Understanding Care Levels in a Retirement Community

By Caroline Inman


PEOPLE move to retirement residences for many different reasons, and whether you’re considering supported living now or looking ahead, knowing what homes can provide for you today, as well as in the future is very important.

Although there are an abundance of options to choose from, not all residences are the same, meaning not all are set up to include the same care and services. For the most part, a licensed* retirement home will include what we call ‘umbrella supports’ in your base monthly price. This is usually three full meals a day along with all snacks and beverages. Also, weekly housekeeping and weekly laundry of linens and towels (some homes will also include personal laundry, or you can do it yourself or pay a fee for staff service). 

Utilities are also included, as is 24/7 access to nursing via a pendant or alert system. Finally, social programming, activities and events are usually part of the base package. For right now, this may be all you need and 99% of retirement homes provide this. The 1% that don’t are those higher care buildings that have no fully independent package to offer and instead focus on residents who need care assistance from the get-go.

Homes that offer a fully independent option will also offer some ‘supported care’.  This  can be minimal assistance like medication management/administration and assistance with bathing. However, that may be the scope of their care service provision. It’s very important when you’re speaking with retirement homes to ask what the highest level of care support is that they can provide. This can then guide you in decision making. Also to understand what they provide with their umbrella supports as each property can change up their offering/pricing or have incentives on.

As well, although you may be fit and mobile right now, no one knows what tomorrow may bring. How important is it to you to know that if you fell and needed assistance to transfer or mobilize, that the home could help you with that? Equally, someone with a degenerative illness like Parkinson’s or cognitive decline or MS may wish to know that the homes they’re looking at can provide a memory care environment or high care assistance should it be needed.

What care can be provided? 

Pretty much everything from med management to PEG tube feeding and everything in between. But, the higher the care needs, the fewer homes there are that are licensed to provide those services. For the most part, all licensed buildings can provide umbrella supports, med management and some additional  help with getting dressed and bathing. Homes also rely on and welcome help from the workers with Home and Community Care Support Services (formerly the LHIN). These caregivers are often the ones to provide you or your loved one with morning and evening assistance and bathing support.

Many residences can also provide further assistance with transfers, help with moving around (whether supervised walking or portering in a wheelchair); help with going to the bathroom. If only one person is needed to help you with any of these ‘Activities of Daily Living’ then the majority of retirement homes can support you.

When and if you may need two care providers to assist you is when there are fewer options available, and fewer still if you also need a mechanical lift to help with transfers. And, those that can help with trach tubes, stomach or nasal tubes for feeding are fewer still!


Let’s break down the care ‘levels’

Whether it’s shared as a Level One, Two, Three or by names such as Enhanced Care, Gold Package or others there are basically four levels. Again, not all homes can provide these:

Independent – all of the umbrella services listed earlier (meals, housekeeping, laundry, 24/7 nurse access)

Independent Supported – as above but with medication management, dressing/grooming, and bathing. Also can include personal laundry services and a daily tidy and garbage removal.

Assisted Living – higher care supports to include transfer and ambulation, toileting assistance, cueing and redirection, encouragement at meals or activities.

Assisted Living High Care – two person assists for transfers, full incontinence care, feeding support, mechanical lifts.

For those homes that have an actual Memory Care offering, some will be able to support to a one-person assist and some will be able to support to a two-person assist. This is as well as the therapeutic programming they offer aimed specifically at those with brain change.

At Solva we can very quickly narrow down options that meet your needs. We have expert knowledge of residences, their levels of care, their inclusions, pricing and availability. We are also here to talk to you about future planning and things you might not have considered.


For more information on anything written here, or questions on care in a retirement home, please connect with us for free at Solva; 

www.solvaseniorliving.ca  info@solvaseniorliving.ca  613-421-6073 or for Toronto 647-847-4719


*a retirement home that is licensed with the ON retirement homes regulator, the RHRA has to follow the Retirement Homes Act (2010) law. In order to be licensed, the property has to be occupied primarily by persons who are aged 65 and older, and have a minimum of six residents that are not related to the owner. Also, the residence needs to provide a minimum of two services from a predetermined list which includes meals, medication management, ambulation support, continence care, dementia care, bathing and others.

There are properties that advertise ‘retirement living’ but are not licensed. They are akin to apartment/community  living and can offer no care services, aside from maybe meal(s). They do not have a nurse/nursing team on site 24/7 but you are always welcome to bring in your own care provider either through Home and Community Care or by privately paying for services.


Next Steps?
Call us at 613-421-6073 or email info@solvaseniorliving.ca

We provide the following free services:

1 – Rapid Resources & Referrals.
2 – Arrange and Escort on Tours (again, we can provide virtual tours and presentations or get pictures of specific accommodations and living areas sent to you).
4 – Advocacy during the selection and move in process.
5 – Resources for additional services.