The who and what of long-term care

Woody Huizenga

Exploring long-term care options can feel like a daunting task. There are many things to consider, such as the type and cost of different services, and it can be hard to know where to start. The information below will help those who need to think about their future needs or the needs of their loved ones.

What is long-term care?

According to a 2012 study by the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA), long-term care “starts from the point where an individual requires regular assistance with aspects of their day-to-day living and can include medical and non-medical care.”  In other words, it’s not limited to medical care in a nursing home environment.

Health Canada says there is little consistency across Canada in what facilities are called (e.g., nursing home, personal care facility, residential continuing care facility), the level or type of care that is provided, and who owns them.

Typically, residential long-term care facilities provide housing for people who need around-the-clock medical and personal care services. For example, in Ontario, long-term care homes are places where adults can live and receive help with most or all daily activities, and access to 24-hour nursing and personal care.

In contrast, home care services are designed to help seniors stay in their homes as long as possible. Some — but not all — home care expenses are covered by private health insurance.

Your health care team can help you determine what options are best for you. In addition, some provinces have tools like this checklist from Ontario. You can use this list to assess what’s important to you. It is also a helpful guide to ask questions about a facility that you might be considering.

Who pays?

Long-term care is not covered under the Canada Health Act. According to the CLHIA, government programs aimed at assisting Canadians with long-term care needs differ by jurisdiction and are typically based on income.

And even though all provinces regulate and subsidize fees, eligibility criteria vary from province to province.

How much does it cost?

As of May 2015, the basic charge for a publicly funded long-stay bed in Ontario was $1,731.62 per month, and a private room was $2,438.81. The 2015 subsidized rates in British Columbia ranged from $991.20 to $3,157.50. People who can’t afford the basic rate might be eligible for a rate reduction. Private facilities are also available for those who can pay, and are generally more expensive.

Where can I learn more?

To begin planning for your needs, talk to your health care practitioner, and contact a community care centre in your region. To find more on the web, look for your provincial ministry of health web site here.