Making the Move: Senior residences — what are the categories?

Matt Del Vecchio

I often hear the comment “I had no idea I could have all this” when taking families to tour prospective senior residences. The senior living industry has come a long way over the last
decade or two. There is an abundance of choices ranging from very basic to high-end resort-type residences offering a full array of services and dining. In fact, there are over 700 certified senior residences in the greater Montreal region.

Navigating your options can be complicated, confusing and overwhelming. Even the word “senior residence” can have many names including retirement home, senior community, or nursing home. The categories are Independent Living, Assisted Living and CHSLD.

Independent Living

This type of residence provides the benefit of your own apartment with access to services that meet your needs. The Ministry of Health and Social Services of Quebec stipulates that a minimum of two services must be offered. They could include meals, domestic help, security, or recreation. Most independent living senior residence apartments have a full kitchen or kitchenette, private bathroom(s) and access to common areas.

Studios, one bedroom or two bedrooms are normally offered to suit your budget and space requirements.

Residences range from subsidized, non-profit to high end with an array of amenities, activities, and services. Some are pet-friendly. Some offer shuttle services, gym, theatre, hair salon, dépanneur, library, bowling, golf simulator, happy-hour and a full schedule of activities.

Assisted Living

The government calls it semi-independent living. These residences must meet the qualifications as outlined in Independent Living. In addition, at least one of the services must be personal assistance or nursing care. This could include daily personal hygiene, dressing and bathing assistance, feeding, and medication distribution. Most assisted living apartments are studios with a select few residences offering a one-bedroom option.

Several offer memory-care support specializing in mild to severe cases of dementia including Alzheimer’s, vascular, Lewy body, frontotemporal, and Parkinson’s. Some will have a secure, coded section for those residents at risk of wandering. Those offering memory care support normally provide meals, medication management, laundry, housekeeping, activities and daily living assistance.


A Centre d’hébergement et de soins de longue durée (CHSLD) is a long-term care facility. It is commonly known as a nursing home. These residences offer the highest level of care and must meet specific standards set by the Ministry of Health and Social Services. We are one of the few provinces that offer public or private options. Pursuing the public option requires an assessment by your local CLSC. Waiting lists for a permanent bed usually range from one to two years and is determined by a priority-based system. Private CHSLDs are another option. The advantage is usually a quicker moving date and the ability to choose a geographical area.

Tax credit

A major benefit of the Quebec private senior living industry is Revenue Quebec’s Tax Credit for Home-Support Services for Seniors.

This is a monthly tax credit for those living in a private senior residence. To qualify, you must be 70 or older. The tax credit usually averages between 10% – 15% of the monthly rent, taking into consideration annual personal revenue and the services received.

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