Continuing Care Retirement Communities
I’ve yet to meet a caregiver that didn’t eventually get to the point they needed help. The amount of help depends on the health of the caregiver as much as it does the health of their loved one (LO). Either way, sooner or later, their loved one reaches the point where they can no longer be left alone and/or it becomes too difficult to lift, bathe, and dress them without help.
While there are many options available for help, a very viable possibility is the Continuing Care Retirement Community or CCRC.
What is a CCRC?
Continuing Care Retirement Communities are retirement communities with varying degrees of care options available. Most have independent apartments, condos, or houses, and assisted living facilities.
There are quite a few advantages to moving to a CCRC. Many caregivers feel the transition to assisted care is easier on their LO if they’re in a CCRC system. Their LO becomes familiar with the assisted area, usually visiting friends in that area before they make the move themselves. It’s also much easier on the caregiver to have their LO “on the grounds.”
There can also be a financial advantage. In our area, nursing homes are now running about $10,000 per month! Home health aides charge between $15 and $20 an hour and nighttime aides are almost impossible to find. At the time of this post, the total fee for me and my husband is under $5,000 per month and that’s for BOTH of us. We have a 1,000 sq. ft.,two bedroom/two bath apartment and he has a room in assisted care. Prices vary greatly depending on location, but it’s worth checking out.
Most CCRCs require an entry fee or purchase of a condo or house. In our community, there is an entry fee and a monthly fee, however, the monthly fee covers all our expenses including utilities, food, property taxes, property insurance, and maintenance. In order to make this move, we sold our home and used the equity to pay the entry fee (with a considerable amount left for savings). Our teacher’s retirement covers our monthly fee and my husband’s 24 hour assisted care fee is only $1200 more per month. That’s quite a bit cheaper than hiring home health aides for $20 per hour. Some CCRCs do not have an entry fee, but in order to avoid that, they charge a much higher fee for the assisted care area. A friend of mine checked out a CCRC in a city near ours. There was no entry fee, but the assisted care fee was $8,000 per month.
My husband and I moved into a CCRC while he was still capable of taking care of himself. When the time came for him to transition to assisted care, we selected a room down the hall from our apartment. At the time of this post, he only uses the assisted care room as his “bedroom.” He stays there at night where the nurses and aides tend to nighttime issues, bathe and dress him in the morning, and manage all his medications. I bring him back to our apartment for the day where his care is still manageable for me.
Another advantage for me is that I can leave him in his assisted room when I have a doctor’s appointment or need to go to the store. Now that he is settled in to his new living arrangements, I am planning my first respite in five years. As his disease progresses, he will need to stay in the assisted area for more of the day, but for now, we are functioning quite well. I am no longer exhausted or concerned about what I’m going to do when he declines.
*UPDATE* Three months after the original publication of this post, it was necessary to keep my husband in assisted care full time. It became too difficult for me to provide physical care during the day. I now spend my mornings with him, take him to lunch, take a break from noon until 4 o’clock in the afternoon where I return to take him to dinner (in the dining room.) After dinner, the aides get him ready for bed and I tuck him and return to my apartment at 7 o’clock where I have the evening to myself. I’ve been able to take some short trips and am no longer physically exhausted. I know he has good care from people he knows and trusts.
Important questions to ask
If you are considering a CCRC, there are a few things you should probably find out. Make a list of questions ahead of time and include the following:
1. What are the entry requirements? Most CCRCs have entry requirements including financial and health standards. With ours, a previous diagnosis isn’t important as long as the resident can manage their own medications and get their own food in the dining room before entry. This turned out to be very important in our decision making. At the time we moved, my husband passed with flying colors. He was a runner, could drive, and was still able to work on our house in order to put it on the market, and meet friends for lunches out. However, a year and a half later, he was unable to do any of those things. If we had waited only 18 months to make our move, we would have been denied entry.
2. What is the cost? The prices vary dramatically. Our particular community is a non-profit which makes it less expensive than most, but the fees can be anywhere from $70,000 to $500,000 depending on the community and location. In our community, the fee varies according to apartment size.
3. Is there a memory unit? Not all CCRCs take dementia patients. Make sure the one you’re investigating does.
4. What if you decide to leave? Our community gives a refund of your entry fee with a deduction of 1 ½% per month. At the end of 5 years, the refund is zero. Find out if the community you’re investigating has a refund policy.
The decision to move in order to provide the best available care for your loved one is not an easy one. Some choose to stay home and hire aids, others choose to use traditional nursing homes, or get help from friends and family. Whatever your choice, do your research early in order to find the best fit for you and your loved one.
*Feel free to share this post if you feel it might help others gain a better understanding of the caregiving journey.
*If you’d like to follow this blog (it’s free) click on the follow button on the right side of this page and you’ll receive an email whenever there’s a new post. You can unfollow any time you wish.
*If you’d like to see past posts, go to the top of this page and click the “home” button and scroll down, or go to the “categories” on the right side of the page. There are also buttons at the top for helpful links, and other information.
*I’m also a published fiction author. If you want to check out my books, you can find out more about them here.