For the average person it is often difficult to distinguish one retirement community from another. Almost all retirement communities cater to those who are still able to live fully or mostly independently. However, the differences become more evident beyond that point because many communities are not able to provide services for their residents if they should ever require advanced assisted living or nursing care. In that case a resident who requires such services may have to move out of the community and into a more appropriate off-site setting, such as a long-term care facility, memory care center, or nursing home- depending on the type and level of care needed.
Yet, there is one type of retirement community that is unique from all others because it offers services across the entire continuum of care, typically ranging from independent living all the way through to skilled nursing care. This type of community is often referred to as a Continuing Care Retirement Community, or CCRC. CCRCs provide a contractual promise to provide lifetime housing and care for their residents. This translates to peace of mind for the resident, and their family members, because they know that no matter what their needs may be the community will be able to care for them.
Continuing Care Retirement Communities require that residents move in while they are still able to live independently. In fact,most CCRCs will perform a health evaluation to help ensure that new residents are not an increased risk for healthcare needs. (Additionally, since CCRCs are contractually guaranteeing housing and care for life they will often do a financial evaluation, as well, to help reduce their degree of financial risk in fulfilling that promise.) However, if a resident that resides in an independent living unit begins requiring assisted living, or even a higher level of care,the CCRC is equipped to provide those services, often having an assisted living facility or skilled nursing center on site.
If you are considering a retirement community and think you would like the peace of mind afforded by having contractually guaranteed access to a continuum of care when the time comes, then a CCRC may be a good choice for you. However, it is important that you do the appropriate research, In Part II I will describe the various types of contracts offered by CCRCs and provide a few important questions you should ask of any community you are considering.
Brad is co-founder of My LifeSite (formerly LifeSite Logics), a North Carolina company that develops web-based tools and resources designed to help families make better-informed decisions when considering a continuing care retirement community.