How To Be Well Informed When Choosing a Retirement Community

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 This article was contributed by Brenda Becker, founder of Top-Drawer Resources, LLC

 Fortunately for residents of Maryland, there are many excellent options available for senior living. Where one chooses to live is really a matter of personal preference, need and opportunity.  One of the very best options available is the continuing care retirement community (CCRC), also known as a lifecare community.  In exchange for a monthly service fee and a refundable or non-refundable entrance fee, residents of these communities enjoy a variety of activities, access to facilities for dining and recreation, and varying levels of healthcare.

The relationship between the resident and the continuing care retirement community is spelled out in the Residence and Care Agreement created by that community. In the state of Maryland, these agreements are approved and regulated by the Department of Aging.  These are legally binding agreements that detail the obligations between the community and the resident.  While the communities may appear similar on the surface, it is very important for prospective residents to understand the contents of each contract and the services that are available to residents.  Here are just a few of the questions that anyone considering a move to a CCRC should ask before making a final decision.

– Will this initial Residence and Care agreement cover the entire continuum of care, or will I (or a representative) be asked to sign new contracts for assisted living and nursing care?

– How much of my entrance fee will be refunded to my heirs, and under what conditions?  What fees will be charged to my account when I leave the community?

– What is the historical annual monthly fee increase? What was the increase this year?

– What other fees may I be exposed to (e.g. housekeeping, maintenance, etc.)?

– Are pets allowed?

– What type of medical care is available to me onsite?  Is there a clinic staffed with geriatric professionals?  Is there a fee for these services or are they included in the monthly fee?

– If I need temporary care in my residence, who will come to assist me?

– If I move from independent living to assisted living or nursing care, how will my fees change?  Will I have a private room?  Is there a surcharge for a private room?

– How does my long term care insurance factor into the services that are offered?

– Will the community pay for my prescriptions?

– What transportation is available to me and what are the associated fees?

– What are the qualifications of the executive staff and what is their tenure with this community?

Be sure to visit ALL areas of the campus. Ask to see the assisted living rooms and the skilled nursing (or nursing home) area of the community.  Sample the food and by all means, spend time with the residents of the community.

Continuing care retirement communities provide more than just housing and easy access to healthcare, they offer residents the opportunity to enrich their later years through deep new friendships and social opportunities that otherwise may be difficult to access.  Let these questions be your guide to a wonderful new lifestyle opportunity.

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