If you’re a senior and thinking about your future or an adult child of aging parents, there are many choices available. Sorting through them can be a bit daunting, but it’s an important step to ensure your safety and happiness for the rest of your life.
One option that’s probably popped up is a continuum of care retirement community (CCRC), sometimes also known as a life plan community. What exactly is a CCRC? Simply put, CCRCs are communities for seniors that include accommodations for independent living, assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing care in which residents move between levels of care as needed.
Before deciding whether or not a CCRC is the best choice for you, understanding some of the pros and cons of being a resident in this type of retirement community can help.
Continuum of Care Community Pros
A CCRC offers everything in one location—a one-stop shopping, all-inclusive kind of package—that provides various degrees of care as your needs change. Nearly 70 percent of longitudinal study participants reported that moving to a CCRC “somewhat or greatly improved” their social wellness.
Moving homes is stressful. You don’t want to be busy packing up a lifetime of cherished belongings if you’re dealing with health issues. Relocating to a continuing care community while you’re still healthy and independent can eliminate that worry. Depending on your care needs, you may have to switch locations within the community, but that’s just a minor move.
Maintain your social circle
Numerous studies show that having a strong social network is associated with longevity. Living in the same place promotes making and keeping friends. Even if your health condition changes, you’ll still be close to your social circle. Living in a CCRC will enable you to stay near your friends even when you—or they—need more care.
Spouses stay together
If your spouse needs rehabilitation after a fall or moves into memory care, you can remain with them. Instead of living at home without them, you can be at their side all day—without having to organize transportation. It’s also easier for your family and friends to visit when you and your spouse are together in the same place.
Close relationships with the staff
Residing in the same place for a long time means you have the opportunity to develop relationships that go beyond typical provider-patient communication with the staff. Being familiar with your needs enables your care professionals to provide better care. Plus, if you need a higher level of care, you will enjoy a seamless transition.
Peace of mind for loved ones
Your loved ones will know that their loved one is well-cared for and living an active, healthy life. One of the hardest parts of watching our family members age can be witnessing their loss of freedom and self-sufficiency. A CCRC allows seniors to live independently while still providing the social, medical, and emotional support services they need.
Continuum of Care Community Cons
A CCRC is one of the most expensive options for senior living, and the cost is one of the most significant disadvantages of a CCRC. For seniors living on a fixed income, the financial obligations can deter or eliminate CCRCs as an option. All CCRCs require a substantial entrance fee; although the amounts vary depending on the CCRC, the range is from the low six-figures to upwards of a million dollars. In addition to the usually non-refundable entrance fee, residents must pay a monthly maintenance fee.
There can be substantial financial risk involved. If a community isn’t financially viable, residents run the risk of losing their entire investment, should it go bankrupt. If a community is for-profit, there’s always the possibility of a sale, which could void or change resident contracts. Nonprofit organizations that rely on the entrance and monthly fees to operate can be especially risky. In some cases, residents do not own their homes or apartments within a CCRC, leaving them with very little protection if the organization runs out of money or shuts its doors.
Living only with seniors
Although a minor issue, a CCRC will be almost entirely composed of seniors. Some seniors may feel more comfortable living where there’s a mix of ages, from children to young adults and other retirees.
Making Your Decision
Before you sign on the dotted line, make sure to visit and ask a lot of questions. Find out precisely what services are offered. Are there opportunities to be involved with a residential council, which gives residents a say in how the CCRC operates. Ask to review the CCRC’s financial reports to ensure that it’s financially sustainable, and inspection reports and complaints to see if there are any concerns.
CCRCs are regulated at the state level, so find the state agency that oversees the licensure and certification of CCRCs that you’re considering and request records. These documents can help you understand how well run the facility is, and whether the care you'll receive is high-quality.
What training does the staff receive? What’s the staff-to-patient ratio, and does it change depending on the level of care you receive? If possible, ask to spend a weekend or a few days at the community before you commit.
Other options to consider include Independent Living, Assisted Living, Memory Care, and Skilled Nursing Care. Our knowledgeable staff is also available to answer any questions or provide you with additional resources to help you make the best decision for your future.