It’s never too soon — or too late, for that matter — to plan for the future.
Getting older can be a combination of joy, surprise, and challenges. But with a little bit of planning, it can be one of the most fulfilling stages of your life. And if a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) is a part of your plan, it can be the right decision for you and your family.
By learning about and taking advantage of all of the options that are available to you, you can enjoy peace of mind and quality of life. The best way to get the most out of your future is to plan for it.
What Are Continuing Care Retirement Communities?
A continuing care retirement community (CCRC) offers a variety of living options- including apartments and homes, as well as on-site health care such as home health care, personal care, therapy services and skilled nursing care – all in one location. Typically the minimum age for residency in a CCRC is 60.
To some people, the term “retirement community” had a negative connotation, referring to a place where people went when they couldn’t live independently. Today, retirement communities are anything but negative! They are places where people lead fulfilling lives as they focus on their favorite interests and pursuits — instead of worrying about getting the roof fixed before winter or what to do if a health crisis arises.
People are living longer, healthier lives than ever before, and living in a continuing care retirement community can be a part of that healthy lifestyle.
One of the advantages of a CCRC is that you meet new people and become a part of a community – who can be there for you as you experience life’s changes. If the need would arise that you would need health care, you can remain in the same community where your friends, neighbors – and staff – know you.
How Does a CCRC Work?
There are generally two types of CCRCs- “Fee for Service” and “Life Care.
Both have advantages that you should explore to see which fits your needs best.
In both types of communities, residents pay an “entrance fee” which is determined by the size and style of apartment or home; and a “monthly fee” which covers costs such as utilities, maintenance, housekeeping, transportation, security, access to health services, and programs and activities.
Living in a CCRC eliminates some of the stress and fear of unknown conditions that might be in your future, and it gives you the freedom to enjoy your retirement.
Questions to Ask When Considering a CCRC
If you are considering a CCRC, here are some questions you may want to ask:
• Who owns and manages the community? When you move into a CCRC, you’re investing in that community for the long term. You want to know who manages the property, and their reputation for quality. You want to find out everything you can about how the healthcare end of the operation is run, even if you don’t require any of those services at the present time. Ask about their inspection results (which are available online at www.medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare
• Is the CCRC a not-for-profit or for profit? The philosophy and mission – and quality of care – can be impacted by the type of organization it is.
• What are policies and guidelines within the community? Ask for a copy of the resident agreement and handbook. CCRCs may have guidelines for things like modifying your residential unit, keeping pets and even having guests.
Find out how these rules are enforced. Most CCRCs have a board of directors. You’ll want to ask who sits on that board, how they are chosen and how long they serve.
• What is the community’s reputation? Ask staff members what they think about the community to get a different perspective. Also, find out what the public reputation of the community is.
• What type of contracts are offered? Ask about the different options for level of service and costs. Find out what’s included in the monthly fees and what services are extra.
• How does the timing of services affect cost? The beauty of a CCRC is that changes in levels of services can be virtually seamless. Find out how the fees are affected when you move from one level of service to another. Are those fees based on the going rate at the time of the move, or are the costs set when you sign the contract?
• What are the tax implications of living in a CCRC? This answer could vary from community to community. Find out how you might be assessed for property taxes. Are there tax deductions you would be entitled to? How does your tax status change when your level of care changes?
• What is the availability of medical services? Get a complete understanding of what is included in your CCRC. If you need short-term medical care, where will that care be provided? Are all medical services within the CCRC campus, or are there some services outside of the campus that you would have access to? Find out where personal care, nursing and rehabilitation services would be provided.
You may not need advanced medical services right now, and you may never need them, but this is the time to think of a worst-case scenario and find out how the CCRC would accommodate your needs.
• What is the CCRCs financial status? This is a long-term commitment, and you want to be sure that you can get everything you are promised, even if you don’t need it right now. It’s important that the CCRC be on solid financial ground and adequately funded for the future. By asking about things like the corporation’s cash reserves, long-term debt and debt payment history, you can begin to ascertain the stability of the CCRC. Ask for a copy of the financial disclosure statement.
• What is the initial fee used for? Moving into a CCRC involves an up-front investment. Find out how that money is used and how the amount of the initial fee – as well as any refunds – are calculated. Be sure to ask what portion of the initial fee is held in escrow and how much of it would be refundable if you chose to leave the CCRC.
