Retirement Living

8 Common Misconceptions About Retirement Living

March 18, 2019

Do you know fact from fiction when it comes to retirement living – and how it affects seniors, caregivers, and family members?

Check out the most common misconceptions below that we often hear from clients about moving to a retirement or nursing home.

Misconception #1: Retirement Homes and Nursing Homes are the same thing

Let’s break this down.

Retirement Homes are privately run communities that specialize in creating a “like-home” environment for residents. These homes range in look and feel from what I like to call “homey-home” and “shiny penny.” There really is a home style for everyone; it’s only a matter of finding it.

Also, as retirement homes are privately run, there are no government subsidies available to decrease the price. However, there are some tax credits and veteran credits available. Have a look at our resource page as a starting point.

Each home divides its total rental amount that they quote you into a “rent portion” and a “care portion.” The rent portion is controlled by the Landlord Tenant Act, but the care portion is unregulated at this time. However, most homes calculate their annual rental increases for care based on the same rate that the Landlord Tenant Act uses in any given year.

Retirement homes in Ontario are required to become members of the Retirement Home Regulatory Authority (RHRA). They are held to strict regulations and any misconduct is published on the RHRA website.

In Ottawa, pricing to live in a retirement home can range from $1,850 to $11,000 per month. Now don’t let this scare you off. Many factors need to be taken into account when looking at budgets including size of suite, care required and location.

Nursing Homes are publicly run facilities that specialize in high care, and are subsidized by the government. These homes are held to strict regulations by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, which regulates, inspects and sets fees. Learn more in the Long-Term Care Homes Act.

The Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) oversees the nursing home wait list. It is required to open a case file with the LHIN and go through laid-out steps in order to gain access to nursing homes. The wait lists currently span from one person waiting to more than 900 people waiting.

The cost to live in a nursing home can range from a basic room at approximately $1,850 to a private room at about $2,700.  

Misconception #2: there is a huge waiting list for Retirement Homes

Unlike nursing homes, retirement homes rarely have a waiting list. As advisors, the only time we see a waitlist is when one of our clients is looking in a specific location for a two-bedroom suite. As well, sometimes specific locations in the city can have a waitlist for some of their suites.

Although waiting lists are rare, we always advise our clients to start the process of looking sooner rather than later. Apart from the odd home, looking for a suite approximately 2-3 months before the intended move is often enough time.

Misconception #3: if you move to a Retirement Home, you will lose your independence

We speak with many clients in numerous situations. It is always our very independent clients who grapple most with whether to stay in their home or move.

In our experience, if you are interested in retirement living and have the budget to do so, there is a home for everyone! For our independent clients, there are always reasons to stay and reasons to move.

Reasons to move may include:

  • You are having trouble keeping up with the requirements of your home (including but not limited to cleaning, outside maintenance and meal prep)
  • Stairs are becoming a problem for you, putting you at a risk of falling
  • You are having trouble getting out of the house to appointments and doing errands
  • You have limited or no social connections, putting you in an unhealthy isolated situation

In Ottawa, homes with full kitchens (although few) do exist. For individuals who still want to cook for themselves but wish to enjoy some of the other services, these homes are a great alternative.

On the other hand, for seniors who don’t want to cook and clean anymore, this freedom can really free up their schedule so they can do other (and more enjoyable) things.

Misconception #4: Retirement Homes do not provide as much care as Nursing Homes do

Actually, contrary to what you may be thinking, retirement homes can provide just as much care as nursing homes. However, there is an additional cost.

Due to the extensive waiting list in nursing homes, retirement homes have picked up the slack and have been offering this extended care for many years.

It is important to know where to find this type of specialized care. Tea & Toast advisors are in and out of these homes frequently and can pinpoint what you are looking for (and in a fraction of the time it would take you to do it yourself!). Additionally, it’s helpful to know when and how the retirement home can provide this type of care, so you can prepare for future care needs.

Senior men playing basketball
Retirement living options are endless!

Misconception #5: if I move to a Retirement Home, I can’t bring my pet

This used to be the way things were done, but as retirement homes are forming their services better to their clients, pets have become more commonplace. Actually, some homes even have “house dogs” and “house cats” who live in the residence.

Now, don’t get carried away! Dogs need to be small to medium-sized, and other small animals are often welcomed.

Misconception #6: moving a loved one to a retirement home is selfish or cruel

Many caregivers have been caring for their loved ones for a long time, sometimes even years.

As they start to become exhausted (often called “caregiver burnout”), they start looking into alternative options for their loved one. This decision is often laden with stress, guilt, pressure and overall exhaustion. Sometimes the caregiver is also getting pressure from their family to continue caregiving, even though their family doesn’t know or understand the impact caregiving has had on the caregiver.

It is okay to ask for help. Period. Your health is important too. Just because you are looking for alternative care for your loved one, it doesn’t make you a bad daughter/son/caregiver etc. Retirement homes can add not only to your loved one’s care, but also offer you the opportunity to become a daughter/son/family member/friend again.

Misconception #7: seniors are better off at home than in a retirement community

Everyone’s situation is different. At Tea & Toast, our bottom line is: if you are safe, cared for and happy at home, then it’s the place for you.

One situation where we would lean towards someone moving into a retirement home (in addition to the other reasons listed above) would be when a 2-person assist is required.

A 2-person assist is when an individual physically needs two people to transfer them anywhere they need to move or go. Staying at home becomes more difficult in this situation because you never know when you are going to want to move around, go to the bathroom, or get back into bed. To staff, this would mean two care workers almost 24 hours a day, which can be very expensive. A retirement home or nursing home may be a better fit in this case.

Other reasons to move or stay at home are reliant on how independent you still are. Being isolated or in danger are excellent reasons to consider a move.

Misconception #8: staying at home is better if my loved one has memory concerns

Many families feel that with a diagnosis of dementia and/or Alzheimer’s disease, their loved one would be safer and happier if they can arrange for them to stay home as long as possible.

In my experience, dementia and Alzheimer’s care are some of the most difficult moves to make. Do you keep them home? Do you move them? When do you make the move?

We have often found that if you make a move early enough into the diagnosis, the more likely your loved one will acclimatize to their new surroundings. Additionally, the staff will be able to get to know your loved one before the disease becomes worse, and they can then monitor the signs requiring a change in care.

We have dealt with these circumstances time and time again. In fact, we have worked with so many families in this situation that we have become experts. Most often, once the move is complete, our seniors get into a routine and find it less stressful. Their family also finds it less stressful after the move because there are more eyes on their loved one to look out for them.

No doubt about it, the concept of “retirement living” is not a simple one. Seniors and caregivers have many different needs. Thankfully, there are many options out there to help tend to those needs, regardless of what they are.

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