Where Do I Start

Looking for information on not-for-profit long term care homes, housing and community services for seniors? Let us help guide you in understanding the system in Ontario so you can make the decisions that are right for you.

This section provides a good overview that is presented in the following sections:

  • What options are available?
  • A good place to start
  • Finding out about long term care homes and community services
  • Finding out about seniors’ housing
  • Am I choosing the right option?

What options are available?

The range of supports and services for seniors in Ontario is extensive and can seem overwhelming if you or someone you care about is needing support or assistance in their daily lives. Generally speaking, there are three areas to consider: home and community services, seniors’ housing, and long term care.

For more information, the provincial government has developed a website providing details on home, community and residential care options.

A good place to start

A visit to the family physician may be a good place to start. He or she may not understand all of the ins and outs of the long term care system, but can determine if there is a particular health problem in evidence, whether it is wise to continue living alone, or if some additional support would be advisable. Further consultations with a geriatrician - a physician specializing in the process of aging - or other specialists may be recommended. Then it is time to begin to consider the appropriate options.

Start by taking a look at AdvantAge Ontario member organizations (not-for-profit long term care homes, seniors' housing, and community service agencies) in your area.

Next, you can reach out to Concerned Friends, a volunteer-run organization that has a Wayfinding Support Program. This is a free service delivered by a team of trained volunteers providing empathic, confidential support to individuals and families seeking assistance and information in navigating the Ontario LTC system. You can reach them via phone or email at 416-489-0146 or 1-855-489-0146 (toll free) or info@concernedfriends.ca

Finding out about long term care homes and community services

To find out about the community services and long term care homes in your area, the place to begin is with your Local Health Integration Network (LHIN). LHINs are newly responsible for home and community care (formerly the role of the Community Care Access Centres) as well as primary care planning.  

LHINs are not service providers. Rather, they help to coordinate your care and will connect you with the services you need.

LHINs arrange for health and personal support services to be provided in peoples' homes and arrange admissions to long term care homes. LHINs also provide information and referrals to other community services including supportive housing, meals-on-wheels, friendly visiting, transportation services, adult day programs and caregiver respite programs.

Click here to locate your LHIN

LHIN assessors - staff trained to assess each individual's requirements - determine the eligibility of persons to receive assistance for the services that LHINs can offer.

LHIN staff might suggest:

  • Admission to an Adult Day Centre a few mornings a week. Often these programs, which help not only the quality of life of the client, but which give needed relief to caregivers, are to be found in community centres, long term care homes, or even in shopping malls, run by not-for-profit community groups.
  • Respite Care (usually referred to as a“Short Stay Program”) These programs, often found in long term care homes, allow the client - or even, sometimes the caregiver - to be away from the usual demanding home situation for a few days.
  • Homecare - this program can supply certain hours of care in the person’s home, including basic assistance with daily living, giving help with a bath, some meal preparation, etc.
  • Admission application to a Long Term Care Home - when help in the community is no longer adequate, care in a long term care home is usually the next step.

LHINs cannot help with applications for housing or retirement home options, but they are often able to make suggestions about them. Your local LHIN can give details about what is provided in the vicinity.

More on long term care homes...

More on Community Support Services...

Finding out about seniors' housing

There is a wide range of housing options for seniors but you have to do a little digging to find out what is available in your community. You may want to investigate the following:

  • Social housing - includes non-profit, public and co-operative housing. The purpose is to provide affordable housing for seniors, families and single people with low to moderate incomes. Municipal governments are responsible for funding and administering all social housing through a body referred to as Service Managers. Service Managers are also responsible for managing a centralized waiting list for people looking to get into social housing. There are 47 Service Managers across the province - contact your local municipal government to find out about social housing in your community.
  • Supportive housing - provides supports to help people to live independently in the community. If you know of a seniors' building in your area that offers support services contact them directly for information on how to get on the waiting list. Otherwise, the best place to start is your local LHIN.
  • Life Lease Housing – this housing option is somewhat similar to condominium-style living but residents neither rent nor own the unit - they purchase a "right to occupy".  Most life lease projects are operated by not-for-profits. There is no centralized list of projects - check your local phone book or take a look at the list of AdvantAge Ontario housing members in your area.
  • Retirement Homes/Adult Lifestyle Communities - vary widely in terms of the services provide, their amenities, type of accommodation, and the cost of being a resident. There is no centralized waiting list. Check your local phone book or visit the Ontario Residential Care Association site or the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority.

More on seniors' housing...

Am I choosing the right option?

Whether one of the several housing options appeals, whether a day program would suffice, whether a long term care home is the likely next step, be certain that you visit the agency or home. You will get a feel from that visit about the atmosphere, about the staffing, about the way the clientele react to staff and to each other, about the programs offered, and about how welcomed you feel during the visit. You may want to take a look at our suggested checklist of questions  to consider when visiting homes.

Between your own physician’s diagnosis and the assessment of the LHIN case manager, the decision about the correct services required should be accurate for the moment. Remember that situations change. The appropriate service today may not be right three months down the line. The professionals involved in each situation will advise if it seems to be in your best interest to find another option.

If you live in one part of the province, and wish to bring a family member closer to you from another area of the country, you may certainly do so. Admission to a long term care home is not restricted to persons residing in the immediate area of the home.

Even if, in an emergency situation, or because of long waiting lists in programs or homes, choices are being made for you that are not your first choice, you have every right to request an eventual move to the home you select.