This process can seem overwhelming at first, but it’s important to understand all the facts about CCRC before entering into a contract. Take your time with this research.
Things to Consider For Your Spouse and Family
Moving to a CCRC can provide an alternative for many people to enjoy the second half of their lives in comfort. It can also provide peace of mind for relatives and loved ones. Here are some things you should discuss with your spouse and family while considering this decision:
Talk about the different options and figure out what housing lifestyle best suits your current and future housing needs. Do you want to stay in your home as long as possible, or would you rather downsize? Have you ever considered moving into a senior living community? Discuss together the multitude of available options, including the services that are available to help you stay in your own home, if that is your desire. Modifications can also be used to make your home safer and more convenient for you.
Both the costs and the management of any future medical care should be discussed. You’ll need a plan to coordinate any needed medical care through one doctor, and he should be brought on board with that plan. Ideally, this coordinating doctor would be in close proximity to your home, or wherever you plan to move in the future.
What are your children’s expectations? Many families think that they can provide care for their aging parents but are not prepared for the financial, physical and emotional toll it can take.
Expenses for possible long-term care also need to be discussed. Now is the time to plan a long-term savings strategy, and to investigate the details of insurance coverage.
Everything from a will to power of attorney should be discussed, although these can be uncomfortable topics. Who will make health care decisions if you are not able to do so for yourself? What is your expectation for end-of-life care? It’s important to understand and communicate your end of life wishes and secure the legal documentation, so you can be sure those wishes will be carried out.
Based on these very important discussions you need to have with your family, you can help determine if a CCRC is right for you. A community that provides housing options, health care, activities and security can be a practical solution for those who are planning for retirement and the future. With these discussions behind you and a plan in place that includes a CCRC, you can relax knowing that decisions are already made for most likely scenarios that could arise in the future.
How to Get Started With the Process
If you decide that a CCRC is the right choice for you, there are some steps you need to take to start the process. In addition to asking all of the questions listed above, plan to take a tour of all of the CCRCs that you are considering. A tour will give you a first-hand impression of what it will be like to live there, and you can see the property for yourself as it actually looks, not just as pictures in a brochure.
Touring the CCRC will also give you a chance to talk with some residents who live there. Be sure to talk with people in each of the different types of housing to get their impression of living there. Even though you may not currently require any nursing care, visit the nursing home/health center and talk with the residents and staff there. Is the staff friendly? Are the residents well cared for? You want to be comfortable with all aspects of the community.
After your tour of the CCRC, you will be better equipped to prepare for your move. Plan to spend several months downsizing and preparing to move into your new home. If you are leaving a house where you lived for several years, paring down your possessions to fit into a smaller space can seem overwhelming.
Here are some tips to make downsizing easier:
• Make a list of keepers — Go from room to room and consider which pieces of furniture will fit in your new space. Put those pieces on your keepers list. You now know which items you can sell or give away.
• Clean out your clutter — Taking one room at a time, go through the house and tackle all of those big organizing jobs you’ve been putting off. Clean out your desk and shred old files and papers. Clean out your closets and donate items you aren’t using. Even sort through your bookshelves and let go of books you can live without.
• Consider purpose — A small space will seem bigger if each item has a purpose and nothing is just there taking up space. Consider the purpose of each item you intend to move. If it can serve more than one purpose, it should have a higher priority.
• Call the kids — Often a parents’ home becomes a repository for other people’s stuff. Have your children take responsibility for any items that belong to them, or ask their permission to dispose of them.
Letting go of the “stuff” you don’t need anymore can be a little easier when you get something for it. Have a garage sale or take your things to a consignment shop. At least donate rather than throw things out, so someone else can enjoy your items. For things that have sentimental value, find a special person to give them to. They will appreciate your thought and you can know your sentimental items have a caring home.
Find Out More
If CCRC retirement sounds like the right fit for you, get in touch with the Marketing team at Cornwall Manner today and discover why so many people have discovered “The New Nature of Senior Living.” Call or email us to schedule your visit – or consider spending a few days at our community to really get a feel for life here. You will discover why so many of our residents tell us that they should have made the move to Cornwall Manor sooner!