What Are the 3 Levels of Continuing Care in Alberta?

Older adults in their later stages of life can access a variety of care options in Alberta. From retirement residences to designated supportive living and long-term care, there is somewhere for everyone to feel at home. 

Continuing care in Alberta is categorized explicitly into three primary levels: Designated Supportive Living (DSL), Home Care, and Long Term Care. Depending on their needs, older adults looking to access continuing care can consider one of these options offered at their desired location. 

Some locations, like Seasons Retirement Communities, offer multiple levels of care. Hence, knowing the differences between these levels is essential to select the best option for you or your loved one. 

Let’s discuss the three levels of continuing care in Alberta that are available in general. 

Home Care

Home care is designed to create an environment for older adults to live in their own homes as independently as possible. Most home care services are delivered to the house directly but can be flexible and adjusted to suit individual needs and living conditions. 

This level of continuing care can be accessed by clients of all ages that live in a private home or similar setting, such as a retirement residence. Since home care is about promoting independence, it’s designed to supplement the care that family members and local community services would offer. Sometimes, clients may even be eligible to receive paid access to housekeeping services.

Home care is a good option for older adults that require assistance with daily activities that they cannot handle individually, especially if it’s hard for them to get help from family or other sources. And while home care doesn’t address all client needs, it can help connect older adults with other supports available within their community, which can be a big help in the long run.

Designated Supportive Living (DSL)

This category of care addresses the specific needs of residents, offering accommodations, meal support, and specific health care options but still allowing residents to live independently within a standard home environment. 

Depending on what is needed, continuing care options for DSL are offered either in personal care homes or specifically designed residences. It’s also important to note that care support is usually provided on-site if and when it’s needed, be it for regular visits or emergency reasons. 

DSL also has different subcategories that outline the different levels of accommodation and care service provided by any specific residence or location. These different types of DSL can make it easier to trace the exact level of care an older adult may require and match them to a residence or care site that provides it.

Designated supportive living 3 (DSL3)

DSL3 offers accommodation for people to live independently while accessing health and personal care support. 

Services include housing, meal services, housekeeping, and hosting community events where all residents are invited to participate and socialize, which can prevent isolation and loneliness. 

While medical care isn’t part of a resident’s routine, on-site healthcare providers or local partners often exist. Older adults can contact their AHS case manager to help schedule an appointment. 

Designated supportive living 4 (DSL4)

DSL4 is one level above DSL3 and provides housing and health care for older adults with more complex needs. Staff supporting these residents are typically healthcare aides and licensed practical nurses. 

In addition to providing accommodation, meal service, housekeeping, and community events, like DSL3, there are also increased levels of personal and medical care services for unscheduled and scheduled visits. The AHS case manager will help determine the level of frequency for appointments. 

Designated supportive living 4D (DSL4/4D)

This assisted living accommodation is reserved for older adults that require more extensive care. Medical and personal care supports are much more hands-on here to ensure all older adults live happy and fulfilling lives.  

Services typically include:

  • Housekeeping.
  • Meal services.
  • Access to specific building amenities.
  • Participation in community events where possible. 

There are healthcare aides available all day, every day, to support any needs that an older adult may have. For medical support, licensed practical nurses are available. 

Residents and families can discuss access to extra levels of support for access to appointments like rehabilitation therapy.

Long-term care

Long-term care helps older adults with the most complex needs live a supported and happy life. These residents can access health care aides, licensed practical nurses, and registered nurses. 

Residents can receive 24-hour medical care and supervision. 

Long-term care amenities include a wide range of services, such as nursing care, bathing, dressing, oral hygiene, grooming, medication management, and specialized programming to help those living with impairments. 

Families and older adults can choose between shared or private rooms; however, all older persons will have access to communal areas and activities great for forming friendships. 

Accessing Continuing care through an AHS case manager 

An Alberta Health Services Case Manager is responsible for determining the most appropriate level of care. If you want to access any DSL or long term care services, you must go through a case manager. They can help you and your loved one determine if designated supportive living, long-term care, or another option is the best for the care receiver.

However, note that for home care services, it’s not necessary to contact a case manager – you’ll be able to directly contact the information line for home care to help determine the best option based on residence.  

How to move in

Families and older adults should speak with an AHS case manager when they are ready to take this next step of receiving care. The AHS case manager will support the process from the initial intake and will continue to oversee the resident’s care plan throughout their stay. 


We’ve discussed Alberta’s three levels of continuing care options, which offer different types of services for all older adults to be safe and comfortable in their retirement years and beyond. 

Each level of care offers different options and amenities that promote health, wellness, and quality of life. By understanding the different levels of care available, older adults and their families can make informed decisions about the best care options for their unique needs and preferences.