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Debt can exacerbate problems for seniors with dementia, health experts say

Health experts say debt can have a significant effect on the well-being of seniors struggling with health issues.

The link between debt and seniors’ health was one of the panel topics explored at a conference at Carleton University on Tuesday.

“We know that financial stress … can exacerbate problems with dementia,” said Lynda Colley, chair of the Dementia Society of Ottawa and Renfrew County.

Financial pressures put on seniors battling debt and ongoing health issues can be immense, Colley said.

“I can speak about it firsthand,” she said. “My mother had Alzheimer’s disease and our family incurred a number of expenses related to her care.”

The Alzheimer Society of Canada estimates that in 2016 there were more than 500,000 people in the country living with dementia. By 2031, that number could rise to more than 900,000. 

Lynda Colley, who works for the Dementia Society of Ottawa and Renfrew County, said it’s critical for seniors to save for unexpected health issues. (Idil Mussa/CBC)

Prudent financial planning 

“Most people don’t go in to retirement or in their later years of life anticipating that they will have a diagnosis of dementia,” said Colley.

She added that in Ottawa, costs of long-term care can be about $6,000 per month. 

Conference attendee Marjorie Hinds said she’s always worked hard to live within her means and avoid debt, but she worries about those who can’t afford necessary things like medication.

Conference attendees Marjorie and Lennox Hinds said they work hard to live within their means and save for the future. (Idil Mussa/CBC)

“I do see lots of my friends struggling with health issues and they are worried about how they will be able to pay for those kinds of things,” she said.

“People who are 65 and over seem to be having to cope, much more, with situations occurring in society today.”

Colley agreed, saying it’s critical for seniors to plan and save for unexpected health issues that may happen in the future.

“I think prudent financial planning would involve anticipating that there may be some significant financial costs later in life and to anticipate that in your earlier years.”

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