Retirement Living

4 Differences Between Retirement and Long-Term Care Homes in Ontario

April 19, 2021

Updated August 24, 2023

In this space, we’ve previously discussed the differences between retirement and long-term care homes in Ontario. Here’s a quick recap:

Retirement Home

  • Are based on a social model - Residents live in their own suites, eat in a common dining area, can take advantage of programmed activities like social programs, exercise classes, or outings.
  • Independent lifestyle – For seniors who want to continue living independently with housekeeping and meal services often included
  • Care available - Many retirement homes offer care service and some can do extensive care services up to a 2-person assist.
  • Private pay – Costs vary by home as well as by type of suite and service package.

Long Term Care Home

  • Based on a medical model– Residents live in a shared or private room, may share a bathroom. Meals take place in a common dining area. Activity programs designed to accommodate residents with different physical and mental capabilities.
  • 24/7 supervised care – Around-the-clock monitoring and nursing. According to the Ontario Long-Term Care Association, two thirds of residents use wheelchairs, 9 out of 10 have some kind of cognitive impairment (mild to significant), and many require frequent support with daily activities.
  • Cost is partially subsidized – Fees are standardized across homes for basic, semi-private, and private accommodation, set by the Ontario government. Residents only pay a portion of the cost, the rest is funded by the government. Further subsidy is available for low-income residents who cannot afford basic accommodation.
  • Apply through a central placement agency – All applications for long-term care homes must go through Health and Community Care Support Services (formerly known as the Local Health Integration Network and before that the Community Care Access Centre). You can apply for up to 5 homes at a time. All wait lists are managed by Health and Community Care Support Services, who assigns you a priority according to your circumstances.
A nurse pushing a woman in a wheelchair down a corridor
Long Term Care Homes provide 24/7 care

Other things to know about getting into a Long-Term Care Home

  • Room definitions are not standard – What’s called a basic room in one home may be very different from a basic room in another. For instance, a basic room in an older home may contain two residents, while a basic room in a newer home may contain only one resident and share a washroom with just one other neighbouring resident. In some ways, the term basic has more to do with the rate you pay as opposed to the layout of the room.
  • Wait lists – More than likely, you will have to wait for a space to become available in one of your chosen long-term care homes. Some homes will have longer wait lists than others. In many cases, there will be a longer wait for basic accommodation than for semi-private or private accommodation. The priority you’ve been assigned will also be a factor in how long you wait. Depending on the home, you may expect a wait of months or even years.
  • Accepting an offer - Home and Community Care Support Services staff will contact you when a bed becomes available. You have 24 hours to accept or reject the offer. If you accept the offer, you have up to 5 days to move in. If you refuse the offer, your application to all chosen homes will be cancelled. In this case, you cannot re-apply for 12 weeks after the day you were removed from the waiting list, unless there is a significant change in your condition or circumstances. (Source: Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care)

As you can see, the process for getting into a long-term care home is much more coordinated but also more rule-driven than the process for getting into a retirement home.

Want to dive deeper?  

If you want to learn more about Long-Term Care Homes, we take a deep dive in our free online course Long-Term Care in Ontario.

Summary of important official links

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