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What are continuing care retirement communities?

February 9, 2015

In decades past, it may have seemed like living arrangements for older adults were quite black and white. They could either age in place, remaining in their lifelong homes, or enter a nursing home. However, there are a whole range of accommodation options for adults who want to reduce the responsibilities of home ownership while retaining their independence.

Maintaining a house can be a ton of work and take time away from the activities and hobbies you love. Fortunately, continuing care retirement communities offer living arrangements that can be adjusted as your lifestyle changes. Learn more about how a CCRC could fit into your future plans.

What does it mean?
Continuing care retirement communities encompass several types of living setups and healthcare options. These typically include independent living, assisted living, nursing care and sometimes memory care. The tiered approach to care allows residents to increase how much attention and assistance they'd like as time passes. Often, healthy adults will move into apartments, condominiums or single-family homes with the option to transition to a more intensive type of care if necessary. One of the major benefits of CCRCs is people can stay in the same general location for the rest of their lives rather than moving around as they grow older.

"While adults often join CCRCs as relatively independent residents, several daily tasks are taken care of by the community to make their lives more enjoyable."

While adults often join CCRCs as relatively independent residents, several daily tasks are taken care of by the community to make their lives more enjoyable. Security, maintenance, grounds keeping, emergency assistance, healthcare, reaction and social activities are some of the lifestyle aspects that a CCRC will tend to.

There are different types of financial contracts that CCRCs offer, which vary by establishment. Life care or extended contracts are usually the most expensive options because they include the cost of healthcare. With a modified contract, you pay for a certain amount of services, then after a period of time, review what's necessary going forward. Fee-for-service contracts have a lower enrollment price but you will have to pay for care and amenities as they're required. Some communities will have a flat rate for all of the levels of care, while others increase the monthly fee as people move through the system. 

What to look for
You could probably wander around a CCRC that you're considering as a future home for days, but here are a few key details to pay attention to on your tour. Remember that the person conducting your tour is a salesperson , so you'll get a more well-rounded impression if you talk to residents who are around as you visit. Find out if you can join a social activity, try a meal or simply have a bit of time to ask people how they like living in that community. It can be helpful to visit CCRCs multiple times and at different times of day to learn how the place operates.

There are a handful of questions that you should ask to understand what you'll be paying for better, especially when it comes to the monthly fees. Is the entrance fee refundable and what does it include? Are there add-on amenities and activities? Does the community have connections with local schools, facilities or organizations that will help you stay active and social? Do they offer transportation to surrounding areas for people who no longer drive?

CCRCs value your independence and provide support when you need it.

Before you sign a contact
Because a CCRC contract is a bona fide investment, there are several details that you should review before you make a commitment. To start, it's important to check out the grounds thoroughly, including all of the facilities, not just the one that you'd be immediately interested in. In fact, find out if you're able to have a trial stay to really learn what it's all about. If you're thinking about moving into a CCRC with your spouse, you should talk about how the amount of care and cost will change as you age independently.

Take the time to look the community up with the Better Business Bureau to find out if complaints have been filed against it, ask to see inspection reports, financial reports and the facility's licenses. Finally, an attorney or accountant should read through the contract before you put pen to paper.