If you’ve started looking at assisted living or memory care options for your parents, you’ve probably come to realize the rates charged by retirement communities vary widely. For that reason, it’s important to have a firm understanding of what your parents can afford.

To determine this, it’s wise to talk with a financial advisor.

It is also important to be clear on what is affordable, and if perhaps you need to be looking at something based on income (funded) rather than private. Often, someone will be able to maintain the costs of a private long term care home for 1 year to 18 months while waiting for a funded bed in BC. Again, reach out to a financial advisor, and a case manager to determine what that time frame would look like and what is affordable to you.

Possible sources of money

Here are some of the assets and income streams that might help cover your parents’ monthly living expenses while they’re living in a retirement community:

  1. Company pensions – Possibly from several sources if your parents worked for more than one employer in their careers. May include foreign pensions if they worked outside Canada at some point.
  2. Government benefits – Including Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security payments. May include a spousal allowance, disability tax credit, or veteran’s benefits.
  3. Personal savings and investments – Including Registered Retirement Savings Plan and Tax-Free Savings Accounts. May include income from a rental property or sale of assets.
  4. Home equity – If your parents currently own their own home, proceeds from its sale can help to cover future living expenses. Consult a financial professional to understand tax implications.
  5. Insurance – May include long-term care insurance. Check the insurance policy to see what expenses are eligible. Your parents may also be able to draw on assets in a life insurance policy. Again, seek professional advice on how this might be done.
  6. Friends and family – Members of your family may choose to help your parents cover part of their living expenses. But they should consider whether this is something they can sustain over the long term.

Get clear on monthly expenses

Ask individual homes to itemize what your parents will need to pay. What’s included and what’s not? For instance, one home may have what appears to be a relatively low monthly fee, but a number of services your parents need must be paid for on an à la carte basis. In the end, the bottom line may be the same as or higher than at other homes.

Consider not only what services your parents need now, but what they may need in the future.

For example, if they end up needing more personal care in the future, can that be provided, and if so, at what additional cost?

Understanding the numbers – both on the income and expense side – will prevent your parent from moving into a retirement home they can’t afford in the long run, or a home that can’t provide additional care they might need in the future within their budget.

Doing your research and weighing the options

But be warned: gathering all this information can take hours upon hours of your time. Most homes don’t post their monthly fees, meaning that you’ll need to contact them directly. And most likely they’ll want to have a conversation with you first, rather than just supplying you with the numbers.

Multiply that by however many homes you’re checking into, and it’s not hard to see how labour-intensive it can become. There is a really great resource in BC that in the industry we call the BLUE BOOK of seniors’ services.


The bottom line is being prepared with the information going in, because it is far easier to have options and be able to choose, as opposed to something happening and you are starting at the beginning. In our industry we have trusted advisors who have worked in all levels of care, and can provide you with the comprehensive information to make an informed decision. Reach out to us today so we can start the process of welcoming your loved one into our family!

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