Continuing Care Retirement Communities

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Donna Mae Scheib

Continuing Care Retirement Communities

Posted by Donna Mae Scheib on February 13, 2020

Continuing Care Retirement Communities

High-income seniors who wish to live among a stable community for the rest of their lives often benefit from knowing about Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs). These communities provide residents the option to move between independent living, assisted living, and nursing home care according to their changing health needs. The accommodations are available on site along with social and educational activities in the greater community. CCRCs also tend to offer services such as meals, health services, housekeeping, personal care, transportation, and emergency help. Generally, seniors opt to receive these services according to their particular wants and needs. However, CCRCs often come at a major price due to all of these resources.

CCRCs often take the form of apartments, condominiums, or single-family homes. Many of them resemble surrounding communities, making many seniors unaware that there are CCRCs among them. Also, CCRCs typically determine residents’ choice of services based on three different contact options: Extensive or Life Contracts, Modified Contracts, and Fee-for-Service Contracts. Extensive or Life Contracts offer unlimited assisted living and health services at the highest cost of living. Modified Contracts generally do the same with some services included in the monthly fee or at market price. Fee-for-Service Contracts charge market rates for services at a lower enrollment fee. Occasionally, there is a Rental Agreement with no entrance fee and provision of services only “as needed”.

This article will explain various things to consider if you or a loved one plan on retiring in a CCRC. Primarily, the choice involves a delicate balance of finances, the retiree’s desires, and their children’s needs regarding their parent’s care and continuing familial relationships. If your family is within the price range to pay the costs for CCRCs, you will find that they provide the highest quality of life out of all long-term care options.

Benefits and Drawbacks of CCRCs

The primary benefits of CCRCs are the high quality of life and ease of care. Residents get to remain among a community they may already know, whereas other retirement communities may have to transfer them to an entirely new location at a lower cost. Many seniors find it easy to adjust to CCRC communities after the passing of a spouse, eliminating loneliness. They maintain lasting friendships and stay healthy due to staying within the same active community. In addition to the services listed above, specific CCRCs may aid in gardening, lawn mowing, laundry, garbage, and snow removal, and other tasks seniors find difficult.

Seniors’ loved ones also find CCRCs helpful in providing for their health and comfort. They can rest assured that their loved one is receiving the same high quality of care at every level and remaining in the same place comfortably. Considering how many seniors’ adult children provide for their parents’ needs otherwise, CCRCs become desirable options for families who can afford them.

However, the main drawback of CCRCs is indeed the cost. The AARP’s overview on CCRCs states that they can incur entrance fees of $100,000 to $1 million and monthly charges from $3,000 to $5,000 (prone to increase). This cost makes CCRCs the most expensive of long-term care options. It largely depends on residents’ health and level of care (e.g. assisted, nursing), contracts, types of housing, and the number of residents. Average costs of specific contracts depend on these factors as well as meal service, housekeeping, social activities and transportation, and are as follows:

  • Extensive or Life Contracts: $160,000 to $600,000 initially and $2,500 to $5,400 monthly
  • Modified Contracts: $80,000 to $750,000 initially and $1,500 to $2,500 monthly
  • Fee-for-Service Contracts: $100,000 to $500,000 initially and $1,300 to $4,300 monthly
  • Rental Contracts: $1,800 to $30,000 initially and $900 to $10,700 monthly

The next section of this article explains how to find the right CCRC if your family decides that comfort and security is worth the cost.

How to Choose a CCRC

As mentioned, choosing a CCRC in the first place depends firstly on preferring it over other senior living options and secondly on which contract meets the resident’s price range and care needs. If you have settled on choosing a CCRC, though, it is highly useful to tour specific communities in your area of choice –especially by requesting stays for a weekend or even a week. Afterward, you can keep the following considerations in mind.

Feeling a sense of home and community should be a major determinant of potential residence. Asking the residents about their satisfaction, staff, services, and community can give you a good impression of the quality of life a particular CCRC offers. Talking to staff and looking into inspection reports, licensing, and complaint investigations can also keep potential drawbacks in mind. The AARP article linked above provides a list of potential questions to ask staff, residents, and yourself about the conditions on-site. Here are a few things that should determine your choice of CCRC:

  • Contract options
  • Types and numbers of units (that you should try to see for yourself if permitted)
  • Facility maintenance
  • Recourse to public transportation, grocery stores, hospitals, and other resources in the local area
  • Accessibility of buildings
  • Friendliness of residents and staff
  • Education and expertise of staff
  • Waiting list (and duration thereof)
  • Residence equipment (such as dishwashers, kitchen supplies, and laundry)
  • Rules and regulations for residents
  • Quality of meal plans
  • Full range of medical services
  • Full range of care

More so than other, less expensive retirement options, you should also look into a CCRC’s audited financial statements before choosing it. Because it is so expensive to run or live in them, CCRCs may have to cut services if they do not operate near full capacity. Selecting a CCRC that can run on its operating income will be to your advantage, even if it involves a longer waitlist.

Ultimately, CCRCs can provide the ideal of “aging in place” to the seniors that can afford them. Choosing one just becomes a matter of weighing many of the same considerations of other retirement options against a higher cost. Making the choice can help determine how comfortable and fulfilled an adult feels upon retirement.

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