Making a Complaint About an Assisted Living Residence

Assisted living registry (ALR) staff investigate complaints related to the health and safety of persons living in assisted living residences. Anyone with a concern about the health or safety of an assisted living resident can make a complaint to the registry, including: a resident, a family member, a friend of a resident, residence staff, or a member of the public.

Types of Complaints Investigated

The ALR has responsibility for concerns and complaints about health and safety in assisted living residences. Registry staff investigate allegations about circumstances where

  • a residence may be being operated in a way that puts the health and/or safety of residents at risk; or
  • an operator may be housing a resident who is unable to make the decisions needed to function safely in the semi-independent supportive environment of an assisted living residence.

The ALR does not have jurisdiction to investigate complaints about:

  • tenancy issues: such as failure to refund damage deposits or increases in rent without notice. Assisted living residences are not covered under the Residential Tenancy Act. Residents should refer to their occupancy/residency agreement and can take some concerns to Consumer Protection BC.
  • operating issues: such as problems with residence staff, management-staff relations or services (e.g., dissatisfaction with meals) unless the allegation relates to the health or safety of a resident. These types of complaints should be resolved directly with the assisted living operator.
  • case manager’s assessments: complaints about a case manager having assessed an individual as being ineligible for publicly subsidized assisted living. Complaints about case manager assessments are referred to the appropriate regional health authority.
  • community care facilities: the ALR staff do not investigate allegations about community care facilities or whether an assisted living operator is operating an unlicensed community care facility. These complaints should be directed to the appropriate Community Care Facilities Licensing office.
  • municipal issues: the ALR does not investigate noise or nuisance complaints about an assisted living residence. These complaints can be made to the local municipal bylaw department or the police. Allegations about criminal activity should also be made to the police. The ALR may also look into criminal concerns if they pertain to the health and safety of residents.

Making a Complaint

Assisted living residence operators must provide residents with their internal complaint resolution process that explains how complaints are handled in the residence. Individuals are encouraged to raise their concerns through the operator’s internal complaint resolution process. If you do not get a satisfactory resolution using the operator’s internal complaint resolution process or by talking to a health authority case manager (where involved), you can make a complaint to:

  1. The assisted living registry by contacting registry staff. No one should try to prevent you from reporting concerns to registry staff. The operator must continue to provide agreed upon services as outlined in the residence occupancy agreement and personal services plan after a complaint is made.

While confidentiality of a complainant will be protected, anonymity is not guaranteed. If an investigation becomes a criminal matter or results in action taken against the operator, or if the issue is taken to the Community Care and Assisted Living Appeal Board, information or documents a complainant supplies may become public information.

  1. The Patient Care Quality Office for your regional health authority – If you live in a publicly subsidized assisted living residence and feel that your concern about the quality of service delivered by the residence operator has not been addressed, you are encouraged to contact the Patient Care Quality Office for your region if you want to make a formal complaint.

For information on how to contact the Patient Care Quality Office for your health authority, see: Patient Care Quality Review Boards: Make a Complaint

If you feel that your complaint has not been appropriately addressed by the assisted living registry staff, you may contact the Office of the Ombudsperson who may investigate complaints about unfair administrative decisions or actions of a public agency. For more information on the complaints process of the Office of the Ombudsperson please see BC Ombudsperson.

Investigation Process

The purpose of complaint investigation is to promote safe operating practices and to intervene in unsafe practices. Registry staff determine:

  1. whether the assisted living registry has the authority to investigate the allegation, if it does not, registry staff will redirect complaints where appropriate.
  2. the best approach for investigating the complaint. Some investigations involve a combination of approaches. For example:
  • If a complaint is relatively minor or results from a misunderstanding, registry staff will inform the operator and/or complainant about the relevant health and safety standards.
  • Registry staff can request copies of the operator’s policies, procedures or other documents to ensure the operator is meeting the standards.
  • Registry staff can conduct a site inspection if they have reason to believe that there are health and safety concerns at a registered residence. Site inspections can be unannounced however the assisted living registry generally notifies the operator in advance. The purpose of a site inspection is to ensure compliance with the health and safety standards. The process is intended to be educational for the operator. Some of the risks to resident health and safety which may prompt a site inspection may include not understanding the service model, philosophy or regulatory model for assisted living in BC; or housing people who are unable to make decisions on their own behalf and concerns about the physical environment. Registry staff will:
    1. Make observations and collect information about whether the operator is complying with the health and safety standards.
    2. Review their observations with the site manager and highlight any areas of non-compliance.
  • The operator must resolve any identified problems within an agreed-upon time.

Approach to Resolving Complaints

A remedial approach is used when investigating and following up on complaints.

For example, investigators start with educating the complainant and the operator about the health and safety standards and reviewing the operator’s policies and practices. However, if an operator does not address health and safety issues, the Community Care and Assisted Living Act allows the assisted living registrar to add conditions to an operator’s registration, change the conditions of a registration and, in more serious situations, suspend or cancel a registration.

Substantiated Complaint Information

The Ministry of Health committed to providing online public access to substantiated complaint information related to assisted living residences as of September 1, 2012. Substantiated complaints are allegations that have been investigated by assisted living registry staff and have been found to have valid health and safety concerns.

Substantiated complaint information will not:

  • Recommend specific residences;
  • Rank or rate residences against one another;
  • Issue a report card that grades residences;
  • Provide personal information about persons in care;
  • Provide specific details of a complaint; or
  • Provide information about unsubstantiated complaints.

Substantiated complaint information provides a general summary of the complaint and the action(s) undertaken to address the complaint. The summary includes the assisted living residence name and contact information as well as the type of health and/or safety complaint reported to registry staff. The summary of the complaint and the action(s) undertaken to address the complaint will not include personal information about the complainant or other individuals.

Information provided on this website is a public service for information purposes only. This information is intended to be general in nature and should not be used as a substitute for a discussion with an assisted living operator or with the regional health authority. If you have questions about a substantiated complaint, please contact the assisted living residence and speak with the manager for more information. 

Although every effort is made to ensure that information is accurate, discrepancies may occur between the information posted on this website and the actual complaint actions taken. The website is updated regularly as needed.

For information related to substantiated complaints about a specific assisted living residence please search the name of the residence according to type of residence.

Recommended Reading

Patient Care Quality Offices

Standards and Guidelines

Useful Contacts