Q and A on Continuing Care Communities 12/15/15

INTRO: As you start your Act III, retirement and relaxing, you are visiting a new living arrangement called a CCRC-Continuing Care Retirement Community. The tour is great, everyone you meet is friendly and the clubhouse is beautiful. Your children want you to move to a smaller place anyway, but is THIS the place for you?

Q: First of all, what exactly is a CCRC?

A: A CCRC is a residential community which offers various housing options from independent senior living to assisted living to skilled nursing facility. Thus, you can "age in place:" move into independent living, eventually into the next higher level with a bit more assistance, and finally to a nursing home if necessary. Most promise that as you age and need more in home or nursing care, you are guaranteed a place in the higher care levels.

Q: How do you decide on which CCRC is right for you?

A: There are many different kinds of communities. Some have freestanding ranch homes, some urban high rise-apartments and others cluster homes as the entry point. Some have a rich campus with gardens, shopping, restaurants, exercise rooms, pools and club houses. Some are more suburban and require you to venture off site for your shopping and entertainment needs.

Q: Sounds great to me already, where do I sign up?

A: Well, there are many things to consider. First, you need to evaluate the entrance fees and monthly fees. There are many different types of arrangements. Many require a hefty entrance fee to move in, anywhere from $30,000 to $1 million. Plus, there are monthly fees that increase as you need more assistance, from $500 to $4500 (and more for the nursing home). Some offer different levels of care ala carte, with separate additional fees. The total fees are often more than folks with moderate incomes can afford.

If you leave, many offer a refund of the entrance fees if you leave within a stated time, or die. Others are more like apartments, which will refund fees only when they re-let your particular home.

All start with a contract that you must ready very carefully, maybe even have an attorney review it for you.

Q: OK, say we decide that a CCRC is the right move as we enter our Act III. How do we find a good one?

A: One website you can look at for assistance is http://www.ccrcs.com, which has a directory of CCRC's across the country. You can search local places as well as ones close to other family and friends.

Additionally, you may want to check the licensing and accreditation of the community. Some states highly regulate the level of services and care, and others do nothing. Take a look at http://www.carf.org/ccrcListing.aspx for help.

Finally, a major concern is the financial soundness of the community. Look for one that has been around for a number of years, to weed out those which may be on shaky financial ground. Some are operated by churches and some by non-profit organizations which you need to check out as well.

Q: Once we settle on a few good communities to focus on, any other help?

A: We have some articles on CCRC's and a checklist of other items to check on our website, http://www.ssandplaw.com.

CLOSE: Picking a CCRC is a once-in-a-lifetime decision. Some let you have a test stay to test drive the community. Do it! Be sure to read the contract and any other agreements carefully, and hire an attorney to help.