Long Term Care in Nova Scotia


How Nursing Homes are organized and administered

Nursing homes or Homes for the Aged in Nova Scotia are residential long term care facilities that provide 24-hour professional nursing care and supervision in a protective, supportive environment for people who have complex care needs and can no longer be cared for in their own homes. They operate under the jurisdiction of the Department of Health and Wellness.

In order to gain admission into a nursing home a client must contact the Department of Health and Wellness, which does assessments and maintains waiting lists. The Department of Health and Wellness will send a care coordinator to meet with the client and assess his/her care needs. Other professionals may also need to meet with the client and his/her family to better understand the client's situation. The care coordinator's recommendation will be reviewed by specialists for final approval. Once approved, the client can put his/her name on the waiting lists of the nursing homes of his/her choice. Wait times can differ from several days to several months.

Eligibility/Requirements for Admission

To be eligible for subsidized care services clients must:

  • be citizens or permanent residents of Canada,
  • be residents of Nova Scotia,
  • have health care needs that cannot be adequately managed by the family, home care services and community services.

Income/Asset Test

Individuals who are able to pay the standard accommodation charge are not required to undergo a financial assessment. They pay the standard accommodation charge and retain all remaining income and assets.

Individuals who cannot afford the standard rate can apply to have to have their accommodation rate reduced by undergoing an income-based financial assessment. At this time, the applicant will be asked to provide his/her most recent income tax information (Notice of Assessment provided by Canada Revenue Agency) for the designated tax year. If the applicant is married, adjustments will be made for the spouse and dependent children remaining in the community. The spouse remaining in the community will be able to retain 50 per cent of the joint family income and control over all assets. In some circumstances, a portion of the long-term care resident’s income may be transferred to the spouse in the community, providing that the resident’s income does not fall below the minimum retained income amount. The minimum retained amount is the amount that the Department of Health and Wellness ensures residents keep after paying for their long-term care. This amount is currently at least 15% of one's annual income, and they will not be left with a disposable income lower than $3,636.00/year (divided by 12 = $329.50/month). Residents have full control over the use and management of their retained income and all assets.

The financial assessment will not look at any assets, nor will the applicant be expected to sell his/her assets to pay toward the accommodation charge. The Department of Health and Wellness will conduct a financial review each year, or an individual can request a review at any time if his/her financial situation changes significantly.

Costs for Nursing Homes

Each year, the Department of Health and Wellness sets the standard accommodation charge for nursing homes. These rates are based on average operating costs. Residents are notified of their accommodation charges at least 30 days before the effective date.

The current nursing home fee is $108.25/day which includes accommodation and meals. This fee is collected by the nursing home. Residents must also pay for their personal expenses such as clothing, eyeglasses, hearing aids, dental services, transportation and other services not provided by the long-term care facility. There is less care provided in residential care facilities, and the set fee for this lower level of care is $64.25/day.

The cost for respite care beds is set at $40.50/day.

The government pays for the health-care costs for resident care (nursing and personal care, social work services, recreation therapy and physical, occupational and other therapies). The government also pays for transportation for dialysis and for inter-facility transfers due to the First Available Bed policy as well as a specialized equipment loan program for residents in long-term care. This program is administered by the Red Cross, Nova Scotia division. Depending on income, a resident may be required to pay a fee.


How Retirement Homes are Organized and Administered

A retirement home in Nova Scotia is a multi-residence housing facility that provides accommodation and services such as meals and cleaning services for older people. Retirement homes in the province are privately owned and operated and not administered by the provincial government. Each facility usually provides a private or semi-private room or complete living suite and then also provides common living quarters, including a lounge area, a common dining room, recreation rooms, cleaning services, social and/or religious programs and some basic health care services. The unit can be paid for on a monthly fee basis, like an apartment, or can in some instances be bought the same way as a condominium.

Admission, fees and waiting lists for retirement homes are controlled by the homes themselves, not by the government. Admission usually depends on the ability to pay and absence of serious medical conditions that require professional nursing care. Residents are responsible for paying their own fees and government subsidies are not available for accommodation in a retirement residence.

