What's the Difference Between Retirement Homes, Seniors Buildings and Long-Term Care in Ontario?

What's the Difference Between Retirement Homes, Seniors Buildings and Long-Term Care in Ontario?

People attempting to determine the type of care they need for themselves or a loved one are often unaware of or confused by, the difference in terminology with respect to levels of care. The chart below is meant to assist in quickly clarifying the difference, but for greater detail please see the sections related to each topic. Please keep in mind that no decision for placement of any kind can or should be made without the consent and knowledge of the person involved if they are competent.


LEVEL OF CARE                   


Seniors’ Apartments


• Private rental apartment; may have Rent Geared to Income.
• May have some Supportive Housing services, meals for purchase, social programs, visiting MD.

Supportive Housing

• Independent apartments with a care component.
• 24/7 availability of support workers – can assist with meal preparation and homemaking.
• Subsidies are available in some buildings.


(sometimes called Assisted Living, Retirement Homes,
Retirement Communities)

• Privately owned and operated (some are owned by not-for-profit organizations).
• Accommodation is mostly private – rooms, suites or apartments, some homes have semi-private units.
• Services provided usually include: social/recreational activities, housekeeping, most/some/all meals, minimal assistance with personal care (may be a fee involved), 24-hour staff – additional care may have to be purchased.
• Licensed and regulated by the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority (RHRA).
• Must abide by the Retirement Homes Act, 2010; the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006, Health Protection and Promotion Act, fire and building codes.
• Apply directly to the home.
• Cost is determined by individual homes based on various factors.
• No government subsidies are available.



Care Homes

called Nursing

• Ownership/operation may be private, not-for-profit, municipal or charitable.
• Provide 24-hour assistance with personal care, eating, bathing, medications, medical/nursing needs.
• Amenities, recreational activities vary; housekeeping, laundry services, and meals are included.
• Cost of care/support is covered by the provincial government. 
• Residents pay room & board portion (called the “co-payment”).
• Standardized rates across the province set by the government; subsidies available for those unable to pay ward rate.
• Maybe waiting lists.
• Apply through local LHIN – maximum of five choices, first one to come available must be accepted.
• Residents must be medically stable but usually require care of some kind; maybe cognitively impaired.
• All homes are licensed, regulated, and funded by the provincial government under the Long-Term Care Homes Act, 2007.

Complex Continuing Care

• Hospital-like facilities.
• Patient must have very heavy care needs that cannot be managed in a long-term care home, be medically unstable or have complex issues that require frequent nursing/medical attention.
• Usually admitted directly from an acute care hospital.


 Excerpted with permission from The Comprehensive Guide to Retirement Living - 23rd  Edtion

If you are looking for assistance locating a home or resources for your loved one, you can reach out to our consulting team at consulting@seniorcareaccess.com 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 connect@seniorcareaccess.com.
SeniorCareAccess.com 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