All About Estates

Plan Well Before Moving an Elderly Person Across the Country

Moving a household from one place to another is near the top of the stress scale for most of us. With a rapidly aging population, families may consider moving an elderly person from one part of the country to another for various reasons. Major moves are disruptive and bring substantial change on multiple levels, which can eventually affect a person’s physical and mental health. Without a well-thought-out plan, the results could cause the parties far more distress and cost than necessary.

According to recent data from StatsCan, older Canadians (56 years and older) make different housing choices based on lifestyle factors such as travel, being closer to family, and downsizing to manage their retirement budget. The three most common reasons for moving are to reduce housing costs (27.3%), being closer to family (19.1%), and for health reasons (12.7%). [1]

With elderly family members, the adult children will often consider moving the elderly person closer to them for various reasons, including being closer for family support and potentially involvement in caregiving, providing additional support if the person has diminished capacity,  and getting better access to health care services. However, moving an older person can be far more complicated than you might think.

In our practice, we work with clients who wish to move family members across provincial or international borders. In this article, we will focus on moves within Canada.

Holistic Planning for Complex Moves

Before clients start moving an older person, it’s essential to consider various factors. From a holistic planning perspective, consider an inter-provincial move as a complex move from one location to another requiring all three pillars of what we call a Personalized Living Plan© – health and lifestyle planning, financial costing and preparedness, and legal considerations and preparedness.

Consider the example of an inbound move to Ontario of a 90-year-old man who has mild to moderate cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer’s disease. He can no longer live alone at home in Montreal, Quebec. He has difficulty with certain activities of daily living, such as personal hygiene. He requires daily Personal Support Worker (PSW) assistance, which he receives through the local CLSC (Centre Local de Services Communautaire). His daughter lives in Toronto with her busy family of five and does not have adequate space for her dad at home. Dad wants to move closer to his daughter but is unsure where he will live.

Health and Lifestyle Planning Considerations

Obtaining provincial health insurance coverage is important for anyone moving to another province. And each province and territory differ in their requirements. Inbound to Ontario, there is no longer a wait time for OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan); however, a person must prove they are an Ontario resident and provide specific documents.[2] Proof of residency documents such as bank statements or utility bills can take time to put in place, thus causing delays in applying. OHIP applications are completed in person at a Service Ontario office, requiring the elderly person to be present.

In Ontario, the OHIP card is the entry card to other health programs and services. Ontario residents 65 and older are also eligible for the Ontario Drug Benefit Program, which provides almost complete coverage for over 5,000 prescription drugs and other products. A pharmacist will need a valid OHIP number to enroll the new resident.

Quebec citizens moving to Ontario have an overlap period of about two months, where Quebec continues to provide provincial health insurance coverage. However, a person’s coverage with the Public Prescription Health Insurance Plan ceases the day they notify Quebec they have left to reside in another province. RAMQ, the Quebec agency that administers health plans, recommends getting private health insurance to cover moving out of the province.[3]

In this scenario, the elderly father has a diagnosed neurodegenerative disease. He would benefit from having a family doctor or primary health care team and may need access to specialists. Identifying the medical and health personnel in advance is wise so there is continuity of care and the smooth transfer of medical and health records before the person moves.

Living accommodation is a significant factor to decide in advance. The daughter indicated she has no room at home. Will her father be moving to a retirement home with a memory care program? What other options are they considering? Many retirement homes with memory care programs have waiting lists and are expensive. What accommodation would be appropriate in the meantime?

In Montreal, the father received personal care support through the CLSC services. The equivalent services in Ontario would be accessed through Home and Community Care Support Services (HCCSS); however, you must have an OHIP number to access these services.

In summary, this blog post highlighted important health and lifestyle planning considerations when moving an elderly person. While the scenario used a Quebec to Ontario example, any move across provincial boundaries requires careful consideration. My next blog post will consider other elements of a holistic plan that are recommended when moving an elderly person.

[1] https://www.statcan.gc.ca/o1/en/plus/3333-canadians-move

[2] https://www.ontario.ca/page/documents-needed-get-health-card

[3] https://www.ramq.gouv.qc.ca/en/citizens/moving-outside-quebec

About Susan J. Hyatt
Susan J Hyatt is the Chair & CEO of Silver Sherpa Inc. A leader and author in the ‘smart aging’ movement, she is a member of the Canadian College of Health Leaders and the International Federation on Ageing. She holds a post-graduate certification in Negotiations from Harvard Law School/MIT and an MBA from Griffith University in Australia. She also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Therapy specializing in critical care/trauma from the University of Toronto.

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