Retirement Home Costs

You’ve heard the ads, seen the glossy brochure and checked the website-now you want to understand the costs.

“What costs are normal, what are excessive, and are there ‘hidden’ costs that I won’t know about until I’ve moved in?” you may wonder. “What questions should I ask to get the information I need?”

Comfort Life is here to provide the knowledge required to ask the right questions and get the financial answers you need.

Getting the bottom line on costs means asking quality questions of the communities you’re considering. But first you need to do some homework. It’s a multi-step process.

Imagine buying a car. You’d check ads, articles, the Internet, and talk to friends. You’d think carefully about the size of car, the features that are must-haves its intended use and, about all, your budget. You’d visit a few dealers, ask a lot of questions, test-drive it, and strike a deal you felt comfortable with.

Approaching a move to a retirement home isn’t much different!

Take one of your homework is to assess your needs. (Refer to page 20 to determine the right type of retirement care for this stage of your life.)

Your next step is to evaluate you budget, which entails capturing your existing living costs and determining how much you can afford to devote to monthly rental and care for the upcoming years. Comfort Life’s retirement cost calculator, found at, can help you at this stage. Fill out the “Monthly Home Costs” column to get a handle on your current expenses. Late, when you have completed your research on retirement home costs, fill in the second column of the calculate, and compare your current expenses to your expect expense once you retire or move.

Retirement Cost Calculator. Similar to a mortgage calculator, this type of financial tool can help you determine how much you can afford to devote to monthly rental and care costs for the upcoming years.

Once you’ve established your needs and budget, it’s time to get clear on expected costs by asking the right questions of retirement residences.

Here are some question topics to get you started:

  1. Basic accommodation services and care
  2. Extra care services provided by the community
  3. Optional third-part services


Basic accommodation services and care:

Costs typically include three meals per day, as well as morning and afternoon snacks: diets can be developed fro diabetic, low-salt or cultural requirements.

Questions to ask:

  • What is included in accommodation charges? Is it just ‘rent’, or are utilities, cable TV, Internet, personal alarm, sheets, towels and personal laundry included?
  • Is there a flexible meal plan, if I want to prepare a meal, such as breakfast, in m y own suite? Am I charged for meals that I miss or have elsewhere?
  • Are pets allowed, provided care can be arranged for them?
  • What are the admission requirements (typically a TB test and chest X-ray); do they entail a cost or lead-time?
  • Do I need tenant’s insurance; if so, does the residence have a group plan?
  • What move-in incentives are available? (Examples include a free month’s rent if I move within a month, or free parking)
  • What rental increases can I expect? (3% to 4% per year is typical)


Average Monthly cost of Retirement Care Per Province

British Columbia














*Average rent for an independent living space

Extra services and care:

Typical care services to consider:

  • Personal care entails hands-on assistance with bathing, toileting or dressing
  • Nursing care entails delivering medication, injections, assessment of vital signs; many residences have an RN on-site 24/7
  • Medication management assumes responsibility for holding and administering medications, which are usually ordered and delivered by a singly pharmacy, so that residents need not go to the drugstore themselves
  • Medical doctors are available, usually being on-site one day per week; residents are put on a list for the doctor to see

Questions to ask

  • How is care provided and what are the associated costs? Is care provided by a ‘sister’ company (like a home care agency)? Is care charged by the hour, and in what time increments? Is there a minimum or maximum amount of care provided?
  • If I am in independent living, what happens if I need care? Does the residence supply care, and at what cost? May I bring in my own caregiver? Is publicly funded care still available even though I am in residence, which can provide care?
  • What happens if I am ill when the doctor is not onsite? Is the policy to call 911? Must I go to the hospital? Will a staff member accompany me?
  • Is there a maximum amount of care that is allowed in a retirement home, versus needing to go to a long-term care residence? Who makes that decision?
  • Are the costs for care tax-deductible? (Yes, they are, and should appear separately on your month bill; an annual care cost recap is also provided at tax time)


Optional third-party services and options

You may receive bills from other services providers if you choose to use their optional services Examples may include the pharmacy that delivers all medication to the residence, physiotherapy services (which are no longer covered by most provincial plans), visiting services such as foot care and the on-site hair salon or spa.

Questions to ask:

  • Are medications and other supplies ordered at a central pharmacy? Is using this pharmacy mandatory? Is there service truly cost-effective, or is there another reason for the arrangement (such as being owned by the residence’s parent company)?
  • Assess whether visiting health services such as physiotherapy eye, dental or hearing clinics, and medical lab visits are cost-effective for you.
  • For off-site activities such as trips to theatres or restaurants, what does the cost cover? Is it just transportation on the residence mini-bus, or does it include the even ticket or meal bill?

As with every important purchase, knowledge is power. The more you know your own needs, preferences and budget, the more information you can gather, and the better your decision will be.

Written by: Pat M. Irwin, BA, AICB, CPCA, President, ElderCareCanada


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