There comes a time in everyone’s life when he or she may not be able to take care of themselves the way they always have. It’s nothing to be ashamed of; it’s merely a fact of life. When this time comes, the best thing to do is acknowledge that it has arrived.
For people of a certain age, continuing care retirement communities, or CCRCs, become a viable option. However, moving anywhere at an advanced age is not something that you should take lightly. It could be the last time you move and the place where you spend your golden years. Before deciding on anything, you should be as informed as possible about your options.
WHAT’S DIFFERENT ABOUT A CCRC?
What is a CCRC? That is the $1 million question. Continuing care retirement communities combine features from various types of senior citizen communities. They combine aspects of an independent living facility, assisted living facility, and skilled nursing home all in one.
A CCRC will include various tiers where different residents may live. Where a resident will live within the CCRC will depend on well they can take care of themselves and how much assistance they need. At a CCRC, if your status were to change regarding how much help you need with daily activities, you simply move to a different part of the community.
In a CCRC, residents who can handle a certain level of independence are free to enjoy it. They are likely to live in apartments no different from what you would find in the outside world. The main difference is proximity to others your age with the opportunity to engage in social activities and enjoy the amenities of the CCRC.
The assisted living corridors at a CCRC will have caregivers to help residents with daily activities. This may include walking, bathing, grooming, taking medication, and more. The caveat is that this typically involves moving out of your independent living apartment and into a different part of the campus.
SKILLED NURSING HOME
If you or your loved one deteriorates health wise to the point of needing to be in a nursing home, the CCRC can accommodate that. This can even be accomplished without having to move outside the campus. Not all assisted living facilities have skilled nurses working onsite. But a CCRC will have rooms dedicated to those who require nursing home level care.
4 TYPES OF CONTRACTS
Most Continuing Care Retirement Communities will offer residents four types of contracts. This allows them to choose one that fits them best. Typically, there will be an entrance fee in order to secure a spot within the community. There will also be monthly fees that vary based on the services you receive from the CCRC.
LIFE CARE CONTRACT (TYPE A)
This contract is for residents who to pay the same every month and pay upfront for all costs. Both the entry and monthly fees are likely to be high. However, those fees won’t change even if you move from independent to assisted living and eventually to the community’s nursing home. With this contract, it may be possible to receive tax benefits and part of your entrance fee refunded when your contract is terminated.
MODIFIED CONTRACT (TYPE B)
A modified contract is similar to Type A, although the CCRC may only provide services to the resident for a set period, typically a month or two. When that period of time is over, you will pay market value for any assisted living or nursing care services. So, unlike Type A, a Type B contract will have a monthly payment that fluctuates.
FEE-FOR-SERVICE CONTRACT (TYPE C)
A Type C contract is essentially a pay-as-you-go plan. Whatever assisted living and healthcare services you accrue is what you will pay each month, doing so at market value. If you remain healthy and don’t require much assistance, you can keep your monthly payments low. However, if your condition deteriorates, there is no chance for a discount or tax write-off.
Not every CCRC will offer a rental option, but most of them do. Typically, the entrance fee will be waived, but residents should expect to pay higher monthly fees because they don’t pre-pay for any services. The rental option is usually only available when a community has extra space that’s not currently occupied by a resident who’s signed to a contract.
Regardless of what type of contract you choose, continuing care recreational communities offer many great benefits.
CAN ADAPT TO YOUR CHANGING HEALTH
This is one of the top benefits of a CCRC. Instead of waiting until your health goes into decline, you can plan ahead so you don’t have to move when it’ll be more difficult to do so. Once you’re at the CCRC, you can seamlessly move from independent to assisted living whenever you need to. Eventually, you’ll be able to receive nursing care when you need it.
Even if you have a temporary health setback, it’s easy to move between different levels of care while living in a CCRC. If you require extra care, you can receive it as needed, and once you have recovered, you can return to your previous level of care and independence.
