Housing Issues for Seniors

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This article explains issues that touch seniors when it comes to housing: cancelling an apartment lease, quality standards in seniors' residences and other types of housing, and procedures for complaints.

 

If I have to leave my apartment, can I cancel my lease before it ends?

You can cancel your lease before it ends in some situations, for example, if you want to move to housing that offers services required by your state of health. To learn more, see our article A Tenant's Right to End a Lease.

 

If I become unable to make decisions for myself, how can I make sure my wishes about where I want to live are respected?

There are situations in which you might become incapable of making your own decisions about your well-being or your property. This could be the case, for example, if you fell ill with Alzheimer's.

There is a legal test to decide if someone is really incapable of making these decisions. To learn more, see our article Incapacity.

To make sure your choice about where you want to live is respected as much as possible should you become incapacitated, you can start by speaking to family members about your wishes.

You can also create a legal document called a "protection mandate" (used to be called "mandate in case of incapacity"). This document lets you choose in advance who you would like to make decisions about your well-being and property if you become unable to make these decisions yourself. The person you choose is called a "mandatary". (You can choose more than one person.)

In your mandate, you are free to include any instructions you want for your mandatary. For example, the model mandate in anticipation of incapacity of the Public Curator of Quebec includes the following sample instructions:

"If possible, I would like to live at home. However, if my health requires me to live in a setting that is safer and better adapted to my needs, my mandatary will decide according to the circumstances, while taking into account the following wishes:[...]"

To learn more about mandates and how to prepare one, see our article Protection Mandates: Naming Someone to Act for You. To learn more about the Public Curator, see our article The Public Curator and Protecting Vulnerable Citizens.

If you are unable to make decisions for yourself and don't have a mandate, someone close to you will be named by a court to take decisions on your behalf. If no one suitable is available, other legal mechanisms come into play. To learn more, see our article Protective Supervision.

You can also include instructions on where you want to live in a living will. To learn more, see our article Living Wills: Expressing Your Wishes for Health Care.

What if you become legally incapacitated, but refuse someone's suggestion that you move from where you are living? In these cases, it takes a court order before you can be forced to move. The court will have to get your opinion, unless this is impossible

 

If I am living in a senior's residence or other environment outside my own private home, what are my rights?

Whether you are living in a public or private residence or institution, you have certain basic rights. These include the right to be treated with dignity, have your privacy respected, live in a clean, safe environment and make choices about medical care.

You also have a right to receive a written copy of a code of ethics that spells out the conduct expected of staff toward residents.

If you are living in a private residence, you have the right to receive some additional information in writing. (Private residences are run by private operators instead of the government.)

The operator of a private residence must provide all residents with a written document stating the following:

  • all the services to be provided and their cost. (These services might relate to hygiene, medical care, call-for-help buttons, entertainment and transport, for example.)
  • the procedure for filing complaints and contact information of the person who handles complaints

Note that there are some private facilities that have contracts with the public health and social services network that do not have to follow this rule about providing additional information in writing.

 

Who checks on the quality of services in residences and other living environments for seniors?

The way quality is monitored depends on the type of living environment.

 

Private Residence

Operators of private residences must meet quality standards set by the government and get a certificate saying they meet these standards. They must renew this certificate every four years. At any time, the government can order inspections of these residences.

The quality standards cover matters such as providing space to receive visitors in private, treating residents with respect, keeping files with up-to-date medical information (unless the resident objects to the residence having this information), doing housekeeping and installing call-for-help systems.

 

Public Facility or Facility Operating Under a Contract from the Government

There are several kinds of these facilities:

  • long-term care centres ("CHSLDs"): they provide a complete range of medical services and other kinds of care for people who can't live on their own.
  • "intermediate" facilities: these include supervised apartments and group residences. These facilities provide some support services but not on-site physiotherapy, nursing or medical care.
  • "family-type" facilities: these house a maximum of nine people, who must be able to live fairly independently.

 

CHSLDS

CHSLDs must be certified by two standards organizations (Accreditation Canada and the Conseil québécois d'agrément), and renew that certification every five years. These standards organizations are independent of government.

To keep their certifications, CHSLDs must give satisfaction questionnaires to residents and family members.

Also, representatives of the Quebec department of health and social services visit these facilities from time to time to check on the quality of services. Reports on visits are available on the department's website (in French only).

Each CHSLD must also set up a committee to inform residents of their rights, defend their interests and try to improve the quality of services. You can ask the director of the CHSLD for the contact information for the committee.

Intermediate and Family-Type Facilities

These facilities must meet standards set by the Quebec department of health and social services. Representatives of the department of health and social services visit these facilities from time to time to check on quality. Reports on these visits are available on the department's website (in French only).

Also, government agencies in each region, called integrated health and social services centres (CISSS), must keep a list of intermediate and family-type facilities operating under agreements with health and social services institutions in the region. These institutions must also check up on these facilities. 

Each facility must also set up a committee to inform residents of their rights, defend their interests and try to improve the quality of services. (In some cases, there will be one committee for several facilities.) You can ask the director of your facility for the committee's contact information.

 

What if I want to file a complaint about the services in a private residence or other facility?

You can start by speaking to the person or people concerned to try to resolve the situation. If this does not work, you can file a formal complaint.

The complaints procedure is slightly different depending on where you live.

 

Complaint Procedure - Private Residences

You or someone acting on your behalf can file a complaint by phone, mail or in person with the "Service Quality and Complaints Commissioner". Part of the commissioner's role is helping people express their complaints.

To find out the name and contact information of the commissioner in your area, ask a staff member of the residence, call the general government information number (1-877-644-4545) or check the list of commissioners on the website of the Quebec department of health and social services.

If you are not satisfied with the response of the commissioner, or if you do not get an answer within 45 days of when the commission got your complaint, you can ask the Québec Ombudsman to review your complaint. (1-800-463-5070)

If your complaint concerns the fact that services listed in your lease are not being provided, you can also contact the Régie du logement (rental board). Call 1-877-644-4545 to get the number of the rental board office in your area.

 

Complaint Procedure - CHSLDs, Intermediate Resources & Family-Type Facilities

You or someone acting on your behalf can file a complaint by phone, mail or in person with the "Service Quality and Complaints Commissioner" responsible for the facility. A staff member of the place you live can give you the name and contact information of the Commissioner.

Part of the Commissioner's role is helping people express their complaints.

You can also get help from the Complaints Assistance and Support Centre (CAAP) in your area. Their services are free and confidential. Call 1-877-767-2227.

Another source of help is the "users' committees" that represent the interests of residents of CHSLDs, intermediate resources and family-type resources. Ask the Service Quality and Complaints Commissioner or the director of the place you live for the contact information for this committee.

If you are not satisfied with the response of the commissioner, or if you do not get an answer within 45 days of when the commissioner got your complaint, you can ask the Québec Ombudsman to review your complaint (1-800-463-5070).

You should know that the procedures described above do not cover complaints about treatment provided by a doctor, medical resident, pharmacist or dentist. To learn more about this, see our articles The Duties of Doctors Towards Patients and Filing a Complaint About Health or Social Services.

Also, in the case of serious incidents, such as a physical attack, you can contact your local police department.

Important !
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.

Articles in the category "Seniors and Housing"