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New report reveals demand for elder care set to double in 10 years

As Canada’s baby-boom population ages, the demand for elder care will double by 2031, according to a new report commissioned by the Canadian Medical Association (CMA).

The demand for long-term care is expected to reach 606,000patients in 2031, up from 380,000 in 2019. Demand for home care will increase from close to 1.2 million to roughly 1.8 million patients.

“Time is not on our side,” said Dr. Ann Collins, CMA president. “Searching for efficiencies is always a valuable exercise, but we are beyond the point where tinkering around the edges will solve this problem. Our window of opportunity to reset how we care for and support seniors is now.”

During the first wave of the pandemic, long-term care homes were overwhelmed, with 81% of Canada’s deaths from COVID-19 occurring in these settings. Canadians have also been raising concerns about the quality of long-term care. In recent survey collaboration between the CMA and the National Institute on Ageing, 96%of older Canadians contacted said they would do everything possible to avoid going into a LTC home.

“We know the pandemic has exposed major cracks in seniors’ care,” said Dr. Collins. “It is not hard to imagine what awaits them in the next decade with no plan in place to address a growing demand for care along with changing expectations for aging at home.”

Canada’s long-term care system does not have the capacity to meet current demand, with waitlist numbers totalling more than 77,000 people in 2019. And as demand rapidly grows, costs are also set to double.

The report shows the annual cost of aging services will grow from $29.7 billion per year in 2019 to $58.5 billion per year in 2031. The increased demand for long-term care and home care is projected to cost a total of $490.6 billion over the next decade.

The report highlights potential solutions that could lower the cost of services, while also improving care:

  • There has been a downward trend in the use of long-term care by seniors. If that trend is sustained by making use of home care, moving 37,000 Canadians out of long-term care by 2031 would save health care an estimated $794 million per year.
  • There are thousands of patients in hospitals waiting to be transferred to home care or long-term care. Moving these patients to appropriate care settings could save $1.4 billion annually by 2031.

The CMA is using this report to continue to press governments for: 

  • new demographic-based annual funding to the provinces and territories to support improving elder care ($1.8 billion investment in 2021); and 
  • a pan-Canadian plan to improve elder care in Canada, including committing to working with the provinces and territories on new, national standards for long-term care 



The study Canada’s elder care crisis: Addressing the doubling demand was conducted by Deloitte and commissioned by the Canadian Medical Association. Read the report here.