With the rapid growth in the number of older Canadians, an increasing number of families today have a loved one who is in need of long-term care or skilled nursing care. But choosing the right long-term care community can be complicated. Many families ask: Where do I begin? What factors should I consider in choosing? How do I know if the long-term care community I choose will be the best for my loved one? The good new is there are a lot of resources and trusted advisors that can assist with this transition for both the potential resident, as well as for family members who are having difficulty.

A Checklist for Choosing the Right Provider

Several of these resources offer helpful checklists and advice for choosing a long-term care provider that fits your loved one’s specific needs. All of them recommend touring the communities you are considering to assess their long-term care services first hand. First impressions count in choosing the right one, and making a personal visit will enable you to assess the general ambiance and cleanliness of the environment, as well as the demeanor of the staff and care of the residents.

These include: 

Does it provide the services needed? Does your loved one need help with everyday activities, such as getting dressed or walking to the bathroom as offered in long-term care? How about skilled nursing care, physical, occupational or speech therapy? Do they require both? Determining specific care needs can help you decide on the ideal community.

Is it close to home? Is it within easy driving distance to your home? Being close to friends and family can ease your loved one’s transition to skilled nursing or long-term care.

Licensure and reputation? All licensed facilities can be researched online. If it had any deficiencies, have they been rectified? Also, what is its reputation in the area?


Quality of care. Does the community have a Medical Director and a physician specializing in physical and medical rehabilitation for skilled nursing?  Do they provide 24/7 nursing care and supervision, which includes pain management, medication, and wound care services? Also, are nursing assistants and health care aides available to help with dressing, grooming, personal hygiene and bathing for long-term care residents? These factors are extremely important when choosing a long-term care community.

Are life enrichment activities emphasized? Ask about the types of activities offered to both skilled nursing and long-term care residents. An effective activity department will interview residents about their personal interests and preferences and offer such recreational options such as music, painting, pet therapy, games, worship services and community outings.

Meals and snacks. Three meals as well as snacks should be provided daily to skilled nursing and long-term care residents. Is the food tasteful and nutritious? Are accommodations made for dietary restrictions and preferences?  Does a dietitian meet individually with each resident to customize a nutritional plan, which focuses on their personal tastes and needs? It is a good idea to visit during mealtime to visit the dining areas and have a meal there. *during the pandemic we are unable to allow in-dining with families due to having to wear a mask in all common areas*

Is there a home-like environment? In choosing a long-term care provider, you should consider whether private rooms are important and determine whether personal belongings and furnishings may be brought to the community to make the resident’s room feel homier. What is provided in the room? Hospital bed, TV and basic cable are often provided, but this would be a question to ask. Also, are there inviting places such as recreation areas, lounges and outdoor patios where residents can gather to participate in activities, enjoy one another’s company and be a part of the community?

What about memory care? These days, memory care is an increasingly important factor in choosing long-term care. Is there a safe, separate area for residents with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia? Are staff members specially trained to care for someone with dementia? Is there ongoing staff training about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia? Is the community secured and have key-code pads for doors and elevators so you feel at peace knowing your loved one can’t wander off without assistance.

Can you afford it? Before choosing a community, review the details on prices, fees and services. Know what’s included in the monthly fee and what costs extra.

Lastly, and possibly most important – is this a decision that makes sense for the safety of the resident, and are all family members on board? At times, it is necessary to test out private and publicly funded home care first, and see how your loved one transitions into receiving care. Is it safe for them to remain at home? Are there stairs to contend with – is there a space if needed for over-night care? Although this whole process can seem rather daunting at times, there are trusted advisors you can seek out to answer these questions.

Often, if someone has been in hospital, the liaison or discharge planner team can advise you of your options and provide you with lists of providers that can assist. We encourage in-person visits where allowed, and doing your research to ascertain the best fit for your loved one.