Of late, it seems that the world wide web is filled with sites that offer user reviews. It is not uncommon to hear people choose vacation locations, hotels and various home contractors based on reviews they find online. So, it is not surprising that the retirement home industry as well is seeing the emergence of similar websites.
I have often wondered how useful user reviews are. In years gone by people would call the Better Business Bureau to find out if there were any complaints about a business or to file complaints. Now we have the internet which allows virtually anyone to type in a review for the world to see. After reading many for different industries I have come to the conclusion that most reviews need to be taken with a ‘grain of salt’. The reality is every individual perceives their experiences differently and one’s opinion can be based on a host of things that the reader of the review, is unaware of. I have read some reviews that are similar to my experience and others that are completely different. I have been asked to give reviews by companies I have praised but most definitely not from companies I have sent negative comments to. Reviews by strangers are far less important to me than feedback from someone I know. I would rather speak to a friend who has gone somewhere or used a company for a service simply because I know the source and how their opinions relate to mine.
Retirement Homes are different to other types of businesses. They are all about care. They deal with a vulnerable population and those voicing an opinion may not be the person who lives there and knows the day to day activities of a home. People are far more likely to complain than praise so the question is would you really be getting a valuable understanding of most people’s experiences reading posted reviews?
More valuable than user reviews which may be biased for a host of reasons, are inspection reports by organizations that regulate homes. They ensure that there are standards for care and that these standards are being met. They provide an option for people to launch complaints and a process to review them and deal with them if they are legitimate. The Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority (RHRA) in Ontario is one such agency and great pains have been taken to create an equitable system with appropriate checks and balances so we know that homes that are licensed have met the approval criteria. As well, homes are subject to repeat inspections over time to ensure that they maintain their licence requirements. For homes that are lacking in some elements, inspectors return repeatedly until changes are made. For information on the RHRA visit www.rhra.ca.
I have always felt very strongly that one needs to visit a home, talk to residents, try the food and stay for a trial before making a decision. Relocating to a retirement home is a very big deal and one should not make a choice or even simply eliminate a home from one’s list because of reading a review – positive or negative. Every person has unique needs and opinions which need to be factored in to any decision such as this. One person may love the food in a place and another may hate it. The same goes for the atmosphere of a home, the perception of staff and the activities. It is best to start searching for a home based on neutral criteria – the location, cost, care available, cultural issues etc. Start with the objective. The subjective is something only the person moving into the home can use to make their decision. It’s not about whether or not someone else likes a home; it’s about whether you – the person who will be living there – likes it.
Finding a new home to relocate to can be stressful and take a fair bit of time. And there are no guarantees that everything will always be perfect. However, if you take the time and do your own research, you are more likely to find the place that is the best fit for you.