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How To Evaluate Continuing Care Retirement Communities

group of older adults on a walkMoving to a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) is a major life decision. You may crave a maintenance-free lifestyle or the security of long-term care but aren’t sure how to find the right place to call home. 

At Havenwood Heritage Heights, we understand how overwhelming it can be to compare different CCRCs. One community may be close to your grandkids, but out of your budget. Another may be affordable, but lack transportation services and other convenient amenities. 

To help you navigate this search, we have created a guide for evaluating CCRCs below. 

Contents


Step 1: Consider Your Wants and Needs

Start your search by thinking about what you want and need out of retirement. 

Maybe you want to spend your free time cooking family recipes. If so, your apartment home needs an adequate kitchen. 

Or, maybe you want to go hiking with friends. In that case, the community should be close to state parks.

You should also consider your health. If you have mobility issues, you may prefer a smaller community — perhaps one with a centrally-located dining room. Or, if you have a chronic condition, you may want to find a community that offers wellness programming.  

Remember: No want or need is too trivial. Though it may seem silly to rule out communities based on apartment floor plans or distance to the nearest grocery store, your happiness is paramount.    


Step 2: Create a Checklist  

After doing some thinking, grab a pen and pad to create a checklist. 

Depending on your wants and needs, this checklist may include non-negotiables like location — you may want the senior living community to be at most 15 minutes away from your daughter’s home. 

Another non-negotiable may be three meals per day of delicious, chef-prepared food


Step 3: Screen Communities Online

Since touring communities in person can be time-consuming, begin by evaluating CCRCs online. In the wake of COVID-19, many CCRCs have even started offering virtual tours that allow you to “walk” through community spaces and staged apartments.  

As you explore different communities, reference your checklist. Make notes and jot down follow-up questions for a phone conversation. 

For example, if you don’t see housekeeping listed on the community’s website as an available service, call and ask. If the community doesn’t offer housekeeping and this is a non-negotiable for you, move on.   

Reading online reviews is another way to screen communities. If the reviews complain about staff demeanor, quality of care, or the facility’s cleanliness, consider ruling that CCRC out.


Step 4: Schedule In-Person Tours

After narrowing down your list to three to five CCRCs, schedule in-person tours. 

What To Bring

To each tour, consider bringing:

  • Your checklist
  • A pen for taking notes
  • Your phone for taking photos

You may also ask a friend or family member to accompany you. Though where you live is ultimately your decision, a loved one can help you objectively evaluate communities. 

What To Look For

During your formal tour, pay close attention to the staff. Do they seem happy or overworked? How do they interact with the residents? 

You should also observe the residents. Are they smiling and engaged? Or do they seem bored and disconnected? If you have time, you may even consider chatting with current residents. 

You should also look for:

  • Cleanliness: Are the community spaces tidy? Are the outdoor areas clean and well-landscaped? If any sights or smells give you pause, don’t be afraid to ask your tour guide. 
  • Accessibility: Is the community easy to navigate? How far are community spaces (e.g. library, game rooms, dining rooms) from private apartments and cottages?
  • Dining Quality: Most CCRCs will invite you to share a meal in the dining room. Is the food warm and delicious? Or does it leave something to be desired?

What To Ask

As you walk through each community, take notes and write down any questions you may have. Here are some questions you may consider asking:

  • Are staff members available 24/7?
  • What floor plans do you offer?
  • What is your pet policy?
  • Is housekeeping included?
  • What types of activities are available to residents?
  • Do you provide transportation to the grocery store?
  • Are there scheduled outings or volunteer opportunities?
  • What are your policies surrounding visitors?
  • Are overnight guests allowed?
  • Do you have an RN on staff?
  • Will a staff member coordinate doctor’s appointments if needed?
  • How many meals are provided per day?
  • Can residents take food to their rooms?
  • Can meals be tailored to accommodate special dietary needs?

Step 5: Discuss Your Budget

For many seniors, money is one of the most important factors when exploring CCRCs. Because of this, evaluating whether or not a community is financially attainable warrants its own step. 

Before selecting a CCRC to call home, consider scheduling an appointment to discuss finances with a staff member at each of your top communities. During these conversations, you will want to ask about two primary costs: entrance fees and monthly recurring fees. 

Entrance Fees  

Entrance fees are costs that you pay before moving in. This one-time charge essentially holds your spot in the community, ensuring that you will receive high-quality care for years to come. 

Though entrance fees can be quite expensive — ranging from $80,000 to $750,000 in New Hampshire — some CCRCs will reimburse this money to you or your estate whenever you leave the community. 

Monthly Fees 

Your monthly fee is recurring, meaning you will pay it each month. When you evaluate CCRCs, consider what this monthly fee includes.

Typically, a monthly fee covers:

  • Housing
  • Utilities
  • Maintenance 
  • Select services and amenities
  • Entertainment
  • Wellness packages

However, some CCRCs offer à la carte services like housekeeping and medication management that you have to pay extra for. Your monthly charge may also increase if and when you transition to a higher level of care.


Step 6: Review Your Checklist and Notes

Once you have completed all of your in-person tours and had conversations regarding money, give yourself time to think. Sit down with your checklist and notes, determining which communities satisfied your wants, needs, and budget.

If you narrow your list down to two CCRCs, consider returning to each. Rather than complete another formal tour, ask if you can walk around the community by yourself. Try to imagine living the next chapter of your life there. Can you see it? 

For many older adults, the final decision doesn’t hinge on which CCRC offers the best dining options or the most thoughtful floor plans. Rather, many seniors choose a CCRC based on which community feels most like home.  


Imagine Yourself at Havenwood Heritage Heights

At Havenwood Heritage Heights, we understand how difficult it can be to evaluate CCRCs. One community may be in the most picturesque setting, but not offer medication management. Another may tout modern apartment homes, but be out of your budget. 

Luckily, we make finding the perfect place to call home easy. As one of just three accredited CCRCs in New Hampshire, we help seniors make the most of retirement by providing a spectrum of high-quality care, luxurious amenities, and convenient services all in a safe, welcoming environment. 

To see our community for yourself, contact us today. You can also talk to a member of our friendly staff by calling us at 888-929-8381. 

Download Our CCRC Comparison Ckecklist

Take the stress out of out evaluating how any Senior Living community can meet your needs and wants with our free checklist.

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By Mike Wall

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