Q1. What is a retirement home?
A1: 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.

Q2. What can you bring to a retirement home?
A2. 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.

Q3. How much does it cost to live in a retirement home?
A3. 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 high $2,000 to low $3,000/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 in most provinces. Contact homes you are interested in directly to find out the exact pricing.

Q4. Are there government regulations for retirement homes?
A4. The availability of regulation depends on the province you are in. Some provinces do have existing regulations, for example,  B.C., Alberta, ManitobaQuebec, and Ontario - while others do not. Our article library does have information on regulatory bodies for retirement homes for the provinces that have them. Search by the topic you are looking for, and the associated article will come up.

Q5. What services are offered in retirement homes?
A5. Beyond accommodation, most retirement homes offer some or all meals, activities, light housekeeping, and 24-hour staffing. Many offer assistance with care, activities of daily living, medications, and laundry services (usually for an extra fee). Some have on-site amenities like a spa, gym, hairdresser, family dining room, games area, visiting lab service, visiting doctor, and other services. There may be additional costs for some services.

Q6. Do retirement homes accept people with dementia/Alzheimer's Disease?
A6. At one time, only long-term care homes could accommodate the special needs of those with memory issues. In the last few years though, 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 an independent 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, the 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.

Q7. How valuable are retirement home reviews?
A7. 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.

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 reviews for different industries, it is clear that most reviews need to be taken with a 'grain of salt'. 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 to 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 from 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 about a retirement home?

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 a mechanism for people to launch complaints, and a process to review them and deal with them if they are legitimate. An example of one such organization is the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority (RHRA) in Ontario. 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 license requirements. For homes that have identified issues, inspectors return repeatedly until the appropriate changes are made. 

There are ways that you, as a consumer of a private service, can properly investigate a home in a far more useful way than reading online reviews. If you are looking for a retirement home for someone you love, nothing replaces a physical visit where you can talk to residents, try the food, and arrange a trial stay.  Relocating to a retirement home is a huge life change 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 into 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, for example, the location, cost, care available, cultural/language needs, etc. Start with the objective information you can easily locate. The subjective information you need 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.

Q8. What does Aging in Place mean?
A8. Homes that allow you to age in place are ones that are able to provide care for a resident regardless of how their needs change. They 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.

Q9. Do retirement homes accept people who only need a short-term stay?
A9. Many retirement homes will offer convalescent care, respite care, and vacation stays provided they have an available room. Some do have a minimum and/or maximum time allowed for short stays.

Q10. Do retirement homes allow residents to have pets?
A10. Many homes do allow pets as long as the resident can look after them. Check with the homes you are interested in to find out if pets are allowed, and what kind. Ask if there is a pet deposit fee and if there is a contract you have to sign to keep a pet with you. Prior to moving in, ask to see a copy of this contract if you plan on bringing your pet with you. There may be size/type restrictions even in homes that do accept residents’ pets. As well, some homes will specify what suites or floors residents with pets are allowed to live on.

Q11. Do retirement homes supply furniture?
A11. Most retirement homes have only unfurnished suites for permanent residents (the exception are usually vacation, respite, or short-term suites which are usually furnished units). It is rare to find ones that offer permanent suites that are furnished though, on occasion, we do come across them. 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.

Q12. What is the most important thing to look for when searching for a retirement home?
A12. The most important thing 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 their needs are, they can be met at a budget you/they can afford. Location is important - a familiar area where friends and family can visit often, 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. 

Q13. How does one choose the 'best place' from the many options available?
A13. In a word - research. Become an informed consumer. Seek out information from the homes you are interested in directly and from those who live there. Ask many questions, go on tours, and try the food. You (the person considering the move) 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, the location you want, what you must have to make you comfortable, and what you might like, if there are places with added features that check the other boxes for you. 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.

Q14. What is a Long-Term Care home?
A14. 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 licensed, 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 a 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, and hairdressing), depending on the residence.

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