Questions & Answers

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We encourage you to use our Questions & Answers section below.  To find additional material, you can use the Search feature at the top of the page.

Q. What is residential care?

A. Residential care is for adults who can no longer live safely at home even with help because they have complex health care needs. Residential care facilities provide access to nursing care 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. Residential care also provides personal care assistance and hospitality services such as meals, emergency response, housekeeping and social and recreational programs.

Source: Residential Care Guide (Vancouver Island Health Authority).

Q. How do I apply to move into residential care?

A. Private pay: In a private pay facility, persons receiving care pay for the full amount of their care and accommodation, and arrangements are made by a potential resident (or their family) to receive those services. The facility staff conducts an assessment to decide whether or not the facility can provide the services that are being requested.

Source: Planning for Your Care Needs (BC Ministry of Health).

Publicly subsidized: An individual, family member or friend whose loved one is experiencing difficulties at home and wants to explore care options should begin by calling the health authority’s Home and Community Care service. Staff will work with the client and their caregivers to arrange the supports that meet the client’s care needs.

Clients who can no longer be safely supported in the community and who meet residential care eligibility criteria meet with a health authority case manager, who completes an assessment and application for residential care. The assessment considers the client’s physical and mental health, ability to care for themselves, availability of support people such as family and friends, and information from the client and their doctor.

To ensure fairness, the health authority reviews each residential care application and approves those with the most urgent need.

Source: Residential Care Guide (Vancouver Island Health Authority).

Q. Am I eligible for a residential care subsidy from my local health authority?

A. Publicly subsidized residential care is a limited resource, and placement in a residential care facility is based on the urgency of the individual’s care needs – not how long they have been on a wait list. For a client to be considered eligible for residential care, they must:

  • have complex health care needs which cannot be managed at home, even using all available community resources;
  • require 24 hour nursing support and supervision for their complex care needs;
  • be at high risk for a significant negative outcome in their current living situation with no options to reduce the risk; and
  • have stable medical conditions.

In addition, to be eligible for residential care, a client either has no caregiver, or their caregiver is no longer be able to provide the care and support needed.

These eligibility criteria apply to all clients, including those who may be paying for private care at the time they apply for subsidized, publicly funded care. For these clients, their situation is considered urgent when the private pay arrangement becomes unsustainable and they would be at high risk for a significant negative outcome if private services were withdrawn.

Source: Residential Care Guide (Vancouver Island Health Authority).

Q. What is the cost for subsidized residential care?

A. Subsidized residential care is not free. Residents pay a monthly fee for accommodation and food. Residential care fees are standardized throughout British Columbia at 80% of the resident’s after tax income. Because the fee is based on income, residents must file income tax returns annually. At the end of each year, local health authorities use income tax information provided by the Canada Revenue Agency to review fees.

Residents are notified of any changes to monthly fees. If taxes are not filed, residents are charged the highest rate. Most residential care clients pay only a fraction of the actual cost of providing residential care, with the public health care system paying the balance, including nursing and other costs directly related to medical care. Residential care facilities also charge fees for certain day-to-day costs. Depending on the facility, these charges may include:

  • telephone, television cable or internet;
  • personal hygiene and grooming products;
  • medications not covered by Pharmacare;
  • personal services such as dry-cleaning, haircuts and newspapers;
  • equipment such as hearing aids, walkers and wheelchairs not covered by the client’s health plan;
  • health care services including optometry, podiatry (footdoctor), physiotherapy, occupational therapy, dentistry and ambulance fees not covered by the client’s health plan;
  • other services such as labelling personal clothing, outings, bus trips; and
  • additional meals for guests.

Each facility will provide information about any additional costs.

Source: Residential Care Guide (Vancouver Island Health Authority).

Q. Can I choose which publicly subsidized residential care home I live in?

A. When completing the application for residential care, clients are asked to specify their preferred geographic area and facility. The health authority makes every effort to place clients in their preferred geographic area; however, sometimes a first appropriate bed may become available outside the client’s preferred geographic area. Placement in these situations is only considered if it does not cause undue risk or hardship to the client, family or support person. Clients in this situation who still wish to transfer to another facility would receive priority to move.

British Columbia has a standardized approach to placing clients in the ‘first appropriate bed.’ This means clients waiting for residential care are expected to take the first bed that becomes available within their preferred geographic area which meets their care needs. Once a client and family is told a bed is available, they need to move in within 48 hours. Publicly funded residential care beds are in high demand, so it’s important they do not sit empty.

