Are Family Members Responsible for Nursing Home Bills?

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We all want the very best for our family members, especially when they get into their senior years and may need more assistance and care than they did previously.

Family Member paying Nursing home bills

As we know, when we age and need more medical assistance our bills can greatly increase and adequate care can become very expensive very quickly.

Our family members likely have a pension and savings they have worked for their whole lives, but what if that isn’t enough for them to live off of when they need to move into a nursing home?

Are other family members responsible for paying nursing home bills? Who pays for nursing home care if those being cared for can’t afford it? Here’s what you need to know so you can determine how, and if, you can help.

Government Involvement

As many Canadians know, our provincial and federal governments help foot the bill for most of our healthcare costs for much of our lives and nursing home care really isn’t any different for the most part.

In almost all Canadian provinces, the government will help subsidize the cost of nursing home care but residents must also help pay a portion of it so the government isn’t paying for the full cost.

The amount that residents must help with personally varies from province to province, and may also depend on the income of the resident once retired.

Across the country, there are also private nursing home facilities that are not subsidized by the government at all.

In these cases, the residents who live there would be completely responsible for the entire cost. The monthly bill for these kinds of facilities often depends on the amenities and level of care each one offers.


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Cost per Province

The cost residents pay, per day, for nursing home care varies from province to province. Some provinces ask their residents to pay for care and accommodation costs while others only ask for care costs to cover medical needs.

Certain provinces have implemented a flat fee model so that everyone in the province pays the same rate, per day, for their nursing home care.

This amount is based off of those who are receiving government assistance and/or basic pension. The amount collected allows them to pay for their care and retain a little bit in savings for their own personal spending needs.

How much Nursing Home Cost

Other provinces have implemented a sliding scale model so that the amount each resident pays is based on their income and ability to pay.

This still ensures that those who are low income have access to adequate care as they age, and they can still have their own discretionary spending.

If you have concerns about what your loved one qualifies for under your specific provincial legislation, you can contact local nursing home facilities and ask to sit down and speak with them about the specifics of care.

Accessing Financial Help from your Provincial Government

Some provinces will automatically give help to pay for nursing home care when your loved one applies to move into one, but not all do. Some provincial governments require the individual to apply for any financial assistance that they might need to help pay for care.

If you are handling your elderly loved one’s finances, you may want to look into all assistance your province gives to seniors to pay for nursing home care.


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Family Member Involvement

The question of whether the family of the resident is responsible for payment for their loved one to live in a nursing home facility, and the answer to the – unfortunately – depends on which family member it is.


It is not uncommon for an elderly couple to have one partner move into a nursing home before the other due to needing extra medical care or the attention that the other partner just cannot provide, especially in taking care of themselves.

When it comes to this situation, married couples would be responsible to make sure the nursing home bills are paid on time, as needed. This is part of being legally married, and would come with all the same financial responsibilities.

Spouse to pay nursing home bills


If you are responsible for your parents’ care as they age, they may have also signed over power of attorney for you to make important decisions on their behalf including financial ones. You will be in charge of making sure their bills get paid on time from their own personal accounts and investments.

You will be required to make sure that they pay their bills from their own accounts and keep their finances in order but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to dip into your own savings to pay for nursing care for your parents.


Your Responsibility in Helping Your Loved One Pay for Care

While there may not be any legal responsibilities for helping your parents pay for nursing care as they age, you will still likely want to help them and make sure they are well cared for.

Your parents may have a unique or complicated medical condition that requires specialized or extra care, and that can sometimes cost more money than basic senior care.

Your loved one may be struggling to pay for the medical care they need, especially if they don’t have a large pension or the right amount of savings to keep up on their bills.

This could be where you come in. You can help pay for your parents’ care – if you want to. You can pool your resources with your siblings and arrange for nursing home care at a rate you can afford to pay.

As much as you want to help your parents, after all they did raise and care for you and your siblings for years, make sure you do not max yourself out because you still need to save for your own future.

There is nothing wrong with helping them out, as long as it doesn’t jeopardize your ability to pay your own bills and take care of your family.


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Filling the Gaps in Adequate Senior Care

As mentioned, each province has publically funded nursing homes that your loved one can move into when they need full-time care, or just more care than what you can provide.

The issue that many Canadians are facing is that the publically run facilities are understaffed and severely underfunded. This means that any senior Canadian with a complicated medical condition, or even one that needs special care like Alzheimer’s, may not be able to access the care needed in these nursing homes.

This means they will need to go seek out their care in privately run homes, and that can become very expensive.

Families are stuck because they don’t want to see their loved one in a place that doesn’t care for them properly given their condition, but they also may not have the means to pay for it when they still have their own financial obligations.

It’s Not Just About the Nursing Home

While paying for the nursing home may be the most expensive part of senior care, it’s not the only part.

Mobility aids in nursing home

If your loved one requires a walker or a wheelchair, for example, to keep their mobility while in the nursing home, the resident (or their family) is responsible for paying for the device.

A new walker can cost up to $500, while a good wheelchair can be almost $5,000 to purchase.

There are many additional expenses to providing care for your parents or elderly loved ones, and you probably don’t realize exactly how much it’s going to cost until you’re in the middle of it.

There can even be a lot of time off work to help take them to appointments or visit with doctors when you need to, and that can mean a loss of income for you.

Many Canadians are not quite prepared to help care for their aging parents, and it can be a big shock when the time comes.


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Alternatives to Nursing Homes for Senior Care

When your parents become unable to properly care for themselves in small ways it doesn’t mean you have to put them into a nursing home right away.

If they need help with tasks like laundry, meal preparation or even bathing you can look at hiring a home care worker to come in a few times a week and give them a hand.

This can also make your parents feel a little better as they are able to stay in their own home and maintain their independence, for the most part. Additionally, paying for home care workers to come in is much less expensive than paying for full-time nursing home care.

We always want to make sure our parents are getting the very best care possible, especially as they age and their medical conditions can become much more serious.

Individuals may have the ability to move their parents into their homes and help care for them, but that doesn’t mean everyone can do that. Sometimes we live hours away from our parents, or our home setup just doesn’t allow for it.

When your parents cannot provide the right care for themselves any longer and they need help, you might be considering a nursing home to help. The costs can be quite high, though, so it’s important to make sure the financial support is there and your loved one will be adequately cared for.