Retirement Living

Strategy Session: Retirement Home vs Nursing Home

May 26, 2020

As the Founder and CEO of Tea & Toast, and a professional who has worked in the retirement industry for almost 20 years, the best overall advice I can offer is this: strategy equals success.

Here is our second installment on how to strategize for different situations. As always, I welcome your comments and questions.

What is our best option?

This is the number one question I am asked as a retirement living expert.

Some people may not realize that “retirement homes” and “nursing homes” are two separate entities, each with their own processes and costs.

Our first step is to understand the difference between the two.

Retirement Homes /Retirement Residences / Retirement Communities

  • A retirement home is a privately owned residence that provides rental accommodation, care, and services.
  • It is not publicly funded and there are typically no subsidies available.
  • These homes can provide different levels of care as needed, with 24/7 care on-site.​​​​​​

Retirement homes are what I refer to as a social model.

You live in a communal-type setting with shared common spaces and have your own suite/apartment and private bathroom. You can have your meals prepared and your housekeeping and laundry done. These residences provide a home-like environment and offer a full calendar of social activities.

Affordability and care

Prices vary depending on the size of your suite (more square footage = more expensive).

The more care you need, the more you pay. This can make it challenging to budget.

In most retirement residences, you need to provide your own personal products (toilet paper, soap, incontinence products).

Why choose a retirement home?

  • To avoid social isolation and be with peers who have similar life experiences
  • To get help/minimize stress with meal prep and shopping
  • For assistance with managing medications


Once you choose the retirement home you would like to move to, you put down a refundable deposit to hold the suite.

You sign paperwork and provide some personal medical information.

In cities with many retirement communities, like Ottawa, there isn’t usually a waiting list.

A blue door and a red door
What is the best option for your loved one?

Nursing homes / Long-term care (LTC) homes / LTC facilities

  • A nursing home is publicly subsidized.
  • These homes are run by private companies or municipalities.
  • They are for people with complex care needs.

Nursing homes provide care for people with significant health challenges and cognitive impairment who need 24-hour access to nursing care and supervision.

The setting at a nursing home is like that of a hospital, with few private rooms. Most rooms are 2 per room with a shared bathroom.

Affordability and care

In Ontario, the government covers the cost of care and services and you pay for room and board.

Everyday staples and personal products are included, making it easier to budget.

If you run out of money, your stay in the nursing home will be subsidized by the province.

Why choose a nursing home?

  • To receive appropriate care for health needs
  • Affordability
  • For assistance with managing medications


Most of the moves to nursing homes are directly from “community.” “Community” could mean any place a senior may be physically living: their home, with a family member, or in a retirement home.

Very rarely, someone can be admitted into a nursing home directly from the hospital. However with Bill 7, this is now changing.

Unfortunately, you can’t just pop into a local nursing home to sign up when you are ready. There are waiting lists, so if you want to move to long-term care, you need to plan. A trusted advisor can help you navigate the system.

A special note about couples

Retirement homes

  • Many couples choose to move to a retirement home in order to remain together, longer.
  • Both partners can get the care they need while remaining together.

Nursing homes

  • Both partners need to be assessed for the nursing home list, independent of each other.
  • There are no guarantees that the couple will end up in the same nursing home. The reunification process can be long and tricky.

Final thoughts

Making a move to retirement living or long-term care is a vitally important decision in the life of an older adult. Do your research. Ask questions. Then plan, plan, and plan some more!

Our Tea & Toast advisors are well-versed in all aspects of senior living and can help you explore your options for retirement living and/or long-term care. Contact us any time!

Breadcrumbs, my ebook/book is full of more helpful strategies and insider information about the retirement industry. Please take a look!

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