If the first bed offered is not accepted, the client is no longer considered eligible or accepted for residential care. Clients in hospital who do not accept the first appropriate bed will be discharged. A health authority case manager will support them in arranging other care options. Clients may reapply if their circumstances change. Often the first appropriate bed that becomes available is not in the facility that is the client’s first choice. After two months, clients can request a transfer.

Source: Residential Care Guide (Vancouver Island Health Authority).

Q. Where do I find out more about the cost of private pay residential care?

A. Please contact our members directly to learn more about their fees.

Q. What resources are available to help me select a residential care home?

A. There are a number of different government and industry resources available to help you select a residential care home in BC. Check out the Resources section of our website for more information.

Q. Can you help me find a care home to move into?

A. Yes, if you are considered “private pay” we can refer you to one of our members in your local community. Access to these “private pay” beds is dependent on what space is available.

If you are receiving a government subsidy for care, we can also provide you with a list of our members in your local community. However, your local health authority may choose which home you are eligible to move in to.

Q. What is assisted living?

A. Assisted living is a semi-independent form of housing that is regulated under the Community Care and Assisted Living Act.

The Act defines an assisted living residence as:

a premises or part of a premises in which housing, hospitality services, and at least one but not more than two prescribed services are provided by or through the operator to three or more adults who are not related by blood or marriage to the operator.

Assisted living residences offer three key components to adults who require regular help with daily activities: housing, hospitality services and personal assistance services. Residences:

  • provide housing, hospitality services and personal assistance services for adults who can live independently but need help with day-to-day activities.
  • provide an option other than a community care facility to the growing number of seniors who have needs beyond home support.
  • are available both through publicly subsidized and private-pay operators.
  • are regulated by the assisted living registrar under the Community Care and Assisted Living Act.

Assisted living is intended for people who are able to make the range of decisions that allow them to live safely in a supportive, semi-independent environment. The housing and services may be adapted to meet the needs of seniors, adults with mental health and/or substance use problems, and adults with physical disabilities or acquired brain injuries.

Source: About Assisted Living in B.C. (BC Ministry of Health).

Q. How do I apply for publicly subsidized assisted living?

A. Access to all publicly subsidized assisted living units is through the regional health authority’s home and community care office. To find out if you are eligible for publicly subsidized assisted living, or to apply, contact the home and community care office in your community. If you already have a home and community care case manager, call him/her to request an assessment.

Eligibility does not guarantee accommodation. Vacancies at each site vary, and it’s not always possible to predict an occupancy date. However, operators and buildings that have publicly subsidized assisted living may also offer private-pay units for non-subsidized rental. Information about private, non-subsidized accommodation is available directly from the residence operator.

Source: About Assisted Living in B.C. (BC Ministry of Health).

Q. What is the difference between residential care and assisted living?

A. Residential care is for individuals at high risk regarding their personal safety and/or the safety of others. Individuals in residential care have already tried all other community care options (such as home support), but can unfortunately no longer be safely cared for in the community. Residential care clients have complex care needs including medical, physical and mental conditions.

Assisted Living is for individuals who need a moderate level of support to maintain their independence and remain in their community. In Assisted Living settings, clients have their own living unit and receive personal care as well as hospitality services including meals, housekeeping and social/recreational activities. Depending on individual care needs, Assisted Living residents will receive scheduled nursing, therapy and other services.

Source: Residential Care Guide (Vancouver Island Health Authority).

Q. What is the difference between assisted living and supportive housing?

A. Supportive housing and assisted living residences are similar in that they both offer housing and hospitality services. However, they differ in several ways:

  • Supportive housing operators may not always provide all five hospitality services that assisted living operators are required to provide under the Community Care and Assisted Living Act.
  • Supportive housing operators can offer personal assistance, but only at the support level.
  • Supportive housing residents can purchase personal assistance at the prescribed level from someone other than the operator or qualify to receive equivalent home support from their regional health authority.
  • Supportive housing is not regulated by the assisted living registrar.

Some supportive housing residents may purchase personal assistance services at the prescribed level independently of the operator or qualify to receive equivalent home support services from their local health authority. As long as the supportive housing operator is not offering residents personal assistance at the prescribed level, this situation does not qualify as assisted living.

