Changes are coming to the way B.C. seniors and their families make decisions about moving into long-term care facilities.

Beginning July 15, seniors will be able to express a preference for up to three long-term care homes, rather than having to accept the first available bed. While waiting to be placed in one of their three preferred facilities, seniors will also have the option to wait at home with additional supports or to go to an interim facility.

These changes are the result of revisions to the provincial law that governs long-term care policy. Announcing the changes on Wednesday, Health Minister Adrian Dix said the purpose of the changes is to give people more flexibility in their decision-making.

"These changes, fundamentally, empower seniors, empower people who need care to make decisions about their lives," Dix said. "They reflect the consultations of representatives and representative groups. They're going to change the way that we deal with one of the most important decisions in people's lives."

The province says its changes will also standardize wait lists for long-term care facilities and formalize the admissions process to ensure that the individual being placed in a care home consents to the move.

B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie told reporters the standardization of waiting lists will allow people to enter interim care without losing their place in line.

"What this policy change means now is we're going to come to you and we're going to say, 'A bed has become available in facility X. If you take that bed, you're still top of the waiting list for the facility you want to go to, and when that bed becomes available you'll go there,'" Mackenzie said.

"It's really quite a significant administrative change, and one that I think seniors and their families have been asking for for a long time," she said.

Currently, almost one-in-five British Columbians is over the age of 65. In 15 years, the province expects this proportion to rise to one-in-four.

In total, the provincial government says it plans to invest more than $1 billion by 2021 to improve care for seniors through a variety of programs.