What if, after considering all the important questions about what it takes to age in place, you decide it is not the right decision for you? What are the alternatives for a supportive retirement community? This is article, the last in the series, identifies some options..
Life Plan Communities
The wide range of retirement living options starts with Life Plan Communities, formerly called Continuing Care Retirement Communities or (CCRCs). A Life Plan Community offers a place to live for the rest of your life with all medical and support services on site as needed. The new name reflects the communities’ individuals who are active, engaged and focused on the future.
The communities include independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing services. Some even have their own home care hospice on site. Life Plan Community entrance fees range from a few hundred thousand dollars to more than $1 million depending on the type of contract. Type A contracts are all inclusive and all or part of the fee is refundable. Type C contracts are less expensive, but you pay for health services as you need them. Regardless of the type of contract, there are regular monthly payments.
Ideally, it is best to enter a Life Plan Community when you are independent, so you get to know the community. Most communities have requirements for incoming residents based on age, financial assets, income level and physical health. It is good to evaluate the Life Plan Community on “atmosphere or good fit” and its financial health. Here are some key items to focus on when considering the financial health: Occupancy—If 99 percent or more of a home’s rooms are full—that suggests that the community is doing something right. Rate Increases—Most communities increase their monthly fees 3-3.5 percent per year. Profitability— Be sure and ask for the retirement home’s annual financial statement. A clue about the financial health is the level of upkeep or capital improvements. Resident’s Role—Ask if residents are involved in making decisions that affect the community.
Independent Living Community
If your goal is to leave the burden of home maintenance behind, an Independent Living Community may be the perfect option. An Independent Living Community is like an apartment or condominium. They provide all maintenance and special services that include security, activities, transportation for shopping and sometimes on-site meals. Any additional services, such as help with personal care or light housekeeping are additional individual expenses.
Assisted Living Communities
If you know you need assistance with an activity of daily living—eating, dressing, walking, transferring or toileting—then an Assisted Living Community is the right option. They offer health care, such as dispensing medications, and nursing staff on-site or available 24/7. Many now have a wellness center with a regular physician who visits weekly to meet with residents. In addition, they provide personal care assistance, transportation to doctor appointments and scheduled outings, help with housekeeping and laundry. Additional amenities include beautifully decorated common areas, barber shops and beauty parlors, physical therapy services, recreation rooms, libraries and exercise rooms.
Tips for Choosing the Right Assisted Living Community
Before you begin exploring and visiting your chosen assisted living communities, ask yourself what you need and what you want in your new home—a kitchen with a stove, a large unit with 2 bedrooms, a memory care unit, residents with similar life experiences. Visit the community a couple of times at different times of the day. Look for level of activity, appearance of the residents, engagement of staff with the residents. Schedule a lunch to test the food.
Questions to ask when touring: admission and discharge criteria; entrance and monthly fees as well as hidden costs; staffing ratios and training of nursing staff for medical care (LPN or RNs); process for evaluating change in care levels. Lastly, ask yourself, are the residents likely to become my friends, do I feel comfortable here, are these “my type of people?”
Parting advice from an experienced aging life care manager to those who are confronting the decision about whether to age in place or move to a supportive community—identify what is important and realistic for your future, involve your family and friends in the discussion, consult with a professional in aging issues (care manager, elder law attorney etc.) and then get out and see for yourself which community fits your vision.
Author: Judy Grumbly, RN, MSN, Aging Life Care Manager with AGE, LLC