Questions to Ask About Continuing Care Retirement Communities

As you get older, your needs change and can become more complex.  You may be considering downsizing or moving to be closer to your adult children or grandchildren. Deciding whether to hold on to your current home or make a move can be challenging – especially if you need more assistance with day-to-day activities and medical care.

This is where a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) comes in. These communities are specifically designed for older adults and can meet your changing needs in a comprehensive manner. There are many benefits to moving into a retirement community.

CCRCs have grown in popularity over the years (there are nearly 2,000 CCRCs in the US). There are many types of CCRCs, so it’s important you do research to make an informed decision.

Here are a few questions to ask about continuing-care retirement communities:

How Will a Retirement Community Benefit Me?

Moving to a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) can enrich your life in many ways. Here’s just a short list of some of the many benefits you can expect to receive at one of these retirement communities:

  • Enjoy a close-knit community
  • Join fun classes, games & group activities
  • Get help with property maintenance
  • Access reliable medical care
  • Enjoy an increased sense of safety

When you choose to join a retirement community, you have the opportunity to make new friends and follow new pursuits. The community supports your lifestyle so you can enjoy it.

What Housing Options are Available in a CCRC?

Many CCRCs (like Cornwall Manor) offer a variety of housing options – from houses with lofts, sunrooms and garages to one, two, or three-bedroom apartments. When your health changes and you need additional services, CCRCs  typically also have personal care or assisted living apartments as well as a skilled nursing facility for short or long-term medical needs on-site.

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Can I Afford to Live in a CCRC?

Because of the variety of CCRCs and fee plans, it is critical to research fees and what is (and is not) included. Most people use the proceeds from the sale of their home to pay the entrance fees required by most retirement communities.

This initial fee covers your housing and access to health care. Different CCRCs offer different fee plans (such as “fee for service” or “life care”) – so you should discuss these options and see what is best for you and your future needs. Medicare may pay for some of the cost of a short-term skilled nursing home stay, and many people have obtained long-term care insurance for future home health, personal care and skilled nursing costs.

In addition to an entrance fee, most CCRCs also have a monthly fee which includes utilities, interior and exterior maintenance, general property taxes, emergency response, security, housekeeping, transportation and fitness center fees, together with costs for other services and amenities. Ask for the schedule of fees and what they include.


What’s the Occupancy Rate at CCRCs?

A facility’s occupancy rate is a vital measure of its viability. The occupancy rate is generally an indication of the health of the community. It also serves as a sort of non-verbal review of the establishment. Therefore, it’s advisable to look for a community with at least an 90% occupancy rate. Anything lower than that can be cause for alarm — unless the facility is new and just beginning to fill up.


What’s the Financial Strength of the CCRC?

Knowing the financial situation of a CCRC is a crucial element of the selection process.

CCRCs are required to provide you with a financial disclosure statement, and they should also provide a copy of their audited financial statement. Don’t be afraid to ask about financing debt or other areas of the CCRC’s financial health.

Ask what is required in the financial application process. Most not-for-profit CCRC’s (like Cornwall Manor), may have an Endowment Fund that offers benevolence to assist residents who have limited or depleted their resources.


What Are the Entrance Fees and Refund Terms?

Most Continuing Care Retirement Communities have a refund option in their contract. Refund options from zero refund  to 90% refunds allows for monies from the entrance fee to go towards future health care or to the residents estate in the event of death.

Ask each facility how much is refundable and under what conditions the refund policy can be invoked. Most communities do not offer the refund for a specified period of time or until the unit is re-marketed. It can be prudent to have a lawyer look at the contract so that you fully understand what you are signing.

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What if Spouses Need Different Levels of Care?

In many situations, spouses want to move to a Continuing Care Retirement Community, but need different levels of care. When you visit each community, ask how this situation can be handled and how much it would affect the cost.  Since the benefit of a CCRC is that they have various levels of health care available at one location, there are typically options for spouses.

If a spouse is unable to be the caregiver for their spouse, some options include in-home nursing or companion care, or one spouse living in a house or apartment and the other spouse living in the personal care or skilled nursing facility at the CCRC. The staff at the CCRC can explain the pros and cons of each option. From there, you can make the most informed decision.

Can I Bring My Pet With Me to Live in a CCRC?

Pets provide many people with a consistent source of comfort and companionship, and being separated from a pet can be devastating. Before choosing a CCRC, you should make sure your animal companion can accompany you. Some retirement communities ban pets altogether, but as the therapeutic benefits of pet ownership have become more accepted, more communities have started allowing residents to keep animals.

Once you find a CCRC that accepts pets, it’s a good idea to gather information about the rules and associated fees. Some retirement communities have weight limits for dogs or restrict the number of animals you can bring, so make sure your pets will be welcome. You might also ask where you can walk your dog and which buildings pets are allowed to visit.

What Amenities Does the Community Offer?

Continuing care retirement communities typically offer a wide range of amenities for residents to take advantage of, but specific services vary from location to location. If there’s an amenity you hope to use often, ask where it’s located in relation to where you’ll live and how much it costs to use. Some of the amenities to ask about include transportation, physicians offices, pools, dining spots, shops and fitness centers.

What Activities Can I Participate In?

Continuing care retirement communities house vibrant groups of adults, often with similar life experiences and interests. A good CCRC will provide plenty of opportunities for residents to meet and socialize. If you’re interested in exploring new interests and getting to know your neighbors, ask what kinds of activities and events you can participate in and whether they have any eligibility requirements.

Many communities offer enough activities to ensure everyone can find something they enjoy. At Cornwall Manor, for example, you can take part in book clubs, card games, wellness classes, crafting activities, current events discussions, neighborhood get-togethers and more. If there’s an activity you would like to see offered, ask the community staff whether residents can put in requests or start their own groups.

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What Are the Dining Services Like at a CCRC?

Dining services at retirement communities vary. Some facilities have limited food options and serve meals at set times every day. Others offer a more open dining experience, serving great food throughout the day in cafes, dining rooms and other locations across campus. Ask about the types of food served and the hours for each dining spot.

If you have dietary restrictions, you should check to make sure the CCRC can accommodate your needs. You might also ask if they offer meal delivery and how much it costs.

What Tasks Can Staff Help With?

Independent living is one of the biggest draws of life at a CCRC. However, as your needs change, you may want help with certain chores and activities. Ask each facility what tasks staff can help with at each level of care. Can someone assist with bathing, dressing, meals and medication monitoring? What about maintenance tasks like yard work, housekeeping and repairs? An ideal retirement community will have resources available to help with anything you need.

Get Your Questions Answered

It is important that you research and understand your options before you move to a CCRC. The staff at  Cornwall Manor is available to answer your questions and provide information. If you have a question or want to schedule a visit, call Cornwall Manor at 717-274-8092 today.

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