Care Options for Seniors: Understanding Different Levels of Care in Canada

If you or your retired loved one is looking for alternative living arrangements, you may find yourself wondering what various options are available for different levels of care and support.

In Canada, several housing options are available for older persons depending on how much medical and personal assistance they require, from independent living suites to memory care homes for those with memory loss illnesses.

For example, you can click here to learn about assisted living and the options available to your older loved one.

If you’re unsure which type of residence would best suit you or the individual in your care, keep reading below to learn more about each type of community, the services they offer, and who qualifies for residency.

Independent Living (IL)

Independent living is intended for autonomous older adults who are still active and healthy but want to live a relaxed, simplified life in a more social setting. This might include a 55+ community of townhouses or a condominium building.

This type of option puts most of the responsibility on the person purchasing or renting the apartment, as they would be in charge of providing any assistance or medical care that may be required.

Therefore, an older person is usually required to be independent and able to reside in a retirement apartment.

These older individuals should be able to perform most or all daily tasks, including meal preparation and housekeeping, with limited assistance from friends and family members.

Some 55+ communities or condos offer a clubhouse with recreational and social programming. Other communities also offer a la carte care services for purchase as needed. Some retirement communities offer fully independent bungalows or independent apartments within their residence, making a potential future transition to ISL much more convenient.

Independent Supportive Living (ISL)

Many retirement communities offer independent supportive living services, which involve assistance with self-care, household management, and access to community resources.

While different living centers may vary, most independent living communities provide social and recreational activities, a la carte meals, housekeeping services, and 24-hour emergency responders should a resident require immediate assistance.

Those looking to move into an independent living center will benefit from the extra free time provided, allowing them to spend more time with friends and family while having a number of their daily needs met by on-site staff.

These individuals can enjoy various recreational activities, such as exercise classes, art appreciation, and other fun pastimes the residency of their choice provides. Most of these services are tailored to the recipient’s needs, so check what’s available in your area.

Assisted Living (AL)

Assisted living (or supported living in Alberta) is a housing protocol that provides more elevated medical and personal care services than independent living.

Older persons who move to assisted living centers maintain sound physical and mental capabilities but sometimes require help with daily tasks and occasional medical care.

Assisted living communities provide housekeeping, prepared meals, hygiene assistance, changing linens and laundry services, recreational services and amenities, and scheduled and non-scheduled medical care.

Some centers will also be responsible for helping residents determine and administer the proper dosage of their medications.

The purpose of assisted living is to provide older people freedom and independence in the comfort of an apartment or suite while being able to pass off daily chores and home maintenance tasks to on-site staff.

In most provinces, assisted living can be offered at different levels of care depending on residents’ medical and physical needs, from occasional medical assistance to regular care and supervision.

Long Term Care Residences (LTC)

Nursing or Long Term Care (LTC) homes provide enhanced care for older persons who require constant medical assistance and supervision.

Services provided at Long Term Care residences include a fully-personalized treatment plan, full-time care from a registered nurse, prepared meals, assistance in everyday tasks, and 24/7 supervision.

While these care centers are more medically-based, the on-site staff will do all they can to ensure older persons in residence feel at home and comfortable in their new home.

Those living in LTC may be more limited in the activities they can engage in, but they will still have the chance to participate in specific group outings and receive visits from friends and family.

If you or your loved one require assistance in the abovementioned areas, a nursing home may be ideal for your present circumstances.

Home Care Services

Some older persons may defer to medical and personal care in their homes rather than seeking residence in a care center. This option is viable for relatively independent people who require assistance in day-to-day tasks, such as cooking and cleaning.

Some personal care services that individuals using home care can receive include assistance with bathing, grooming, dressing, and using the washroom. In contrast, help with daily tasks provides grocery shopping, errands, simple housekeeping, laundry, and meal preparation.

Home caregivers can also act as a respite for family members who need relief from this type of care and can attend appointments with the older person in their charge.

Memory Care

Memory care homes are residences for older persons diagnosed with memory loss illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. These care centers provide full nursing and medical support and care for residents’ daily needs with housekeeping, meals, and other daily tasks.

The support provided at memory care homes is more extensive than what assisted living centers offer. However, they still provide recreation, entertainment, and socialization for those in residence to help improve their quality of life.


These are great options for older individuals looking to alter their living arrangements. Go through this list of options with your loved ones, and see which level of care best suits their needs.

If you’re concerned that an older person in your care may need more elevated assistance, consider the care available in memory care and nursing homes and whether these may be better options than the other living arrangements mentioned.