Long-term care insurance aims to preserve baby boomers’ dignity

By Alain Thériault | January 18 2008 02:50PM

With the massive baby boomer demographic approaching retirement, society’s health care resources will be increasingly strained. There is definitely a place for long-term care insurance market in maintaining the quality of life of seniors, say experts. Anita Julie Gerber, a Montreal-based specialist in the 50-plus clientele and a consultant since 1991, issues this warning: the future for seniors is worrisome.

Ms. Gerber predicts that loss of independence will be a major issue for large numbers of baby boomers. The percentage of the population over the age of 65 will increase significantly over the next 20 years.

In parallel, life expectancy is steadily rising, but not necessarily the likelihood of remaining healthy.

Examples of functional decline, explains Ms. Gerber, include the inability to pick up the mail, shovel the walk, and drive a car. Many seniors use walkers, live in constant pain, and social relations evaporate, she adds.

"The resources to face the wave of baby boomers still aren’t there. In addition, the gap between those that can afford residences that meet their current or future needs and those that do not is growing significantly," she continues.

Ms. Gerber is also a certified evaluator of healthcare establishments for seniors. She is trained to assess the quality of the management of institutional services provided to elderly patients with functional decline. As this training is not yet available in Canada, Ms. Gerber earned her certificate in Australia.

She is also a certified specialist in "aging at home" and is currently studying health law. She aspires to work in a large specialized firm in this sector after earning her master’s in law and health policy.

Her goal is to ensure an acceptable quality of life for people with functional decline in Canada. She feels that there is a lack of training and oversight in this sector.

The role of insurance

In a public institution, the waiting time is now six months to a year. The government will find it increasingly difficult to finance care. Prices should rise accordingly. "Where will someone in the middle income bracket go? This is the financial advisors’ market," she says.

In addition, women are more vulnerable to chronic illnesses than men, Ms. Gerber adds. Two thirds of the time, procuring insurance is an emotional decision influenced much more by a personal experience than by demographic statistics. When you know someone placed in a public institution more than 250 km away from home, the motivation for this insurance is much greater.

Karen Henderson, a long-term care specialist who has spoken at conferences attended by the general public and consultants, details the gradual impact of functional decline on her Internet site

Make a list of the ten most important activities in your life, she says. "Imagine that you are 65 years old. Cross off three. Imagine that you are 75 years old. Cross off three more. Imagine that you’re 85 years old. Cross off another three. Now imagine your reaction."