Accessing and  Comparing Retirement Living Options in Canada

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is a Retirement Home?

A: Retirement residences and communities (also called retirement homes) are ideal for older persons in relatively good health who may have minimal or moderate care needs and cannot (or do not want to) be in their own homes. They provide a safe, supervised environment that allows for the opportunity to enjoy organized activities, socialize with people their own age, have their meals prepared and housekeeping done by someone else, and obtain some care if needed. Retirement homes are privately owned and operated. Residents are usually free to leave during the daytime without supervision. Retirement living residences vary greatly in location, size, accommodation, cost factors, services, amenities and staffing..

Q: What can you bring to a Retirement Home?

A: Residents can usually bring some of their own furniture. What they can bring will be determined by the space in the suite they are renting. The large majority of homes offer primarily unfurnished suites and allow residents to furnish and decorate as they wish. Some homes allow small pets (as long as the pet owner can look after them). Several people living in retirement residences still drive their own cars.

Q: How much does it cost to live in a Retirement Home?

A: In general, costs are market-driven and dependent on location, ownership, care needs, amenities and other factors. Residences in rural areas may be less expensive than comparable ones in large urban centres. There are several homes that are in the mid-high $2,000/month range in smaller centres though homes in larger cities can cost several thousand dollars per month which may or may not include the cost of extra care. Many homes do separate the cost of rent and the cost of care in their pricing structure. There are no government subsidies for private retirement homes. Contact homes you are interested in directly to find out about exact pricing.

Q: Are there government regulations for retirement homes?

A: The availability of regulation depends on the province you are in. Some provinces do have existing regulation - B.C., Alberta, Quebec and Ontario - while others do not. You can find articles in our resources section of the site on the regulatory bodies for the provinces that have them.

Q: What Services are offered in Retirement Homes?

A: Beyond accommodation, most retirement homes offer some or all meals, activities and 24-hour staffing. Many have the availability of assistance with care, laundry services, bathing, dressing etc. Some have on-site amenities like a spa, gym, hairdresser, visiting lab service, visiting doctor and other services. There may be additional costs for some services.

Q: What is a Long-Term Care home?

A: If your care needs can no longer be met in the community or retirement home level does not appear to provide adequate care, you/your loved one may require a long-term care home. Long-term care homes are licenced, regulated and funded by each province's Ministry of Health. Long-term care homes provide 24-hour/day supervision and/or assistance with personal care, eating, bathing, medications, and medical/nursing needs for medically stable individuals in a secure, supervised environment. They tend to offer more care than is usually available in retirement residence and even most assisted living settings and can manage special needs such as dementia. Standard room furnishings are provided, as are linens, meals, laundry services, hygiene and medical supplies. Long-term care homes have a dining room, lounge/common areas and activities/programs for residents. There is usually a doctor available for residents with regular on-site office hours. The provincial government pays the "care portion" of the cost. The resident is usually responsible for the co-payment which covers room and board costs. The "co-payment" amount is standardized across the province and set by the government annually. There may be an extra charge for some services (such as cable TV, telephone, hairdressing), depending on the residence.

Q: Do Retirement Homes accept people with dementia/Alzheimer's Disease?

A: At one time, only long-term care homes could accommodate the special needs of those with memory issues. In the last few years though, it seems more and more retirement homes have begun to cater to the needs of the memory impaired population. It seems too, that more and more people are reaching out to the private sector to provide this sort of care. While there are many with mild dementia who can manage without a problem in a retirement home or assisted living setting, there are others who do require a more specialized kind of care especially if behavioural or wandering issues are occurring. If you are in the position of looking for a home for someone with dementia do ask questions about the criteria for admission, extra cost involved, staffing and training, how they manage difficult behaviour, how they keep residents oriented, policies on chemical and physical restraints and security on the unit to ensure the person doesn't wander out of the building.

Q: How Valuable are Retirement Home Reviews?

