find a solution.”

Meanwhile, Phyllis Hegstrom, Government Affairs Director, Home Instead Senior Care, urged all sectors to up their game. “Families will need to almost double their efforts to keep up with care needs and more than twice the number of seniors will be looking for that help. Productive collaboration across all sectors is essential to a respectful ageing journey.”