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How to find the right retirement home for your loved one

Once you have decided on a facility, keep checking in on how your loved one is doing.

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When he was 60, my dad, Bernie, made me promise that I would never put him in a home. He made me promise at least once a year after that. But later in life, his health deteriorated to the point where I could no longer keep my promise. I researched homes extensively, always with a heavy heart and a sense of betrayal.

Finally, I found a retirement home that seemed to fit our needs. Still, I hesitated. The day I moved Bernie into his new residence was one of the most difficult days I can remember. But I am happy to say that once he was settled, Bernie enjoyed his life there.

I used to go visit him, thinking I was going to brighten his day, only to have him greet me with, "Listen, Renée, it's great to see you but I'm late for exercise class."

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Bernie and I got lucky with the nursing home I found.

Here are some ideas to help you start your search when the time comes to consider moving your loved one into a nursing home.

  • What are your loved one’s needs? When you meet with administrators from the facilities you will be evaluating, it helps to have a clear list of what you want.
  • Know the difference between the residences available to you.

A retirement home is a private residence, not funded by the government. No additional help beyond meals is offered, so if your loved one needs help with medication or daily hygiene, you will need to make arrangements and pay extra for this care.

A long-term care home or nursing home is government-subsidized and able to provide a full complement of nursing care. They are governed by the provincial long-term care authority.

Some facilities are a combination of private residence and long-term care home. The website at is a good place to start looking for something that fits your needs.

  • Do your research. Each provincial government provides details of retirement homes and long-term care homes available in the area.
  • Once you have a home that you are considering, schedule a visit.

Look for cleanliness and how staff members speak to one another.

If there is respectful communication among the staff members, there is a good chance that they will respect their residents.

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  • After your initial visit, pop in when no one is expecting you. Again, look for cleanliness and the mood of the staff members.
  • Check the staff ratio. Every home will have a different staff ratio, but ask the manager of the home how they manage their staff ratios between different care staff members.

Once you have decided on a facility, keep checking in on how your loved one is doing. Many people have a set day that they come visit Gran at the nursing home, but I recommend continuing to vary the day and time of your visits to get a clear picture of what your loved one is doing throughout the week.

Never be afraid to ask questions or voice concerns. Everyone in a care facility needs an advocate who is 100 per cent on his or her side.

I learned that, with good research and a bit of luck, a move to a retirement community can bring some wonderful surprises for the person living there, and the whole family.

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