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The Difference Between GALs and PALs

Matt Beauchamp
By Matt BeauchampOctober 17, 2017

When my wife and her family started looking into assisted living communities for her grandparents, it opened my eyes to the complexity of paying for these services. What could they afford? What government assistance is available? Was a government assisted living facility better or different than a privately owned assisted living facility?

These were questions that were foremost in all our minds, and it turned out getting that information wasn’t as easy as it should be. Read more about the difference between government and private assisted living (GALS and PALS) in Alberta.

The Cost of Assisted Living in Alberta

The current average rent price of a standard assisted living space in Alberta is $3,015 per month; with bachelor suites averaging $2,417 per month to two bedroom suites averaging $3,793 per month.

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In Alberta, assisted living residences can be owned be either for-profit or not-for-profit organizations. Private facilities – or for-profit companies – are typically owned by an individual or a corporation. These companies will typically set accommodation rates at market value and charge additional fees for a range of health care services and nursing care. Not for profit assisted living facilities in Alberta are typically owned and operated by voluntary, religious, or government bodies such as Alberta Health Services (AHS) or the Government of Alberta.

Resident operators will generally determine fees for services and accommodations and put together a basic package, and then list services that residents may request for an additional fee. Remember, before signing any residency agreement, be sure to meet with the operator along with a family member or a trusted advisor to be sure that any agreement along with associated fees is fully explained and that you understand what is included for your monthly rent.

Subsidies for Assisted Living

Becoming the Best: Alberta’s 5-year Health Action Plan, outlines a number of initiatives the Alberta government is undertaking to further care for seniors in the province including making more continuing care options available.

Additionally, under the continuing care strategy, the Alberta government offers funding to assist in the development of new and affordable supportive living facilities for seniors.

Through funding provided by the Alberta government, more than 20,000 seniors have received assistance.

The Alberta Seniors Benefit Program

Alberta seniors with low incomes are able to receive assistance through programs administered by AHS and the Alberta government including the Alberta Seniors Benefit Program.

Under this program, a single senior with an annual income of $27, 300 or less and senior couples with a combined income of $44,335 or less (for July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018) are eligible for a cash benefit.

The Alberta Lodge Program

In 1958, the Alberta government introduced the Lodge Program designed to free up spaces in auxiliary hospitals that were housing seniors who did not require such a high level of care.

Under this program, AHS administers access to assisted living accommodations and health services where the residence operators have a contract with AHS. Seniors are assigned a case manager who assesses the applicant to determine the need for assistance. Seniors under this program do not pay for publicly funded health care or personal care services that have been approved by a case manager, in a designated assisted living facility. However, seniors or their family members are responsible for paying for any additional services that they might need or want.

Legislation introduced with this program means that operators may charge rates that leave tenants with a minimum of $265 per month for personal expenses.

The Lodge Assistance Program

The Lodge Assistance Program (LAP) provides financial assistance to lodges through an annual per diem grant for each eligible resident that equals $12.45 per eligible resident per day paid annually.

Eligible income for this program is $28,235 or less on line 150 of your income tax form.

In 2013, the LAP grant paid out to management bodies was over $36 million.

What Is Best for My Family?

Ultimately what is right for your family will come down to a number of factors including:

  • Level of care needed
  • Monthly Budget
  • What’s available in your area
  • What activities and programs are important to you

Private seniors assisted living facilities, or for-profit facilities can at times offer a larger range of care options and more personalized service including, but not limited to:

  • Greater meal choices
  • More activities
  • More staff, including nurses

More choices, however, can come with greater costs and deciding what is right for you or your loved one will depend on what you and your family decide is right for you.

What Regulations Are in Place to Protect Myself or My Family Member?

Both privately and publicly funded facilities must comply with provincial legislation that includes Supportive Living Accommodation Standards that facilities must abide by if they are housing four seniors or more.

However, publicly funded facilities are also responsible for complying with the “Continuing Care Health Service Standards.

The Alberta government states:

“Provincial standards for accommodation and health services are designed to ensure home care, supportive living and long-term care operators provide quality health and accommodation related services to their residents.”

“All continuing care operators, including long-term care facilities and supportive living accommodations, are to comply with the provincial accommodation standards.”

These standards ensure residents safety, security and quality of life. AHS ensures that operators adhere to these standards by inspecting the residence at least once a year and inspections include not only the accommodations themselves but also related services such as:

  • Building maintenance
  • Housekeeping
  • Meals
  • Other areas that may affect resident’s safety and security

For my wife and her family, the right choice for a care facility was different for her Grandpa than it was for her Grandma. One needed more care than the other, and their individual wants and needs ended up dictating where they would ultimately live.

For complete information on pricing and your options, speak with a representative at a care facility of your choice. For a list of available facilities in Alberta check out our Assisted Living in Alberta page.

For more information, you can visit Alberta Health Services and Alberta Seniors and Housing or check out this Supportive Living Guide.

What thoughts do you have about the differences between GALs and PALs in Alberta? We’d like to hear your questions in the comments below.

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