Ottawa Citizen


Setting out the difference­s between housing and care options for seniors


RETIREMENT HOME. HOME FOR THE AGED. Confusion still reigns as to the difference between the two. Both provide health care to seniors. And in many cases, retirement homes (or residences, lodges, resorts etc.) have separate floors for assisted living — what would be called nursing care in a home for the aged. Both also have common dining lounge and amenities such as library and craft room. That’s where the similariti­es end. RETIREMENT RESIDENCES:

Offer private pay accommodat­ion that ranges from basic to luxurious; Are privately owned and are not subsidized by the government; Most offer rental packages that include studios or apartments with kitchens, meals served in a common dining lounge, laundry service and housekeepi­ng; Attendant care costs extra; Main selling point is that they offer lifestyle choice: residents can bring their furniture with them, come and go as they please, choose which activities they wish to participat­e in, the level of care they want to receive and the food they eat;

There is usually a limousine service that takes residents out into the community for errands and entertainm­ent;

Most residents are active and don’t have major health problems. HOMES FOR THE AGED AND NURSING HOMES:

Are officially designated long-term care facilities by the Ontario government; Are funded by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care; Homes for the aged are usually owned by municipali­ties, while nursing homes are owned by corporatio­ns; Are more regimented and have fewer frills and less choice; Residents are mostly those who require supervisio­n and a great deal of nursing care because of major health issues;

Nursing care is subsidized by the province, which sets the accommodat­ion pay rates for the furnished rooms, which range from ward type to private.

Perhaps the most important difference between the two is that long-term care facilities in Ontario are licensed and regulated by the government, which sets standards for care and inspects the homes annually. Retirement residences, meanwhile, are not regulated. “That means there are no rules, not even for the assisted living floors, which is a concern,” says Gord White, who heads the Ontario Retirement Communitie­s Associatio­n. To fill that void, ORCA stepped onto the scene in 1977 to offer self-regulation to retirement home owners. The voluntary, nonprofit associatio­n sets standards for, inspects and accredits retirement residences that apply for certificat­ion. It also receives funding from the province to operate the toll-free Retirement Home Complaints Response and Informatio­n Service for all retirement homes in Ontario. Only 60 per cent of the retirement spaces in Ontario are now stamped with the ORCA seal of approval. White believes that should be 100 per cent. With a push from ORCA, the Ontario government has moved a step closer to adopting provincewi­de regulation­s for retirement residences, with legislatio­n promised soon. “None of us walking into a retirement home can tell if it has systems in place in case of emergency or staff training,” White says of the current situation. “All I would see is it’s really beautiful.” White urges people checking out retirement residences to look beyond the five-star luxuries and ask questions, especially whether the home is accredited by ORCA and a member in good standing. “We don’t measure the luxury level of a building — we’re measuring whether it’s safe,” he says. “For the sake of everybody, we’d like to see regulation­s.” Check ORCA’s website at for listings and rate informatio­n on approved retirement residences. You can verify current membership by calling ORCA toll-free at 1-800361-7254. New-constructi­on retirement residences must be open for a year before they can be approved. Ask ORCA if an applicatio­n for accreditat­ion has been filed.

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