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What’s a continuing care retirement community?

Written by Diane Archer

While most older adults choose to remain in their homes and “age in place,” many who need care services and supports move into nursing homes, assisted living facilities and continuing care retirement communities. They all offer older adults a range of health care and recreational services as well as promote health-enhancing social engagements and friendships. So, what distinguishes a continuing care retirement community from other types of housing?

All continuing care retirement communities are different, requiring research on your part to understand your options. And, some are very expensive. But, if you can afford the costs, they offer housing, along with a range of social services and health care services, so you can live there independently and, if the need arises, with less or more assistance.

Many people move into continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) when they are fully independent. If and when the time comes that they need assisted living or nursing home services, they are available. These retirement communities provide both older adult residents and their loved ones the peace of mind that they will always have the care they need.

As a general rule, continuing care retirement communities charge an entrance fee in addition to monthly fees. The amount you pay depends in large part on the specific CCRC as well as the type of housing you choose and the amount of care you need.

CCRCs may offer you a choice of a contract that covers all the care you’ll ever need, or one that provides a fixed amount of care for a set period of time, or one that allows you to pay for care as needed, on top of the fee for moving in/entrance fee.

Here are some things to think about and questions to ask, when visiting a CCRC:

  • Location: How easy is the CCRC to visit? And, how easy is it for you to see your doctors, attend classes, or spend time outside the CCRC?
  • Staff: How friendly, dedicated and attentive are the staff? Can you hire your own staff if you’d like, or must you use CCRC staff?
  • Residents: How do the residents enjoy being at the CCRC? Are they socially engaged?
  • Services: What services does the CCRC provide both on-site and off-site? Medication delivery? Laundry and dry cleaning? Excursions? Talks? Exercise classes? Transportation?
  • Housing: Is it easy to get into and out of the housing units? Do they meet your needs?
  • Food: What are the meal plan options? How is the food?
  • Guest policy: What is the guest policy?
  • Right to leave: What happens if you decide you want to move? Is your entrance fee refundable?

California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform offers this 14-page guide to help you decide whether a continuing care retirement community is right for you.

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