Costs for Retirement Homes

Type of Accommodation Provincial Median Provincial Range Halifax Median Halifax Range
Private Rooms(per month) $3,597.50 $2,700.00 - $4,035.00 $3,865.00 $3,695.00 - $4,035.00
One-Bedroom Suites             (per month) $4,250.00 $2,350.00 - $4,865.00 $4,400.00 $3,200.00 - $4,865.00


How Government-subsidized home care is organized and administered

Home support services are designed to help clients remain independent and in their own home as long as possible. Home care services include professional health care services as well as personal care services such as bathing, dressing, grooming and light household tasks that help to maintain a safe and supportive home. It is always the first option considered for care in the community.

In Nova Scotia, home care is managed by the Continuing Care Branch of the Department of Health and Wellness. Referrals can be made to Department of Health and Wellness by the individual requiring care, a family or friend. A care coordinator will conduct a home care assessment which involves looking at care services that an individual is eligible to receive based on his/her needs as well as the ability of the family to provide care. The hours of care granted by the Department of Health and Wellness depend upon assessment but as a general guideline there is a 3 hour monthly maximum for homemaking, 4.5 hour weekly maximum for personal care and 2 hour weekly maximum for meal preparation.

Eligibility/Requirements for Admission

To be eligible for subsidized home care, clients must:

  • be a Nova Scotia resident,
  • require health services or assistance with activities of daily living, require service to remain safely in their homes and require more assistance than available from existing family supports and community resources.

Income/Asset Test

There is a monthly maximum amount that a client will pay for home care and home oxygen services. This maximum is based on income and household size. The care coordinator can help determine the maximum monthly charge. For more information, refer to  "Home Care Fee Structure 2015/2016 - Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness" (bottom of this page), to see how much a client pays depending on his/her income and size of household.  


There are no charges for nursing services and palliative home support services. The home care hourly rate is $12.45/hr. However, about 80% of home care users do not pay a fee for the government-subsidized home care based on the income and household size. Home oxygen rates are based on income and household size and start at $72.60/month.


Home care resources through the Department of Health and Wellness are limited and go to the neediest. As a result, many seniors get inadequate amounts of home care services and have to rely on private home care services to receive the appropriate amount of care.

Costs of Private Home Care

Types of Service Provincial Median Provincial Range Halifax Median Halifax Range
Meal Delivery(per meal) $6.00 $5.00 - $8.50 $8.25 $8.00 - $8.50
In Home Meal Preparation (per hr) $33.50 $26.00 - $37.95 $33.50 $26.00 - $37.95
Laundry/Housecleaning (per hr) $33.50 $22.50 - $37.95 $33.50 $26.00 - $37.95
Personal Care (Bathing/Dressing) (per hr) $33.50 $22.50 - $37.95 $33.50 $26.00 - $37.95
Companionship/Supervision (per hr) $33.50 $26.00 - $37.95 $33.50 $26.00 - $37.95
Skilled Nursing* (per hr) $66.25 $45.00 - $80.00 $58.75 $45.00 - $75.00
Physiotherapy (per hr) $122.50 $115.00 - $150.00 $120.00 $115.00 - $125.00
Occupational Therapy (per hr) $127.50 $125.00 - $130.00 N/A N/A
In Home Relief (per hr) $33.50 $26.00 - $37.95 $33.50 $26.00 - $37.95
Palliative Care (per hr) $35.73 $26.00 - $75.00 $41.34 $26.00 - $75.00
24 Hour Care (per hr) $33.50 $26.00 - $37.95 $33.50 $26.00 - $37.95

N/A = Insufficient sample size obtained to justify inclusion
* Fees listed are for RNs however, these fees may vary depending on the type of nurse, such as a Registered Nurse (RN) or a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), delivering the care.

How Adult Day Programs Work

Adult day program are designed for dependent adults/seniors, physically located in the community, to provide a safe group setting during the day when family members are not available to care for them. These centres are usually open daily, Monday through Friday (some on Saturday as well). They provide a secure, caring and positive setting for those who are experiencing memory loss, communication disorders, social isolation or physical disabilities. Nutritious lunch meals are provided which usually accommodate any special diet, along with an afternoon snack. Participants need to be mobile, with the possible assistance of a cane, walker or wheelchair. Adult day programs can be public or private, non-profit or for-profit.

