Achieving Quality Care in Retirement and Long Term Care Homes in Ontario

Achieving Quality Care in Retirement and Long Term Care Homes in Ontario

Relocating your loved one to a care facility is a difficult, stressful and emotional process. Finding the ‘best place’ that can provide quality care for your loved one, takes time, tremendous effort and, even then, until they are settled in, worry prevails. Helping them adjust to their new ‘home’ and ensuring that the care they receive is good are the main issues of concern once the move has happened.

As a first step, you want to establish a primary person that can be your contact if a problem arises. If there are any concerns, discuss them promptly with facility staff. Be available as much as possible during the settling in phase. Keep in mind that change is scary – allow for an adjustment period for both of you. Don’t be afraid to give feedback to staff – but don’t forget that positive feedback is important as well. Often we get so caught up in conveying problems that we forget that everyone needs to hear when they are doing a good job as well. Take the time to ask questions – speak to the staff when you visit to find out how the person is adjusting and help the staff get to know your loved one. Share important things about them that will help in the adjustment process; what are their likes and dislikes, hobbies etc. If cognitive impairment is involved you may want to pass along some coping strategies that work for you. As there are likely several shifts of staff that each need to get to know the person, you may want to post some information on the wall/room bulletin board or on a side table that will help them work with your loved one.

In order to ensure that appropriate care is being provided, it is advisable to take the time during your early visits especially to observe interactions between staff and residents to ascertain if residents are treated in a respectful way and if needs are met promptly and with care and kindness. For example, check your loved one’s clothing when you visit – is it being washed properly? Is it their clothing as opposed to someone else’s? Are they in clean clothes when you visit?

Speak to your loved one often to find out how things are going. Allow them to talk and listen carefully to what they are saying. In the early days it might be a bit difficult to determine which issues are related to simply adjusting to a new surrounding and to being in a care facility and which are due to relevant care issues. That being said, it’s important not to discount any concerns that are related to care and comfort. In order to determine how significant the concerns are, you may need to be present a bit more often and observe the situations where there are concerns or gently approach staff to discuss issues in a non-threatening way. If your loved one is cognitively impaired and not able to convey care issues, ensuring quality care will involve significant observation and discussions with staff.

It’s important to be aware of regulations and residents’ rights in care facilities. If your loved one is in a retirement residence, you should become familiar with the Tenant Protection Act and the Retirement Homes Act and if they are in long-term care, learn about the Long-Term Care Homes Act.

The most important factor in determining quality of care in any residence or care situation is that of the staff. The quality of the staff is what separates a good home from a bad one. You can determine this easily if you take the time to watch and listen during your visits. Watch other residents when you visit; get to know them, their families/regular visitors, and talk to them. Developing relationships with both staff and residents in the home is important and will ensure that if there are issues, you are notified of them. Focus on the food quality, cleanliness, and staff attitude. Get to know the routine of the place. Visit at mealtimes and check the food and menus when possible. Join a Family Council if there is one or encourage your loved one to join a Resident’s Council if they are able to participate. If you have the time, participate in activities in the residence. This is a way to help your loved one adjust while creating opportunities for you to get to know the residents and staff by observing and interacting. Request monthly meetings with staff to review any issues – attend all meetings that are arranged and if possible ensure your loved one participates in these meetings if they are able.

As difficult as the process of relocation is for both the caregiver and the ‘new resident’, it's important to keep in mind that you are still a caregiver even if you are not doing the ‘tasks’ you were required to do before. The way that you ‘give care’ has changed but your new role is equally important and necessary. Let your loved one know that you are always available for them and will do your best to ensure that they receive the best care possible in their new home.

If you are looking for assistance locating a home or resources for your loved one, you can reach out to our consulting team at or visit our consulting page for more information. Our Discover 3 program offers decision-makers and seniors, an opportunity to have a professional consultant identify 3 housing solutions based on their needs. If you need more information on care options for seniors, retirement community, or long-term care visiting tips and/or if you are interested in organizing your loved one’s information using our Care Planning Workbook, visit our publications page for a list of options and downloads.
For additional questions, feel free to contact us at is Canada’s largest unbiased seniors’ housing database, offering consulting services, and both seniors’ service and housing directories for professionals, seniors, and their families.


59 other articles by Esther Goldstein, B.Sc., B.S.W., RSW