A stroke can affect your ability to earn a living. It can also bring on new expenses. Figuring out what support is available might take some time.
That’s why it is a good idea to get started on taking care of your finances sooner rather than later. While you are recovering from your stroke, family and friends, as well as workplace contacts, can look into what benefits you qualify for.
Your sources of income
Paid employment leave
If you were employed at the time of your stroke, contact your human resources department to find out what benefits are available to you. These may include:
- sick leave
- short-term disability
- long-term disability.
Ask these questions:
- What do I need to do to apply?
- What are the eligibility criteria?
- How long will the benefit last?
- What is the amount of my benefit?
- Is the benefit taxable or non-taxable?
- What deductions will be taken off?
Provincial/territorial disability programs
Each province/territory has its own way to support people with a disability. This might involve income benefits, tax credits or deductions, job retraining, or programs that help adapt homes and purchase equipment to increase independence.
To find out about programs in your province
- Go to canadabenefits.gc.ca.
- Click “I am a person with a disability”
- Select your province/territory
Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefit
If you have paid into the Canada Pension Plan, you may qualify for a disability pension. Look into this benefit as soon as it becomes apparent that you might not be able to return to work.
Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits
These benefits are for people who are unable to work because of sickness. They are available once your employer benefits are exhausted. For example, if you have used all of the sick leave and vacation available to you, you may qualify for EI sickness benefits for a limited time.
Apply as soon as you decide that you will not be able to work in the short term. EI will ask for the following information:
- your employment record for the last 52 weeks
- amount of EI payments
- proof of inability to work from your doctor.
To find out about programs in your province
- Go to servicecanada.gc.ca
- Click “Employment Insurance”
- or call Service Canada at 1-800-622-6232
Some people have disability insurance through a private plan or through their mortgage insurance or credit card insurance. Check your records carefully to see whether you have any insurance coverage that you can claim.
The following tax credits and deductions are available nationally. In addition, check to see if your province also has opportunities to save on taxes.
Disability tax credit
This non-refundable tax credit reduces your taxes. You will need a proof-of-disability certificate completed by a qualified professional such as a doctor. This must be approved by Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) before you can receive the credit. To learn more go to canada.ca/taxes or call 1-800-959-8281.
You or your spouse can claim medical care expenses that are not covered by health plans. There is a limit to the amount you can claim. Keep all medical receipts and claim them at tax time.
Expenses related to medical care that may be tax deductible include:
- payments to medical practitioners, testing facilities and hospitals
- transportation expenses
- medical devices and equipment such as wheelchairs or orthotics
- premiums paid to a private health insurance plan
- expenses for adapting your home to your disability
- costs of rehabilitation therapy
- preventive, diagnostic and other treatments
- dental costs
- alternative or complementary treatments.
To learn more go to canada.ca/taxes or call 1-800-959-8281.
Funding for your medical expenses
Your healthcare team may recommend the purchase of equipment or additional therapy sessions. There may be programs available to help with these costs.
Extended health benefits
You may have extended health benefits through your employer or your own personal extended healthcare plan. Be sure to ask:
- What benefits are available and what are the funding criteria?
- What are the funding limits?
- Will it cover costs of equipment? If so, what equipment and how much?
- Will it cover costs of therapy? What kind (for example, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, massage therapy, speech therapy)?
Some provinces/territories have programs that pay for assistive devices such as walkers, wheelchairs and canes. Find out what is available in your province/territory. To learn more:
- check your province or territory’s website
- ask members of your healthcare team.
Where to get support
- The social worker on your team.
- The human resource contact with your employer.
- Your financial planner or accountant.
- Community organizations with volunteer tax preparers.
- Your bank.
Having a stroke raises difficult life issues. You may feel that it is time to do some advance planning. Advance planning means setting out how you would like your personal care and finances managed, should you be unable to communicate your wishes in the future. It is a way of helping your loved ones by making your choices formally known. It requires that you talk with family and friends, as well as your healthcare team, your financial advisor and/or a legal professional.
Each province/territory uses different terms and has different legal requirements for advance planning. There are many resources available to help you and your family through this process.
There are three things that you can put in place in case you have another stroke or a condition that is more disabling or life limiting:
- Select a representative or substitute decision maker for health care and financial decisions.
- Create a plan for your health and personal care should you be unable to communicate your wishes.
- Make a will for the distribution of your estate if you die. This is called estate planning.
1. Select a representative or substitute decision maker
This is a person you trust (or it could be more than one person) whom you ask to act on your behalf, should you be unable to communicate or make decisions about your health care and finances.
It is up to you to decide who you could ask to carry out this responsibility. Choose someone who will honour and respect your wishes.
You can ask the same person to make all decisions, or you may ask different people to carry out different decisions. For example, you might ask one person to carry out your wishes about your healthcare and a different person to handle your finances.
Once you decide who will represent you, it is important to communicate your wishes clearly with that person and make sure you are understood.
2. Create a plan for your personal care
Advance care planning is a process of reflection and communication. It is a time for you to reflect on your values and wishes, and to let others know your future healthcare preferences in the event that you are not able to communicate with them. This might start as a conversation, but you should put your wishes in writing. Here are some helpful steps.
- Think about what is right for you. Ask yourself: what are my values and beliefs? What do I know about end-of-life care? What is important to me?
- Learn more about the medical procedures that might be offered near the end of life. Some might improve your quality of life. Others might only prolong life. Different people have different thoughts about such procedures as pain control, assisted breathing, CPR and others. Talk to your doctor about the different options so that you can make an informed decision that fits with your wishes.
- Talk about your wishes with your representative, family members and friends who are important to you.
- Write down your wishes or make a recording or video. There are also forms available in most provinces and territories. Each of your substitute decision makers should have a copy. Share your written wishes with your healthcare team, your family and close friends.
- Review your plan regularly to make sure it reflects your wishes, especially if something in your life changes. Communicate any changes to your representative.
3. Plan your estate
Estate planning means writing down how you would like to transfer your property, money and other assets at the end of your life. This usually takes the form of a legal document such as a will. You may need the help of a lawyer to finalize it.
Where to get support
- Search for “advance care planning” on your provincial/territorial government’s website
- Consult a lawyer, bank professional and doctor for advice in the various areas.
Checklist for your personal documents
Use this checklist to help you collect and organize important records, documents and instructions that you and your representative may need:
- Legal will
- Advance care plan or living will
- Name and contact information for your substitute decision makers
- Birth certificate
- Social Insurance Number
- Life insurance policy
- Health insurance policy
- Bank account information and passwords
- Safe deposit box location
- Real estate or rental papers
- Car insurance and registration