A: Of late, it seems that the world wide web is filled with sites that offer user reviews. It is not uncommon to hear people choose vacation locations, hotels and various home contractors based on reviews they find online. So, it is not surprising that the retirement home industry as well is seeing the emergence of similar websites. I have often wondered how useful user reviews are. In years gone by people would call the Better Business Bureau to find out if there were any complaints about a business or to file complaints. Now we have the internet which allows virtually anyone to type in a review for the world to see. After reading many for different industries I have come to the conclusion that most reviews need to be taken with a 'grain of salt'. The reality is every individual perceives their experiences differently and one's opinion can be based on a host of things that the reader of the review, is unaware of. I have read some reviews that are similar to my experience and others that are completely different. I have been asked to give reviews by companies I have praised but most definitely not from companies I have sent negative comments to. Reviews by strangers are far less important to me than feedback from someone I know. I would rather speak to a friend who has gone somewhere or used a company for a service simply because I know the source and how their opinions relate to mine. Retirement Homes are different to other types of businesses. They are all about care. They deal with a vulnerable population and those voicing an opinion may not be the person who lives there and knows the day to day activities of a home. People are far more likely to complain than praise so the question is would you really be getting a valuable understanding of most people's experiences reading posted reviews? More valuable than user reviews which may be biased for a host of reasons, are inspection reports by organizations that regulate homes. They ensure that there are standards for care and that these standards are being met. They provide an option for people to launch complaints and a process to review them and deal with them if they are legitimate. The Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority (RHRA) in Ontario is one such agency and great pains have been taken to create an equitable system with appropriate checks and balances so we know that homes that are licensed have met the approval criteria. As well, homes are subject to repeat inspections over time to ensure that they maintain their licence requirements. For homes that are lacking in some elements, inspectors return repeatedly until changes are made. For information on the RHRA visit www.rhra.ca. I have always felt very strongly that one needs to visit a home, talk to residents, try the food and stay for a trial before making a decision. Relocating to a retirement home is a very big deal and one should not make a choice or even simply eliminate a home from one's list because of reading a review - positive or negative. Every person has unique needs and opinions which need to be factored in to any decision such as this. One person may love the food in a place and another may hate it. The same goes for the atmosphere of a home, the perception of staff and the activities. It is best to start searching for a home based on neutral criteria – the location, cost, care available, cultural issues etc. Start with the objective. The subjective is something only the person moving into the home can use to make their decision. It's not about whether or not someone else likes a home; it's about whether you - the person who will be living there - likes it. Finding a new home to relocate to can be stressful and take a fair bit of time. And there are no guarantees that everything will always be perfect. However, if you take the time and do your own research, you are more likely to find the place that is the best fit for you.

Q: What does Aging in Place mean?

A: Homes that allow you to age in place are ones that are able to provide care and mantain a resident regardless of how their needs change. The have the staff and ability to continue to provide care for people as they age and have greater health care challenges. There is often an added cost in a retirement home if your care needs increase so in some circumstances the proviso is that you can afford the extra cost of care as you age.

Q: What is Life Lease?

A: It is a condominium-style unit where people are independent but the structure is usually attached to a seniors resource where services can be purchased, if needed. The structure is usually built by a non-profit corporation which holds title to the property. The tenant purchases a 'leasehold interest' in the unit that costs less than an average condo in the area. The amenities available, purchase price, maintenance fees and costs to purchase services will vary depending on the structure, sponsor, location etc.

Q: Do retirement homes accept people who only need a short-term stay?

A: Many retirement homes will offer convalescent care, respite care and vacation stays provided they have an available room.

Q: Do Retirement Homes allow residents to have pets?

A: Many homes do allow pets as long as the resident can look after them. Check with the homes you are interested in seeing to find out if pets are allowed and what kind. Ask if there is a pet maintenance deposit fee and if there is a contract you have to sign to keep a pet with you. There may be size/type restrictions even in homes that do accept residents pets.

Q: Do Retirement Homes Supply Furniture?

A: Most retirement homes have only unfurnished suites for permanent residents (some will have vacation, respite or short term suites which are furnished). There are a few that do have the option of furniture however, they are more of the exception. When planning a move to a retirement home, ask for a floor plan for your suite and ensure that the furniture you have and want to bring, will fit in the space available.

Q: What is the most important thing to look for when searching for a retirement home?

A: The most important thing hands down, is care. You need to ensure that the places you are looking at can provide good and appropriate care for your loved one. You also need to ensure that whatever the needs are, they can be met at a budget you/they can afford. Location is important - a familiar area where friends can visit or they can go out will assist with the adjustment. Keep in mind any cultural or language issues and get to know the things they want and need in a home. We have a great PDF avaialbe on our site for download with questions to ask when you tour homes. You might want to download it before you begin looking (Visiting Tips).

Q: How does one choose the 'best place' from the many options available?

A: In a word - research. Become an informed consumer. See out information, from the homes you are interested directly and from others who live there. Ask many questions, go on tours and try the food. You might want to even stay for a week or a weekend to try out the atmosphere and activities. Know your monthly budget in advance and the basics, where you want to live, what you must have to make you comfortable and what you might like, if there are places with added features. Know your needs now and ensure the places you are looking at can meet them. You might also want to consider options and costs should additional care be required in the future.

Q: Is pricing listed for all homes on this site?

A: No. We have made every effort to contact every home listed on this site directly for information. Some have chosen not to participate. Others did not want to give pricing information. If a home has not provided certain information that you require, please use the contact information listed. Do let them know that you found their information on our site. Moving forward we will contact homes in our database at regular intervals to update/add information.

Q: How comprehensive is the list of homes on this website?

A: Very comprehensive. We have collected the names of over 4,000 homes across Canada to create this website. Our staff have attempted to contact every home in our list. Even if a home refused to participate, their contact information has been verified. As we locate new homes they will be added to our database and contacted for information.

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