If a significant number of supportive housing residents qualify for publicly subsidized home support services, a health authority may decide to assign a staff person to be on-site each day to provide scheduled home support services to that group of residents. Again, because the supportive housing operator is not offering the personal assistance, this situation does not qualify as assisted living.

Source: About Assisted Living in B.C. (BC Ministry of Health).

Q. Who is responsible for handling resident or family member complaints?

A. If you have a concern about the care you or a family member is receiving, you should first try to resolve your complaint directly with the service provider or care home. If your issue remains unresolved, or if you would like to make a formal complaint, contact:

If you would like to make a formal complaint regarding the quality of care that you or a loved one has received, or you would like more information about making a complaint, please contact the Patient Care Quality Office in your health region.

Toll free at 1.866.714.3378 or 250.952.1369 in Victoria

Assisted living registry staff investigate complaints related to the health and safety of persons living in assisted living residences. Anyone with a concern about the health or safety of an assisted living resident can make a complaint to the registry, including: a resident, a family member, a friend of a resident, residence staff, health authority staff or a member of the public.

Call Enquiry BC toll free at 1.800.663.7867 and ask to be connected to your health authority’s Community Care Licensing Office.

Community Care Licensing programs are mandated to protect vulnerable individuals in licensed care facilities and provide public assurance that the established minimum standards for health, safety and well-being are maintained. Under the Community Care and Assisted Living Act, a Medical Health Officer or a Licensing Officer must investigate every complaint related to non-compliance with the Act or regulations in a licensed community care facility.

Toll free at 1.800.567.3247 or 250.387.5855 in the Captial Region

If you think a provincial government ministry or public agency has treated you unfairly, the BC Ombudsperson may be able to help you.

You can also direct your complaints/concerns to your local MLA. For more information on how to reach them, contact Service BC at 604.660.2421 or 1.800.663.7867 toll free around the province.

Q. What is elder abuse?

A. Elder abuse is any action that harms an older person or jeopardizes the person’s health or wellbeing. Abuse can take many forms, including physical, emotional, sexual and financial.

Neglect is also a form of abuse. It involves not doing something, such as withholding needed medication or not providing the older adult with food, shelter or care.

To learn more about what to do if you suspect elder abuse, click here.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911 or your local community emergency number.

Q. What can I do if I suspect a senior is being abused?

A. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911 or your local community emergency number.

In non-emergency situations, you should promptly notify the manager of the care home. You can also contact:

Toll free at 1.866.437.1940 or 604.437.1940 in the Lower Mainland

SAIL is a safe place for older adults to talk to someone about situations where they feel they are being abused or mistreated.

Designated agencies are the regional health authorities, Providence Health Care Society, and Community Living BC. They respond to reports of abuse, neglect and self-neglect of adults who cannot get help on their own.

604.660.4444

To report financial abuse of a vulnerable adult, contact the PGT.

Toll free at 1.866.714.3378 or 250.952.1369 in Victoria

Assisted living registry staff investigate complaints related to the health and safety of persons living in assisted living residences. Anyone with a concern about the health or safety of an assisted living resident can make a complaint to the registry, including: a resident, a family member, a friend of a resident, residence staff, health authority staff or a member of the public.

Call Enquiry BC toll free at 1.800.663.7867 and ask to be connected to your health authority’s Community Care Licensing Office.

Community Care Licensing programs are mandated to protect vulnerable individuals in licensed care facilities and provide public assurance that the established minimum standards for health, safety and well-being are maintained. Under the Community Care and Assisted Living Act, a Medical Health Officer or a Licensing Officer must investigate every complaint related to non-compliance with the Act or regulations in a licensed community care facility.

For more information about elder abuse, visit the BC Government’s SeniorsBC website.

Q. Is the BC Care Providers Association a voluntary organization?

A. Yes. Unlike a regulatory body where membership is compulsory, we are a voluntary industry association that represents the continuing care sector in BC.

We also work pro-actively within the sector to address issues of concern to seniors and their families.

Q. Who is eligible to become a member of the Association?

A. We have two types of memberships available.

Regular Member: In order to become a regular member, you must be operating either a residential care facility or provide home support services.

Commercial Member: If you do not operate a residential care facility or offer home support services, you can still become a member of the Association. Our commercial members provide a wide variety of services and products such as insurance, communications, furniture, etc.

To learn more about the benefits of membership, click here.