In recent years, aging Americans have become increasingly interested in continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) or life plan communities. These senior living communities offer the array of care options necessary for aging adults to move through the stages of independent, assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing facilities. Beyond health care, CCRCs offer a wide range of services, such as:
- Dining options
- Fitness and wellness programs
- Recreational activities
- Social activities and outings
It’s essentially aging within the same community environment. There are approximately 2,000 CCRCs in the country, far less than the 30,000 assisted living facilities. The difference is mainly due to the price of a CCRC, which is about $3,000 to $5,000 a month. If you find this affordable and are considering joining a CCRC, there are some things to consider carefully.
Covering Community Costs and Fees
The first consideration is financing. Can you afford the buy-in and associated monthly fees? If necessary, a senior can convert home equity and other assets into their initial expenditure to join a CCRC. However, the majority of seniors who choose to reside in a CCRC have the personal financial resources to pay for care.
Choosing a Community
All facilities and contracts are different. Each state has an agency regulating CCRCs, and the government entities offer listings and a consumer guide about the communities in your area. There is also an independent nonprofit organization called CARF International, which provides accreditations for CCRCs and their services.
Medicare Doesn’t Cover Continuing Care Retirement Communities
Seniors can’t use Medicare to cover the cost of a CCRC because Medicare services don’t cover long-term care. The exception is using skilled nursing services while in your CCRC facility for a maximum of 100 days.
Because CCRC contracts are similar to a long-term insurance plan, it’s tax-deductible. The IRS considers it a prepaid medical expense. The financial picture is different for every individual and every facility, so talk to your financial planner and elder law attorney to carefully review the contract and its terms before committing to anything.
Three Types of Community Contracts
While every CCRC is different, three standard types of contracts are typically offered. The first is an all-inclusive, fixed-price contract. It’s the most expensive contract but provides unlimited access to all assisted living, medical care, or skilled nursing care services at no additional charge. This contract is best for someone entering the facility while still healthy and independent.
The second option is a modified contract that provides services for a set length of time, which is a gamble. You may outlive the timeline, and the additional services required will be a higher monthly fee.
The third option is a fee-for-service contract which means you only pay for the services you use. Fee-for-service contracts typically lower your entry cost into the community, but you’ll pay the market rate for assisted living or skilled nursing care if you need those services.
Making Your Decision
The best time to move into a CCRC is when you are healthy and can take advantage of all the amenities offered. Being in a community that provides health and wellness strategies above and beyond medical care can allow you to age more successfully and with fewer health incidents. Moving into a CCRC is not a decision to be made in desperation because of an urgent health care need. The complexity and range of the CCRC contracts and pricing options need careful review with professional guidance to optimize your aging experience. Seniors with a spouse find a CCRC living choice particularly gratifying because partners often need different medical help at different times. Even if the couple is not living in the same unit due to medical conditions, they are at least on the same campus.
The social activities and other amenities offered in CCRCs are interactive to keep residents engaged. However, if the location of the campus is remote from urban environments, you might feel isolated and disconnected from the world at large. Some CCRCs are popping up in downtown locations and even on college campuses around the country. So be certain to ask yourself if the site appeals to you for the long term. Also, find out how far removed it might be from family members who want to visit often.
There are many questions to ask when contemplating a move into a continuing care retirement community. Visit the property and bring a family member or legal counsel to ask relevant questions and ensure satisfactory answers. You may be able to spend a week at the facility to experience it firsthand and avoid buyer’s remorse. Deciding whether to reside at a property for the rest of your life means being sure that the facility is the right fit for you. Because there have been bankruptcies in the CCRC business sector, you must review the facility’s financial sustainability. You don’t want an unsuccessful CCRC to force you into a relocation process that can be financially, physically, and emotionally draining later in life.
If we can assist you in identifying and choosing a CCRC as part of your overall long-term care plan, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Our firm is dedicated to informing you of issues affecting seniors who may be experiencing declining health. We help you and your loved ones prepare for potential long-term care needs and expenses related to in-home, assisted living, or nursing home care.