Tuesday, May 10, 2022     Marion Goard     Community News and Events Financial Health House and Home

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With more than 32 percent of Canada’s population over the age of 55 (as of September 2021), it’s reasonable to expect that many of us in that demographic will be looking for alternative living arrangements sometime in the next 10 to 15 years.

For anyone just starting to navigate the world of adult communities and senior living, it can be a confusing journey. There are so many options available, so choosing the right home for now and for your future is critical. Senior living and care options come in various forms, but the most distinction needs to be made between how retirement homes and nursing homes, also known as long term care (or LTC), are very different.

It is crucial to understand what services each type of home can provide, who they cater to and what costs are involved. It’s also important to understand the process of securing space in either of these options. There are pros and cons to each, but ultimately, your decision will be based on your needs today, consideration for your future care, your desired lifestyle and financial situation.

Not only will the costs vary, the environments will be different in each. There will be variances in the level of care, the activities, and the living spaces. Be prepared to do some research, or talk to someone who specializes in senior moves.

Retirement Homes

Retirement homes are typically private, offering a variety of services and living arrangements. Many have suites, similar to condominiums although generally much smaller, allowing residents to maintain a certain lifestyle and enjoy their independence. Retirement homes usually work best for anyone who wants to maintain or build an active social life with other individuals in the same age group. They vary widely on what they offer and you’ll have to ask some questions and explore the options and add-ons which you might want or need. You’ll want to examine the fees to determine exactly what is included (such as food) and what à la carte services can be purchased as you need them (such as laundry and light housekeeping).

Retirement homes have become their own wonderful communities over the years, offering self-contained units where your privacy is paramount. Retirement homes have a large list of amenities at your disposal: 

  • Some or all of your meals
  • Planned activities on-site, such as yoga, musical programs and social activities
  • Regular outings (think field trips!) to various entertainment venues and shopping venues/malls
  • On-site health care staff
  • Weekly clinics and appointment for personal care, mental health, and medical check ups, including dental

Some retirement homes have guidelines around how long you can stay there. As your needs change, or in the event of a health crisis, the home may not be equipped to give you all the care you need. If the home cannot provide you with the services you need, you may find yourself at a loss. Be proactive and have a plan in place for future care and be prepared for another move should the retirement home be unable to provide services due to a change in your circumstances.

Most retirement homes will allow a short stay so you can test the lifestyle to ensure it's a for a good fit for you. You can book a tour to view the living options and amenities. If an offer to come for lunch is made, take advantage of this. It will give you a chance to meet some people and test the food yourself. Ask for a floor plan of the living space and an activity calendar to take home with you. Having the floor plan will help you plan where your furniture and belongings could be placed, should you decide to move. The activity calendar will give you a better idea of what is offered and can be a good indicator of what daily life might be like. 

Questions To Ask A Retirement Home

  • What floor plans are available?
  • Are there other locations within this chain?
  • Are meals included? How many?
  • Can I see some meal menus? How often do the menus change?
  • How, when and where are meals served? What happens if I don' like the food choices at any meal?
  • Are there options for additional care? What are the fees? What services must I outsource?
  • What kind of social events happen? Is there a schedule I can see?
  • How often do prices increase?
  • What is the policy for changing suites within the community?
  • What utilities are included?
  • What are some costs I may need to budget for?
  • Are there laundry services?
  • Which appliances are included in the suites?
  • What are the move-in rules?
  • What housekeeping services are provided? How often?
  • How many staff members are on duty at any given time? Are there medical staff on site?
  • How many residents/units are in the community?
  • Are pets allowed? Are there any restrictions?
  • What is the current availability? How quickly will I need to make a decision when a suitable suite becomes available? Is a deposit required?
  • Do you maintain waiting lists?

Long Term Care (Nursing) Homes

Nursing homes, also called long term care homes, or LTCs, are designed for people who need more support in their day-to-day care. Nursing homes in Ontario are government controlled, with placements into homes and access to community services controlled by Home and Community Care Support Services (formerly LHIN, or Local Health Integrated Network). This system is needs-based, meaning people are moved to nursing homes when their medical status deems it necessary. Throughout Ontario, waiting lists are long, and while you can choose 3 to 5 preferred homes, there is no guarantee that you will get space in a home of your choice.

Unlike retirement homes, where rates will vary depending on amenities, living spaces and services, the pricing at nursing homes is consistent. Because the costs are set by the Ministry of Long-Term care, everyone pays the same price, regardless of financial situation. At the time of writing (2022) the basic monthly costs are $1891.31 for a basic room  (shared with up to 4 beds), $2280.04 for semi-private, and $2701.61 for private. There is a government subsidy for basic rooms only available to those who qualify. Residents usually pay for any medications or other services not covered by their private insurance plans or the provincial drug benefit program.

Tips for Touring LTCs

  • Visit the facility on different days and at various times.
  • Take note of staff morale, resident activities and interactions between staff and residents.
  • Talk to nursing staff about how long they’ve worked there.
  • Ask to meet with the administrators.
  • Ask about staff-to-resident ratios.
  • Read and review the resident care plan.
  • Search online for reviews of your preferred LTCs.
  • Make note of how meals are served.
  • Pay attention to the level of functioning of current residents.
  • Look for activity boards or ask to see a list.

Whatever type of senior living facility you choose, your post-retirement life can be comfortable, safe, and enjoyable. Understanding your needs, priorities, and preferences is key to choosing an option that is best suited to you. If you are looking for an active environment, want to be surrounded by people your age, and want the flexibility to come and go as you please, a retirement home may be the right choice for you. And while a nursing home space is driven by a qualification process, you can be assured you’ll have access to care when you need it.

As a Master Accredited Senior Agent, I can walk you through the process of choosing the adult community that is right for you. When the time comes to make a move I can assist with the sale of your current home as well as offer some guidance on how to determine what furnishings and other goods you’d like to keep for your new residence. My goal is to provide you with all the specialized information and professional guidance in the most patient and caring way possible. I’ll work with you to create a personalized plan, to give you peace of mind and help you make the best decision possible.

For further resources, visit my resource page for Burlington retirement homes. 


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