MLA report, Gary Burrill
Special to the Colchester Weekly News
STEWIACKE -I was sitting in a church waiting for the service to begin one Sunday morning a few weeks ago when the man in front of me turned and said, “I’d like you to say thank you to Darrell Dexter for me for what he did for nursing homes.”
As we talked a little more later, he explained he was referring to the change announced by Premier Dexter last fall in the amount of money the spouse at home may keep, when the other spouse is in a nursing home.
“I don’t mind who you tell,” he said. “The more who know, the better.”
My friend’s wife suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, and for many years he had cared for her at home. But last spring, the time had come when she needed to make the move into long-term care.
When the financial assessment of the couple’s income was made calculating what they would be required to pay towards her nursing-home accommodation, the amount was $1,792 a month.
But in November, that was reduced to $1,462, meaning he had $330 more a month to live on than when his wife had first gone into the home.
This $330 difference came about as a result of a change in the policy about the percentage of a couple’s income that may be kept by a nursing home resident’s spouse who continues to live at home.
Under the previous rules, the financial assessment for long-term care accommodation was based on 50 per cent of the shared income of the couple.
With the new system, introduced Nov. 1, that is reduced to 40 per cent, allowing the partner at home to hold onto 60 per cent of the household’s income. (As always, all of this applies only to couples with incomes over a certain limit: below $20,000, the public pays for everything. That limit, too, was changed in November. It used to be $18,000.)
The Department of Health and Wellness estimates that in the case of a couple with a combined income of $45,000, this change means that the spouse who remains at home is now keeping $27,000, as opposed to the $22,500 he or she had been able to keep before.
Departmental figures show that slightly over 10 per cent of long-term care residents have a partner living at home in the community, and that this change is expected to effect between 700 and 1,000 couples in 2013.
Although this is an expense to the public treasury, in announcing these improvements Dexter spoke about it as money well spent, because “it means less worry and more money for anyone whose spouse is in long-term care.”
Changes of this sort are not the sort of thing you see on the top of the 6 p.m. news, or on the front page of the newspaper. But nobody should minimize the significance of anything that makes this kind of $330 difference.
Gary Burrill is the NDP MLA for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.