When you are choosing which continuing care retirement community (CCRC or life plan community) is right for you, it can feel like you have a million questions you want and need to ask. At MyLifesite, we write frequently about understanding the various types of contracts, financial aspects of the decision, healthcare, and more.
There are a number of other questions that are important but less than obvious to ask when you are considering a CCRC or life plan community. I’ve learned this first-hand by talking to prospective and current residents, and also by staying as a guest in nearly 100 different communities. (Side note: It is extremely insightful to take advantage of the CCRC’s guest suite [if they have one] in order to get a taste for life in the community. This may not be possible currently; however, due to precautions around Covid-19.)
Questions to ask the CCRC
Here are a few examples of questions that CCRC prospects may not think to ask but that are important considerations when selecting a community and choosing a particular independent living unit.
- Is there outdoor lighting that will shine into my bedroom at night? Good exterior lighting is essential for safety in the community, but people may not ever think to visit their would-be residence at night to explore things like this. Check to see if lights will be too bright in the unit’s bedroom and/or if window treatments can alleviate issues with ambient nighttime light. Also check to see if outdoor lighting comes on and off automatically at certain times.
- Is there ample parking for me, my visitors, and handicapped persons? While public transportation is improving in many areas, we are still an automobile-centric nation, and most CCRC residents will have at least one vehicle when they move in. As a matter of convenience, you’ll want to be sure there is enough parking in close proximity to your residence.
- Are there any plans for future expansion that could have a negative effect on your residence? Many CCRCs will have undeveloped land that is reserved for future expansion. In this case, it is helpful to know if your residence would be facing this new development and how it might affect your view. Expansion plans can be a good thing if done in a financially prudent way because it shows demand and helps keep the community attractive, but you need to think about this possibility in advance, particularly if there is a chance that could be made within the next few years.
- Is the front desk and/or concierge desk regularly staffed and responsive? Each time you visit the CCRC, you should look to see if someone is available at the front desk or reception area. Does the staff appear to be cheerful and helpful? This person plays a bigger role than they may even realize because they can help determine the mood of the entire common area. And it can be frustrating for a resident to need something and not have someone regularly available to talk with face-to-face.
- Will I be eligible for my entry fee refund (if applicable) after permanently vacating my independent living residence or only after I have vacated the community entirely? If you have a contract with a refundable or partially refundable entry fee, it’s crucial to understand when you (or your heirs) will receive that money. Scenarios could include moving to another residence within the community, moving from independent living to full-time nursing care, moving out of the community, or passing away. Many communities require the residence to be successfully sold to a new resident before a refund is issued, so it’s important to understand the stipulations to avoid surprises later.
- What are the written policies and procedures for various emergency situations? You’ll want to be sure the community has in place appropriate protocols for a number of situations including region-appropriate natural disasters (e.g., hurricanes in Florida or earthquakes in California), an active shooter, virus prevention, and outbreak containment. This last part is obviously even more important now. You will also want to know how staff are trained on these protocols and how often they are practiced/reviewed.
- Have there been complaints of sexual harassment or elder abuse by staff or other residents? Find out if there has been any history of harassment or abuse within the community, not just in the healthcare center but throughout the entire community. If so, how long ago and what has been done to rectify it? Also ask about policies for this and what protections are in place for residents. The local ombudsman can be a good resource for information on a history of complaints.
Coming soon: The Ultimate CCRC Checklist
At MyLifeSite, our goal is to help ensure you not only get all your CCRC questions answered but that you know what questions you should ask. As the examples above may highlight, there are some things that are obvious to ask when considering a CCRC and others that you may wish you’d thought about, but didn’t until after you move in.
To assist you in asking the right questions and getting the answers you need to make an informed choice, I’m excited to report that we are putting the finishing touches on our Ultimate CCRC Checklist. It has been a year in the making, but better late than never! Be on the lookout in the coming weeks for an announcement about how to access this free downloadable resource.