CAN ACCOMMODATE COUPLES
Continuing care retirement communities may be ideal for elderly couples. Instead of one being the caretaker for the other, each can receive the level of care their need. Even if one needs more care than the other, a CCRC makes it possible for the couple to continue living together. Otherwise, different care needs may force them to live in different facilities.
MOVE IN BEFORE HEALTH FADES
A CCRC can be a great way to plan ahead. You can continue to live independently in your own apartment in a CCRC. But because of how they are set up, you know you’ll be covered as you age and require more living assistance. For a lot of people and their loved ones, this is preferable than having to move somewhere once your health has already started to decline.
Often, seniors can become isolated as they age, and that lack of human interaction usually isn’t good for their health. However, continuing care retirement communities are just that: communities. They offer you opportunities to socialize with others and engage in daily activities. This kind of lifestyle can help to keep you healthy and active for many years to come.
When living in a CCRC, you never have to worry about having access to healthcare. Even in independent living, you can receive easy access to healthcare when you need it. Having this luxury can provide you with piece-of-mind. Having piece-of-mind can be invaluable as you age and begin to experience more frequent health issues, even minor ones.
Below is a video that discusses many of the basics of a continuing care retirement community.
Of course, continued caring retirement communities are far from perfect. Like anything else in life, there will be drawbacks. So, what kind of tradeoffs can you expect to make if you decide to live in a CCRC?
This is the biggest thing you give up when you decide to move to a CCRC. In the independent living part of the community, you’ll have a large degree of freedom that’s akin to living on your own. However, it’s not quite the same, and coming to grips with that is not always easy and not always a sacrifice seniors are willing to make.
Continuing care retirement community cost will vary from one facility to another, but the price is substantial no matter where you go. The entrance at most places will be at least $100,000 and could exceed half a million dollars at some places. On top of that, the monthly fees should be at least a few thousand dollars, depending on the facility and your contract.
There’s also a great amount of risk if your particular CCRC gets into financial trouble. If the community isn’t in a good place financially, you could see the quality of care decline of your monthly fees increase. If for some reason your CCRC ends up going bankrupt, you could lose all the money you’ve invested into living there for the rest of your life.
One of the biggest concerns with continuing care retirement communities is the lack of federal regulations. Nursing homes are well regulated, but that’s not the case with CCRCs, so you never quite know what you’re going to get. The marketing pitch a CCRC gives can be quite different from the product they deliver, which is easy to do with such little government oversight.
DOING THE RESEARCH
With a variety of both benefits and drawbacks to CCRCs, it’s imperative to do research on an individual community before you commit to moving there. Remember, this is a big decision, so take these steps before deciding.
CHECK FINANCIAL RECORDS
You should be able to get a copy of a CCRC’s financial records simply by asking them. If you can’t decipher it yourself, have an accountant or financial specialist look at it. He or she will be able to find any signs of debt, mismanagement, or any other red flags. Moving to a CCRC is a huge commitment, and you don’t want to live in one that’s in financial trouble.
TAKE A VISIT
Obviously, you’ll tour the community before deciding to live, but go one step further and spend at least a couple of nights there as a type of trial run. That’s the only way you’ll be able to determine if it’s a place you’d like to call home.
While you’re visiting, take the time to talk to the other residents there and get feedback from them on their experience. If the current residents don’t seem happy to be there it may not be a place you’ll want to live. Taking an extended visit is also a great opportunity to observe and speak with the staff. This will help give you an idea on whether they genuinely care about the residents there.
You can never ask too many questions when deciding whether or not to move into a CCRC. You’ll need to learn about the contract options, the services offered, and how the monthly fees are calculated. You will also want to ask what services aren’t included and whether part of the entrance fee is refundable.
Aside from the obvious questions about services and finances, you’ll want to ask questions about who owns and operates the community. Obviously, there will be questions that pertain specifically to yourself and your situation. Just remember, there’s no wrong question when deciding on a CCRC.
Continuing care retirement communities offer great perks for seniors. Of course, there are tradeoffs to moving into one of these communities. Thus, extensive research is necessary before choosing the community where you want to live.
Do you or a loved one live in a continuing care retirement community? Please feel free to talk about your experience below.