In Nova Scotia, individual facilities manage and operate their own Adult day programs. Seniors pay daily fees to cover part of meals & activities.

The purpose of an adult day program is:

  • to provide dependent adults/seniors time to enjoy a setting outside of their house where they can obtain both mental and social encouragement and stimulation and any required health care
  • to provide family caregivers with a much-needed break in order to focus on themselves, take time and relax or go to work

Candidates for adult day programs may be:

  • challenged either physically and/or cognitively, but do not require 24-hour supervision or,
  • in the early stages of dementia or,
  • in need of social contact and stimulation.


Type of Program

Provincial Median

Provincial Range

Program with meals and transportation

$12.00 $5.00 - $26.00

Scenario 1: Low level of care (early in the crisis management stage of care)

Mrs. Williams is an 85 year old widow living in her own home. She has osteoarthritis and leg edema. She must wear support stockings to relieve her edema and because her fingers and back are arthritic, she needs help getting dressed. To get around her home, she uses a walking support device or rollator. Both of Mrs. Williams' daughters help her out regularly on weekends and evenings while her son-in-law helps maintain the house and takes care of the lawn.

After fracturing her femur in a significant fall 9 months ago, Mrs. Williams' mobility has been severely decreased and she lost 9 kg or almost 20 lbs as a result. She tells her daughters that she forgets to eat and the food in her refrigerator is spoiled. During their visits, her daughters notice she eats very little and sometimes chokes on her food.

To help her eat safely and address her other needs, Mrs. Williams and her daughters agree it's time for some formal care. She needs her meals delivered to her home, someone to supervise her meals and assistance with dressing and bathing. She would also benefit from a home safety assessment.

Care plan to assist family caregivers part-time

  • Meal delivery - 2 meals a day on weekdays provided by Meals on Wheels or another meal delivery program
  • Meal supervision - 1 hour a day on weekdays (to include a record of food intake and assistance if patient chokes)
  • Personal Care (bathing, dressing) - 1 hour a day on weekdays
  • Occupational therapist: to provide initial home safety assessment and recommendations

Services Required


Covered or Subsidized by Government (1)

Services Required to be paid by client

Cost per unit

Monthly Cost

Meal Delivery (meals/wk)




$6.00 $258.00

Meal Supervision (hrs/wk)




$33.50 $720.00

Personal Care (Bathing/Dressing) (hrs/wk)




$33.50 $432.15

Total per month






In addition, there will be expenses for two visits of an occupational therapist including a 1 hr. initial assessment and 45 min. follow up after equipment has been installed. The two visits will cost $175.00 altogether.

Scenario 2: Intermediate Level of Care (late in the crisis management stage of care)

Mr. Leung is a 72 year old widower. He lives with his daughter and her husband in a small community outside the city. Mr. Leung has cataracts in both eyes. He also has dementia which has progressed to the point where he requires continual supervision. He forgets to take his medication, does not eat properly and cannot safely prepare meals. He needs cues for dressing and bathing.

Mr. Leung's daughter and her husband assist him mornings, evenings and weekends but aren't available on weekdays. For weekdays, they enrolled him in an adult day program 2 days per week and hired someone to accompany him to and from the program. For the remaining 3 days of the week they've hired someone to supervise him and keep him company. They've also arranged help for laundry and house cleaning.

Care Plan to assist family caregiver full days, during the week

  • Companionship/Supervision: 3 times a week, 8 hrs a day
  • Adult Day Program: 2 days a week
  • Safety Supervision: to and from the Adult Day Program - 2 times a week, 30 minutes each way
  • Laundry/House cleaning: 3 hrs a week

Services Required


Covered or Subsidized by Government (1)

Services Required to be paid by client

Cost per unit

Monthly Cost

Companionship/Supervision (hrs/wk)

24 0 24 $33.50 $3,457.20

Adult Day Program (excluding transportation) (days/wk)

2 0 2 $12.00 $103.20

Safety Supervision (hrs/wk)

2 2 0 0 $0.00

Laundry/Housecleaning (hrs/wk)

3 0 3 $33.50 $432.15

Total per month

n/a n/a n/a n/a $3,992.55

Scenario 3: High level of care (in the dependence stage of care)

Mr. and Mrs. Jensen live in a two-bedroom condominium. Mr. Jensen is 93 years old, alert and aware but physically frail. Mrs. Jensen is 88 years old, diabetic and recently had a stroke. Her balance is poor and she's at high risk for falling. She can only walk short distances and needs help to get around. She also has heel ulcers that make walking even more difficult. For longer distances, she uses a wheelchair.

