The benefits of continuing care retirement communities allow seniors to remain in a single, familiar community as their health and abilities change throughout the aging process. Many options are available for those planning where to live and receive care during their retirement years.
Independent living communities are for healthy, active older adults. Assisted living facilities suit those who need help with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, preparing meals, and medication management. Skilled nursing facilities provide care to individuals with significant medical conditions.
Yet, as people age, the type and level of care they need often change. Older adults who start in one kind of community often must move to another facility that can support their evolving needs. Relocating can be stressful, as individuals leave their friends to start over in an unfamiliar environment, often while their autonomy and access to recreation diminishes.
Continuing Care Retirement Communities
Continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) present a solution for people who wish to avoid the strain of moving and remain in one senior living community that meets their evolving needs. Also called life plan communities, these establishments typically offer independent living, assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing in one centralized location. An example of a continuing care retirement community on Cape Cod is Thirwood Place in Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts.
Residents can choose from different housing options, such as cottages, condos, and studio apartments. Far from appearing like institutions, CCRCs resemble neighborhoods.
As elders’ needs change, such a community can provide progressively appropriate care. For instance, a resident may begin living unassisted before transitioning to receiving aid with activities of daily living or nursing care. A person who develops dementia can move into a memory unit within the grounds.
Additional Continuing Care Benefits
As well as allowing residents to remain in a single, familiar community as their health and abilities change, CCRCs have many advantages compared with other residential senior living establishments.
- Live With Your Spouse — In CCRCs, individuals with different needs can live in the same community. So, spouses can remain together even if only one requires nursing care or help with activities of daily living;
- Remain in a Community — Elders can also stay connected with their friends in the community and enjoy a social environment;
- Maintenance and Meals — Residents do not have to worry about maintaining their homes, cooking, or cleaning;
- Rely on Convenient Services — Similar to a small town, life plan communities provide commercial services like banks, beauty salons, barber shops, coffee shops, and shopping;
- Access Health Care — Professional health services, such as physician and nursing care, physical therapy, dental services, nutrition counseling, and mental health assistance, are also available; and,
- Amenities — such as walking trails, swimming pools, fitness centers, game, craft and music rooms, as well as libraries, wood shops and golf courses!
Selecting a Life Plan Community
With over 2,000 across the United States, many areas have continuing care retirement communities, SeniorLiving.org reports. Since these facilities typically resemble ordinary housing developments, people may not know there is a CCRC in their town.
Choosing a life plan community near your family, friends, and hometown can maximize social support. Most people seeking continuing care options intend to remain there for the rest of their lives. In fact, this is continuing care’s primary advantage — so location is an essential consideration.
In addition to location, AARP.org recommends assessing several other components before choosing a life plan community. It is a good idea to tour the CCRC before signing an agreement. Also, consider the following.
- Review Housing Options — How are the floor plans? Are the common areas clean?
- Investigate the Staff’s Credentials — Are they professional and friendly? What hours do they keep?
- Consider Available Services — Does the staff take care of laundry? What kind of commercial services does the development have? What type of transportation does the organization offer?
- Learn About Social Activities — Is there a schedule of activities with off-site trips? How are the exercise facilities? Are there fitness classes? What kind of entertainment does the place offer?
- Evaluate Meals — Examine recent menus. How many entrees do they offer? Can the facility accommodate dietary restrictions?
- Speak to Residents — How do they feel about the community? Do they think it is worth the cost? What do they think of the staff and services available?
Affording Care in a Retirement Community
CCRCs require a one-time entry fee in addition to monthly payments. According to AARP.org, the price can range from $20,000 to more than $2 million, with an average of $402,000.
Entry payments can be especially high for those who enter into extensive life-care contracts. Still, they receive assisted living, medical treatment, and skilled nursing care for little or no additional cost for the duration of their lives. They can avoid later costs by paying in advance for assisted living and nursing services.
For many, life plan communities are worth the cost. Residents can have peace of mind knowing they will remain in a familiar location with consistent support should their health decline. While maintaining maximum independence, they can prepare for future mobility or health complications.
Consult An Attorney
Joining a CCRC requires signing a complex contract. Those exploring continuing care should consider working with an elder law attorney. An advocate can help them weigh the pros and cons of continuing care, determine payment options, and explain contracts before you sign them.