Guide to retirement homes in France

If you have looked at retirement homes in France, you have come across the term Ehpad.

That means accommodation establishment for dependent elderly people and designates the nursing homes, strictly regulated by the ARS, and the DGAS, attached to the departmental council.

There are four main types of nursing homes, depending on how they work:

  • Private for-profit institution: Private for-profit households, usually part of a national group
  • Private non-profit institution: Non-profit house, generally managed by an association, and often less expensive
  • Public hospital: Public establishments, attached to a local hospital for administrative purposes
  • Territorial public establishment: State establishments managed by the town hall or the intercommunality.

Other types of homes you will come across include an Ehpa, which is a home for the elderly who do not need on-site nursing care, and long-term care units (USLD), which are aimed at the most dependent people, requiring constant care, and often attached to a hospital.

Options for those able to live independently include autonomous residences, similar to sheltered accommodation in the UK, where residents rent a flat and there are shared facilities such as a restaurant but usually no medical care on site. They are managed by public bodies or non-profit associations. Services Residences are similar but managed by private companies.

Financing of houses

The ARS and the DGAS share certain responsibilities for the financing of housing, the expenses borne by the residents being those of their own housing to which are added their care needs, according to their level of dependence (rated from 1 to 6).

These combined costs typically range from €60 to €95 per day, giving a monthly fee of around €1,800 to €3,000.

Medical costs are borne directly by the State within the framework of the Health Insurance.

Several types of financial aid are available, depending on the means, with personalized autonomy allowance (Apa) from the county council being the most common form of assistance.

The Apa goes towards the dependency part of the charges, and residents with incomes below €2,487/month will only be eligible, after Apa, for payment of the lowest level of these household charges, corresponding to the load for people with little or no need.

For those with higher incomes, the amount still to be paid increases with income and level of need.

Social housing assistance (ASH) is the department’s money for shelter costs for those who cannot afford them and is available to those living in many state-run and non-profit homes.

If you also receive means-tested housing benefit (social housing allowance), of Caf, this will be taken into account.

An income tax credit is also available to help reduce nursing home costs.

How do French retirement homes work?

Joanne Cain, nurse in charge of the Association Les Ages and responsible for 220 residents and 170 staff in three nursing homes in Vienne, said: “It is difficult to compare the French and British systems, but I am very proud of the quality of the care provided by our homes, largely thanks to the French system, regulations and funding.

According to her, their residents have varied needs, ranging from those who are independent but can no longer manage certain tasks, such as shopping or cooking, to others who are dependent for all their needs.

“Many homes have specialized units for the care of disoriented or confused residents, called protected living units (protected residential units) or secure living (secure house).

“We have accommodation in two of our residences, Saint-Pierre de Maillé and La Puye. They are generally small, for 14 to 16 residents, cared for by specially trained staff who allow them to live at their own pace. Breakfast can be served at any time and if the resident refuses to wash or dress, we just try later so as not to stress them.

She said most care homes have temporary respite spaces and can often provide end-of-life care.

“My mother was very well cared for in France”

Julia Arkell, who moved to France in 2005, brought her mother from the UK when she could no longer fend for herself, to live in a new Alzheimer’s unit at the La Puye home run by Ms Cain.

She said: “She was very well looked after. My biggest concern had been the language, but the staff made a huge effort.

“I gave them a dictionary and if they had any problems they called me.

“I took her out regularly and we saw each other more than would have been possible had she been in the UK. It costs around €1800 a month, lots of money, but friends in the UK said it was much cheaper than they paid.

Ms Cain advises choosing carefully: “Visit more than one and don’t automatically pick the closest to you, as quality of care is key. Ask to visit and try to get a sense of the atmosphere. See how friendly the staff is when you pass them in the hallway and if the residents seem happy.

“These are all indicators of working conditions and care.”

She said you will usually be asked for a deposit check – one month’s fee – in advance in the form of a deposit, which will be returned at the end of the stay.

“Most homes expect you to book the room and start paying for it, usually at a discounted rate, until the resident actually arrives.”

She adds that for those looking for work, retirement homes lack caregivers and it is a good way to improve their French.

She had UK residents working in her home, who then studied for qualifications and made it their career.

To find accommodation, you can search on government website for seniors.

Our main image was drawn for Connection by the artist Perry Taylor.

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