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Is Continuing Care Right for You?

A continuing care retirement community (CCRC), sometimes referred to as a life-care community, provides for the needs of a very diverse range of residents as they age. Continuing care facilities may provide independent living, assisted living, and nursing home care in a single residence. Continuing care facilities are designed so that residents can move in while their needs are still light—and can provide progressively advanced care as needs increase. The benefit of choosing a continuing care community is that the resident’s needs can be provided for in one place, without having to undergo a stressful move or search for a new facility.

Continuing care communities are designed for elderly residents to move in while they still live relatively independently—and to stay for the rest of life. As residents’ medical needs change, the level of service increases to provide for them. Residents are closely monitored and care levels are adjusted as needed. If a major illness or injury requires the resident to be hospitalized, he or she can return to the residence after treatment and receive ongoing care if needed.

Continuing care isn’t right for everyone. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when considering continuing care for a loved one.

  • Does my loved one want or need the socialization?
    Continuing care communities are a good option for elderly patients who are living by themselves and who would prefer to live in a comfortable, friendly environment, surrounded by peers. Many continuing care communities offer organized activities and common areas where residents can meet and socialize.
  • Is my loved one currently living independently?
    The idea behind continuing care is that residents enter while still relatively independent, and can receive more intensive services in the same place as they age. Continuing care residences are designed—and priced—for long-term stays, and can be quite expensive. If your loved one already needs advanced care, he or she might get more value for the money at a facility designed specifically to provide the level of care needed.
  • Can you afford continuing care?
    Continuing care residences are costly. Many require an initial buy-in that can be as expensive as buying a house; up-front payments upwards of $100,000 to $500,000 are not uncommon. In addition, there is usually a monthly fee that can vary depending on the level of care needed.

    Many potential residents sell their homes in order to come up with the cash necessary to buy into a continuing care community. However, in a difficult housing market, this option has become less possible for some.
  • Are there other options in your community?
    Most continuing care residents enter at the assisted living or independent living stage. If money is a concern, investigate assisted living and independent living options in your area. It may be that you could save money by choosing to live in an independent or assisted living community and then transferring to a nearby nursing home when the time comes. If there are no desirable options in your loved one’s desired area for assisted and independent living or nursing homes, however, a continuing care residence may be a better choice than living in a less desirable area—depending on your loved one’s priorities.

Choosing a Continuing Care Community

There are a variety of things to consider when choosing a continuing care residence. Here are a few questions you should ask:

  • Does it provide the services I need?
    It can be impossible to predict which services your loved one will need as aging progresses. However, it’s important to be sure the community provides the services they need now, and that their continued service offerings are diverse enough to cover a range of scenarios in later life.
  • What amenities are available?
    Most continuing care communities provide activities and common areas. Some provide a wide range of services such as beauty salons, fitness centers and pools, golf facilities, libraries, common dining areas, and outdoor gardens. Find out what’s available and whether it’s enough to keep your loved one occupied on a continuing basis.
  • Do services and amenities cost extra?
    How are services and amenities paid for? Are they included in the monthly bill or paid for a-la-carte? How much can monthly bills be expected to increase as a resident’s needs progress?
  • Can you afford it?
    Most continuing care facilities require a large up-front investment in addition to monthly payments. Be aware that monthly costs are likely to increase as end of life approaches, so if the facility is a financial strain now, it’s not likely to get better.
  • Is the community doing well financially?
    Buying into a continuing care facility is a huge investment—and many residents can only afford one such payment after selling a house. Be sure that the continuing care community you choose is thriving and not likely to go under anytime soon. If it does, your loved one and family could be placed in a difficult financial situation.
  • What are the living arrangements?
    Will your loved one be living in an apartment, separate unit or single room? Will he or she be living alone or with a roommate, family member or spouse? Is your loved one happy with the living arrangement?

Choosing end-of-life care is never easy. Continuing care retirement communities are an excellent option for those who don’t want to move again later—when their medical needs may be more dire. While not everyone can afford continuing care, it’s an excellent option for those who can make it work.

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