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Nursing Homes and Long-Term Care Homes in Canada

Last updated on: Friday, 5 May 2023
  • What You'll Learn

Nursing homes or long-term care in Canada is required for seniors and others needing access to 24-hour nursing care and daily support services. Typically, residents are assessed and deemed eligible by social service agencies run at the provincial level. Overall, nursing home care is the best solution for those assessed by medical professionals needing constant monitoring, nursing supervision, or other highly specialized care that cannot be met in their homes or by homecare.

Nursing home care or long-term care varies from province to province. For example, British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario fully fund medical and support services in long-term care. Residents living at these facilities are responsible for paying accommodation charges but are provided a protective environment staffed by medical and nursing professionals. Moreover, most long-term care includes a personal plan of care for each resident. Residents receive 24-hour nursing and personal care, with access to a physician or other health-care professionals.

Unfortunately, long-term or nursing care funded by the provincial government has waiting lists, whereas private pay facilities may not. Nursing homes have changed dramatically over the past decades, and much of the change has occurred because of government regulation and consumer pressure. There may also be more significant changes considering the impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on long-term care and nursing homes across the country. However, nursing homes today are highly regulated, providing every level of care for aging adults.

Who Lives in Nursing Homes and The Common Reasons

Why The majority of people who live in nursing homes are 85 years old and older, and very few residents are 65 years of age. Most residents of nursing homes are women, and many of them do not have a spouse due to being widowed, divorced, or never married. Many residents in nursing homes have only a small group of family members and friends for support. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic impacted nursing homes significantly, accounting for more than 80% of all COVID-19 deaths in the country, per the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

There are many reasons for choosing a nursing home; for example, some disability when it comes to performing the activities of daily living is the most common reason. Most residents of nursing homes have more disability than people living at home. The majority of residents in nursing homes need help with three or more activities of daily life. For example, many residents need assistance or supervision when walking, or require assistance when going to the bathroom, or have difficulty hearing or seeing.

In addition to physical problems, many residents struggle with mental conditions like dementia, which is the most common problem. Most residents have problems making daily decisions, and many have problems with memory or knowing where they are from time to time or struggle with problematic behaviours. Behaviours may include being verbally or physically abusive, acting inappropriately in public, and resisting care. Other issues involve communication problems of difficultly, both being understood and understanding others; moreover, there are issues with depression and anxiety.

What Are The Factors for Admission to a Nursing Home and How Long to Residents Stay

Overall, the length of stay varies in a nursing home, and most residents only stay a short time. For example, someone could be admitted to a nursing home for rehabilitation or for terminal care. On average, most residents spend at least one year in a nursing home, and only a small percentage stay longer. The chance of being admitted to a nursing home increases with age. Other reasons for admission include low income, poor family support, low social activity, functional or mental difficulties, race, and geriatric syndromes.

According to a report from the National Institute on Ageing, Canada’s provinces and territories are struggling now more than ever to meet the rapidly growing needs of its aging population. There are a growing demand and necessity to provide more high-quality long-term care to Canadians within the confines of strained health care budgets and limited household means. Overall, most older Canadians are living together with more complex health, social, and functional issues than any previous generation.

The COVID-19 pandemic has proven how vulnerable aging Canadians are who are living in nursing homes. Per the report mentioned above, over 430,000 adult Canadians were recently estimated to have unmet home care needs, and 40,000 Canadians are currently on waitlists for nursing homes due, in part, to a lack of available home and community-based care. Government spending is increasing, but when compared to other nations, it has not kept pace.

Choosing the Right Nursing Home

Older adults need a higher level of care, and hospital stays are shorter than they used to be. Nursing homes often offer medical services similar to those offered in hospitals after surgery, illness, or other sudden medical problems. The types of medical services vary a lot among different nursing homes or long-term care homes in Canada. Some of the services include:

  • Orthopedic care
  • Skilled nursing care
  • Breathing treatments
  • Support after surgery
  • Physical, occupational, and speech therapy
  • Intravenous therapy and antibiotics
  • Wound care

When considering and choosing nursing home care, it is important to know what services are offered. All nursing homes provide nutritional counselling, social work services, recreational activities, respite care, hospice care, and end of life care. Residents and families should know what to expect during a stay at a nursing home. These are not hospitals, and residents will not get the same intensity of care as what is provided at a hospital.

When searching for nursing homes or long-term care, there are some questions to consider asking:

  • Is the facility well maintained and clean?
  • When visiting the nursing home to the residents look well taken care of?
  • Are the rooms big enough, is it a semi-private or private room, and do they have enough personal space?
  • Are residents offered recreational activities, and are their safety features.
  • Does the nursing home have the proper licensing, and what are the staffing ratios? 
  • Are there key professionals, and is the physician or nurse practitioner following the staff member? 
  • How close is the nursing home to the nearest hospital, what is the food like, and are there additional costs?

There are many different questions to consider, but it is important to have all your questions answered. Moreover, do not feel as if you are abandoning your loved ones by placing them in a nursing home. Family members are encouraged to visit residents regularly and be involved in the total care and support.

The Challenges and Demand for Nursing Home or Long-Term Care in Canada

According to a 2017 report from the Conference Board of Canada, the country will need an additional 199,000 long-term care beds by 2035, nearly doubling current long-term care capacity. The report estimates that the new beds will require approximately $64 billion in capital spending and $130 billion in operating spending between 2018 and 2035. Experts believe the benefits of the new beds outweigh the costs even without considering improved health outcomes.

The country’s population is aging rapidly, and the large baby-boom generation is entering its golden years. The need for additional long-term care is a cost that is a growing part of the economy. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, significant changes will likely be needed to safeguard residents of these new long-term care facilities. The 2016 Census showed persons aged 65 and older outnumbered those aged 15 and under for the first time.

As baby boomers continue to age and require assistance, there will be a significant and sustained increase in demand for long-term care. Every province will have a task of calculating the growing need and managing ways of preventing issues seen with the COVID-19 pandemic. There significant challenges ahead following 2020 because of the demand for long-term care beds over the next two decades.

Assisted Living and Nursing homes, What Is the Difference?

The main difference between assisted living and nursing homes is the level of care provided. Assisted living communities a unique option and act as an in-between for independent living and nursing homes. Residents of assisted living facilities are still living independently but may require help with some of the activities of daily life. Residents of nursing homes are no longer able to live independently and require 24-hour medical supervision and support due to physical or mental conditions that leave them unable to care for themselves. When considering the best option, it is a good idea to have a professional assessment done to ensure the right care is provided.