Considerations for transitioning to retirement communities

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Working with individuals and families as a retirement planning professional, one of the most frequently asked questions I receive is, “When is the right time to move into a retirement community?” And my answer is, “It depends.” 

The decision to relocate into a continuing care retirement community truly is as unique to you and your life goals as your DNA. So, let’s talk about some of the considerations that should serve as input into making this lifestyle decision – after all, this decision is a financial decision as much as it’s a lifestyle decision, so you must have all the facts and only the facts relevant to your life goals and needs.

A Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) is an alternative residence choice for older adults that can provide flexible housing options combined with an array of services that can address changing health and wellness needs as its residents age. The idea behind this growing trend is to make it possible for residents to move in and never have to move again.  If their needs change and they require healthcare and supervision, they don’t have to leave friends or their spouse behind, thus avoiding the stress of another move. 

So, when is the right time to make the move? There are many considerations in choosing the right CCRC. In the course of my planning for clients, I have personally visited seven in helping a widow identify the right community for her – trust me, they are not all created equal, nor do they have the same focus or culture.  Involved in the decision are considerations such as lifestyle, finances, your individual housing preference, healthcare options and as important, your future happiness. So, you don’t want to make an uninformed decision – it can be a costly decision both emotionally, mentally and financially. 

As I said, not all CCRCs are created equal. You will be required to sign a contract and if you check on the contracts offered by CCRCs across America, you’ll find that there are many different types. It is impossible to be thoroughly acquainted with every nuance of each of them, but it is possible to determine what you need and want and go from there.  Here are several considerations you need to be thoughtful about as you evaluate your needs and do your homework.

·       Do you own long-term care insurance? If so, you’ll want to make sure that your coverage harmonizes with what you select – this is a huge financial consideration.

·       Is the community a for profit community or is it a nonprofit? This is a key consideration. Should you be blessed with long life, you may end up running out of money, and the structure of the community is critical to understand because you don’t want to end up on the street in your 80s or 90s.

·       Does the CCRC require an entry fee or is there a rental option? 

·       Does the contract allow you to recoup any of the entry fee after the first few years? Some have a return of capital contract. (You must read the fine print.)

·       How stable is the community financially? Can it fulfill its long-term commitment to provide you with the adequate healthcare? How long have they been operating, and how experienced is the CCRC’s management? Ask about ratings; check on complaints. What’s the staff turnover record?

·       Get a history of monthly fee adjustments, and determine how the history compared with COLA adjustments going back 10 years.

·       What’s the quality of care with assisted living and skilled nursing care?  Look at state surveys and other regulatory examinations.

·       Talk to people who live there and eat lunch and dinner there. Get feedback and visit a lot unannounced and perhaps without being accompanied by the marketing or sales director. 

·       Ask to get a copy of the monthly newsletter –  this tells you a lot about the community. 

·       Make sure you know what’s important to you. The culture, amenities, and activities offered in the community needs to be aligned to your core values and beliefs. 

 

If you’re trying to help aging parents make the move into a CCRC, it’s critical that you respect and evaluate what is beneficial to your loved one’s health and well-being. When engaging family members in the “Is it time to move?” dialogue, you need to make sure you understand what your loved one wants, not what you want for them. 

The decision to move and when to move ultimately should improve the individual’s health and well-being. But, it could backfire as well and accelerate the aging process if the decision is not made in accordance with the individual’s needs, values and lifestyle expectations. This isn’t a decision that should be made for someone; the consequences are regretful.

 

Ponte Vedra Beach resident Jeannette Bajalia is the president of Petros Estate & Retirement Planning and the founder and president of Woman’s Worth, LLC, which offers a complete range of retirement lifestyle protection planning® services customized for women.

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