Continuing Care Retirement Communities

A continuing care retirement community (CCRC) provides residents with access to independent living units, assisted living facilities and skilled nursing care all in one location for your convenience.

CCRC retirement communities are a good senior housing solution for older adults whose medical needs fluctuate. A CCRC community is also often a good choice for those suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia, as residents can transfer to higher levels of care without the disruption of moving to an entirely new facility. Keep reading to learn about this type of retirement community and whether one may be the best choice for you or your loved one.

Why choose a CCRC?

Sometimes referred to as a “life plan community,” a CCRC provides a continuum of care across the most common types of senior housing options. Continuing care retirement communities provide what is often called “aging in place” or the ability to live out the remainder of one’s life in one location. Many senior citizens enter a CCRC community at the independent living level, then progress to assisted living, and when needed, move on to the area devoted to skilled nursing care.

Related Article: Skilled Nursing Facility

Although most senior citizens and their family members appreciate the stability provided by a continuing care facility, the ability to age in place can be vital to residents suffering from anxiety, depression or other mental health issues. Moving can be a traumatic experience, and eliminating that fear can help residents enjoy their remaining years at the CCRC more fully.

Benefits of Continuing Care Retirement Communities

In addition to the stability of not having to move, continuing care retirement communities provide a great deal of benefits to residents and their families. Some of the CCRC benefits most commonly cited include:

  • Access to the specific type of health care and monitoring needed, at any given time, no matter how it fluctuates.
  • More comprehensive health monitoring than what is available in some independent or assisted living facilities.
  • Access to the amenities available at other senior communities such as social events, on-site dining and transportation services.
  • Laundry and housekeeping services.
  • Assistance with activities of daily living, such as eating, bathing and using the toilet.
  • The opportunity to develop longer-standing friendships with other residents and staff.
  • Everything needed is easily accessed on one campus.
  • 24-hour staff, including nursing care.
  • Memory support care.
  • End-of-life and hospice care, at some locations.

Drawbacks to Living in a CCRC Community

Even though the tiered approach to care makes CCRC retirement communities a good choice for many senior citizens, there can be some drawbacks to obtaining all of your care from one source. CCRCs are the most expensive senior housing option around because they require a large entrance fee in addition to monthly payments. Other disadvantages to the CCRC experience include:

  • Having to pay additional fees for housekeeping, meals or transportation if it is not included in the contract.
  • The risk that the continuing care facility may go bankrupt a few years into the future, causing you to lose access to care you already paid for.
  • The lack of privacy common to most people living in a group facility for the first time.
  • It being extremely difficult and prohibitively expensive to move elsewhere if you discover over time that you dislike certain aspects of the CCRC.

Tips for Finding the Best Continuing Care Facility

Because you or your loved one will most likely live longer at a CCRC than in any other type of senior housing, it is extremely important to be thorough in researching the best continuing care facility for your needs. Most people begin by researching local CCRC options online, including reviews by residents and their family members. Potential CCRC applicants should also check the Better Business Bureau (BBB) for an overall performance score and information on any complaints filed against the continuing care facility or its employees.

After narrowing down the CCRC community choices, make time to visit each facility with the prospective resident and/or a close family member. Take the time to examine each part of the continuing care facility, not just the areas dedicated to the prospective resident’s current health status. It is highly likely that CCRC residents will spend some time in at least two of the levels of care available. Look for safety features, visit at mealtimes to check out the food, and note the overall cleanliness of the facility and the residents.

Since the future resident is the one who will spend the rest of their life at the CCRC facility, he or she may ask to spend a full weekend or week there to see if it is a good fit. This can be the best way to make a final decision about a CCRC community and its ability to meet expectations.

CCRC Cost Factors

Usually, continuing care retirement communities cost more than many other senior housing solutions. The total cost for living in a CCRC community is divided into monthly charges plus one large entrance fee. According to the American Association for Retired Persons (AARP), CCRC entrance fees can range from $100,000 to $1 million. This upfront charge prepays for some aspects of care and provides the continuing care facility funds needed to operate.

Monthly fees to live in a CCRC community also vary, usually ranging between $3,000 and $5,000 per month. These monthly CCRC fees may increase as the patient’s level of care rises. There may be additional fees for meals, housekeeping services, transportation and social activities.

Every potential CCRC resident must sign a contract that clearly details the services currently available to them and the cost associated with each type of service. There are three basic CCRC contract types:

  • Life Care/Extended Contract: The most expensive type of CCRC contract, this type offers unlimited care at all levels of care, including skilled nursing care, without incurring additional charges later.
  • Modified Contract: This continuing care facility contract covers certain services for a specified period of time. Once that time expires, the resident has the option of paying higher monthly fees to continue receiving services.
  • Fee-for-Service Contract: This CCRC contract option comes with a lower enrollment fee, but paying for assisted living and skilled nursing care on a fee-for-service basis means that rates will fluctuate according to the current market value.

Because CCRC contracts involve such a large financial payout and are more complicated than other assisted living contracts, it is vital to have an attorney experienced in elder care review the forms before signing anything.

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