An Introduction to Continuing Care Retirement Communities

If you are around people who are familiar with Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs), you are likely to hear the statement, “If you have seen one CCRC, you have seen one CCRC”…acknowledging the variation that exists among the organizations that carry that label. An in-depth familiarity with a given CCRC may provide no particular insight into another CCRC, even if it is in the same town.

Any entity that provides facilities and appropriate levels of care covering independent living, assisted living, and skilled care and controlled by a central management structure can be designated as a CCRC. What the differences mean to a consumer is, in part, that the service offered as part of the basic fee structure of one CCRC may be available for a fee at another CCRC and may not be available at all at a third. The key to all CCRCs is the continuity of care that gives a resident access to living arrangements that cover the three levels listed above.

The independent living option has a housing unit as a requirement and frequently adds a number of amenities. These amenities can be so attractive that there are residents who enter well before retirement. They have chosen the move to relieve themselves of the responsibility for home maintenance and/or to take advantage of the extras provided. The extras can include access to exercise facilities (gym, pool, tennis court, even golf courses), regular entertainment on the campus, organized excursions…anything that the management designs.

A second kind living arrangements is the assisted living level. This level is available to those who need assistance with the activities of daily living. A resident may have an opportunity to be on this level or a higher level of care on a temporary basis when recovering from an accident, an illness or a medical procedure. It is also an option when the resident needs ongoing assistance with bathing, eating, mobility or any of the other activities of daily living.

For those who need more assistance, there is the level of skilled nursing care. At this level, medication can be administered and special medical needs met. It is important to know that it is not for the acutely ill. It is not a substitute for a hospital. Further, the degree to which a facility is prepared to deal with dementia is one of the variations among CCRCs.

Two of the benefits cited by those who have chosen a CCRC over other options are 1) the knowledge that they have made a move that should allow them to avoid some of the uncertainty that comes with varying needs for living options and 2) the knowledge for a couple that, should one of them require a higher level of care than the other, they would not have to be separated by a significant distance.

There is no question that CCRCs meet a need, but they are not for everyone. Even for those who can use the services of a CCRC, not every CCRC matches a specific need. Any mention of a CCRC is incomplete without mention of the need to read contracts and have them reviewed by a legal and a financial advisor.

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