No two continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) are the same. Asking the right questions can help you narrow down your options, make an informed decision and avoid unwanted surprises down the road. We hope these questions make the search as easy as possible and help you choose a CCRC that’s well-aligned with your goals to live a vibrant, meaningful retirement.
Do you have vacancies right now and if not, how soon can I expect to move in?
Only you know what you’re looking for in a community and what kind of timelines you’re hoping they can accommodate. A community that has a 12-month waiting list might not be a fit if you’re looking to move as soon as possible. However, if you’re simply exploring your options for your three to five-year plan, getting your name on the list might be exactly what you need.
How old is the average resident?
Understanding resident demographics can help you gauge the community’s fit for your age and lifestyle. A relatively young average age might be a strong indication of a vibrant, physically active, social community in which you can thrive at age 55 and up. On the contrary, an average age of 80 or above might be indication of a quieter lifestyle with more support.
What is the occupancy rate?
Like all organizations, CCRCs aren’t immune to fluctuations in the industry and economy, so their occupancy rates tend to rise and fall depending on external factors. However, a low occupancy rate that doesn’t seem to align well with the other CCRCs you’re evaluating might be indication of problems with service and delivery.
Which activities are hosted by the community? Can I see a calendar?
One of the primary reasons people retire is to spend more time on leisure, socialization and hobbies. Seeking a retirement community that offers the right setting for socialization and leisure can help you stay active, engaged with likeminded peers and continue to learn and challenge yourself well into retirement. Keep in mind that seeing the current calendar is important to ensure the community’s calendar really meets your expectations.
How much does it cost? Can I afford it?
Surely an unaffordable option isn’t an option at all. Learning early about the expenses – usually including both an entrance fee and ongoing monthly fees – can help you make an informed decision. Because nobody can predict their own longevity, it’s also important to know what the community will expect should you run out of money while you still require care. You may choose to meet with a financial advisor to determine whether each option you evaluate fits within your budget.
Will my long-term care insurance cover this?
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that your long-term care insurance can be used in just any CCRC. CCRCs can be structured in several different ways; some of these structures are very insurance-friendly while others make it very difficult to use your long-term care benefits. In almost all cases, you must reach a certain level of dependence before insurance kicks in, which means you most likely will not receive benefits to help with your independent living arrangements in a CCRC.
Which services are included in my monthly fee? Where can I find a fee schedule for additional services?
One mistake to avoid is to assume all of the luxuries listed in the brochure or discussed during your tour are included in the monthly fee. The only way to know for certain what your monthly fee includes, and when you’ll be charged additional expenses, is to ask in advance and carefully review the contract before signing. At a minimum, ensure the community offers grounds keeping, maintenance, laundry, housekeeping and utilities.
Do monthly fees increase?
It’s important to clarify that you’re referring to increases that aren’t associated with changing medical needs. The community should be able to tell you when the last few increases occurred and by what percentage so you can anticipate future increases and determine whether you can afford the community long-term, and plan financially for the future.
How can varying levels of care between partners or spouses be accommodated?
If you and your spouse or partner have different medical or support needs, it’s helpful to find a community that will allow you to live together despite different needs – if that’s what you desire – and that can accommodate situation like this from the billing and service side. Note: ask this question even if you and your spouse don’t have differing needs, knowing that your needs may change in the future.
What dining options are available on-site?
Most CCRCs offer a wide range of dining services, from three multi-course meals per day to café-style dining to meeting the changing expectations of aging adults. Request to see the current month’s menu (and perhaps even last month or next month) so you can review the options available on a daily basis and compare it to your expectations and preferences. Make sure you know which meals are included in your monthly fee and which may incur an additional charge.
Which agency regulates the CCRC? Can I see their most recent report?
Knowing the credentials the community holds and the results of its most recent audit or survey can help you compare one community to another. During your visit, take time to speak with residents about their experience at the community. Consider asking if you would be able to attend an activity at the community to get a feel for what to expect.
What services are available on site?
Common services to look for include transportation to local businesses, dining options that accommodate your preferences, assisted living services and skilled nursing care. Some CCRCs also offer fitness opportunities, on-site physical therapy and more.
How will decisions be made about the level of care I or my spouse need? When will we be required to upgrade to a higher level of care?
The CCRC should be able to provide clear definitions of independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing care so you know exactly what to expect in advance. In most cases, your level of service depends on the number of daily activities – like bathing, eating and dressing – you’re able to perform without assistance.
Why should I choose this CCRC over the other options I’m exploring?
Ask this question toward the end your tour to the give the community representative a chance to share information that hasn’t been communicated yet. This final pitch is a great demonstration of the community’s overall mission and hopefully leaves with you some great benefits and amenities to think about when you leave.
Can I sample your community without commitment?
Some retirement communities allow you to join community members for dinner or social activities or even stay in a guest suite for a night or two to get the full experience before making a final decision.
To learn more about continuing care retirement communities, visit Forest Hill today. Our communities offer breathtaking ocean views, high-end dining options, a fireside lounge, and a full range of services to accommodate changing needs.