Her family doctor recommends Mrs. Jensen move to a nursing home. But because Mr. and Mrs. Jensen's daughter promised she wouldn't send her parents to a nursing home, she needs to make alternate arrangements. Options include a caregiver to assist Mrs. Jensen with bathing, dressing, toileting, walking, meal preparation, household chores and transportation to and from appointments. A nurse could monitor and chart her medicine use and blood sugar levels, clean her heel ulcers and change her bandages. Mr. and Mrs. Jensen would also benefit from a home safety assessment by an occupational therapist who may recommend safety bars, raised toilet seats, better lighting, removing clutter and securing loose rugs.

Care plan to assist family caregivers full-time, every day

  • In-home meal preparation - 7 days a week, 2 hours daily
  • Private caregiver - 7 days a week, 8 hours daily to assist with bathing, dressing, toileting and walking and relieve spouse of caregiver duties
  • Private Registered Nurse - 4 times a week for 30 minutes to monitor and chart medicine use and blood sugar levels and monitor and change dressing on heel ulcers
  • Laundry - 2 hours every other week
  • House cleaning - once a week for 90 minutes
  • Occupational therapist: to provide initial home safety assessment, recommendations and a 45 minute follow-up after equipment installation
Services Required Frequency Covered or Subsidized by Government(1) Services Required to be Paid by Client Cost per Unit Monthly Cost
In Home Meal Preparation (hrs/wk) 14 0 14 $33.50 $2,016.70
Personal Care (Bathing Dressing) (hrs/wk) 56 4.5 51.5 $33.50 $7,418.58
Skilled Nursing (hrs/wk) - [No cost when provided by the Dept. of Health] 2 2 0 $0.00 0
Laundry/Housecleaning (hrs/wk) 2.5 0 2.5 $33.50 $360.13
Total per month n/a n/a n/a n/a $9,795.40

In addition, there will be expenses for two visits of an occupational therapist including a 1 hr initial assessment and 45 min follow up after equipment has been installed. The two visits will cost $223.13 altogether.

(1) The hours of care alloted by the Department of Health and Wellness mentioned above are an estimate only. Actual hours alloted by the Department of Health and Wellness may be more or less depending on a formal assessment and regional availability.

Home Care Fee Structure 2015/2016 - Nova Scotia Department of Wellness

1 $0 to $29,010 $0.00 $2,418 A A A
2 $29,011 to $44,010 $2,418 $3,668 B A A
3 $44,011 to $54,010 $3,668 $4,501 C B A
4 $54,011 to $64,010 $4,501 $5,334 D C B
5 $64,011 to $74,010 $5,334 $6,168 E D C
6 $74,011 or more $6,168 $6,168 + F E D
Home Care Client Income Category Charge per Hour Client Fees Maximum Monthly Client Fee Charge Monthly Income Oxygen Services Fee
A - - -
B $12.45 $124.50 $72.60
C $12.45 $249.00 $145.20
D $12.45 $373.00 $217.80
E $12.45 $498.00 $290.40
F $12.45 $622.00 $363.00

Note: Fee paying clients who are receiving both home support and home oxygen services are asssessed the home oxygen fee first and any applicable hourly home support fees second. In no case shall the combined total of the home support and the home oxygen

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ASSISTANCE SERVICES GROUP is a comprehensive, impartial service that promotes and supports caregiver wellness and wellness for seniors, enabling families to give the best possible care to aging family members, while also taking best care of themselves. ASSISTANCE SERVICES GROUP has researched and prepared this report carefully. To the best of ASSISTANCE SERVICES GROUP ’s knowledge, all information included is accurate and unbiased. However, ASSISTANCE SERVICES GROUP cannot and does not guarantee the a­­ccuracy or completeness of the information. ASSISTANCE SERVICES GROUP cannot accept responsibility for any problems that might arise in relation to your choice of services, whether or not your choice was influenced by information in this report.

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