Learn about Continuing Care Communities, the services they provide, and how to find the best option for your golden years.
Continuing care communities, also known as life plan centers, are the perfect blend of healthcare and lifestyle for independent Americans looking for the optimal senior care community experience.
With an estimated 8,000 Americans turning 65-years-old every day in the U.S., the demand for senior care facilities that merge health with lifestyle are in huge demand.
According to a recent Leading Age Ziegler report there are approximately 2,000 continuing care retirement communities in the U.S., with 80% of those facilities managed by non-profit organizations.
The report defines life planning communities as follows:
“Continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs), also known as “life plan communities,” cater to seniors who don’t want to worry about having to move from one senior living community to another as they age and their needs change. These communities have both an abundance of amenities and services for active seniors and the capacity to offer care through the end of life.”
Structurally, CCRC’s provide lifestyle and health care services all in a single community, with unique-to-senior services like skilled nursing, assisted living, and independent living offered to residents. In doing so, continuing care communities offer seniors a “lifecare” concept – a retirement community that is uniquely structured to accommodate the needs of independent seniors from retirement to the end of life.
Continuing care communities offer U.S. seniors the following benefits:
An independent, active community lifestyle experience. CCRC’s are well known for the breadth and scope of lifestyle amenities they offer, including golf, tennis, boating, walking and running path, bicycling, and pool and spa options. Senior staples like dining, transportation, laundry (even dry cleaning), and security staffing and systems.
High level medical care. Continuing care centers also offer top-notch medical and health care services to senior residents. Essentially, CCRC’s offer residents the same medical services they’d find at a nursing home or skilled nursing center (more information on those services is included below.)
Peace of mind for the long-term. Better yet, life planning facilities give senior residents a big standard-of-living benefit – they can stay in the same community home even as their health wanes and they require a higher standard of care. Plenty of seniors move in at age 62 and remain well into their 80’s and 90’s, and enjoy the same lifestyle amenities the entire time.
Are Continuing Care Communities the Same as Home Care?
In many ways, yes, there are major similarities between home care services and so-called “life plan” communities. The end result is the same – seniors getting quality care provided by licensed health care professionals.
What’s different is that continuing care retirement communities stem from the entire life planning concept, blending lifestyle amenities with high-quality health care. These in-home senior care options are essentially residential living communities for adults 60-years-and-over who desire medical and lifestyle services as they age, and are provided in their life plan community homes.
At Florida-based Shell Point Retirement Community, for example, the facility’s Shell Point’s Lifestyle with Lifecare offers the guarantee of future long-term care, along with a pair of state-of-the-art medical centers equipped with multiple exam rooms, an out-patient procedure room, x-ray, dentistry and lab.
Through Shell Point’s Welcome Home program, a resident may receive two to four hours of free home care services provided by Shell Point Home Care’s experienced caregivers.
The facility’s nursing team also offers a host of personalized services to meet the varied and diverse needs of every resident.
This includes . . .
— Coordinating and communicating healthcare services between residents
— Family and providers
— Coordinating medical appointments and information
— Offering and accompanying residents to medical appointments
— Providing patient advocacy, emergency crisis management, intervention and support
Continuing care communities also go out of their way to provide a sensory experience for residents, with eye-pleasing homes and grounds that take the worry of upkeep and maintenance for residents.
The facility offer different “campuses” that include a wide range of home care options, from apartments to villas and townhomes, with natural amenities that includes courtyards, walking paths, ponds, fountains, pergolas, gazebos, along with a natural wetlands area.
Home care communities will also provide all lifecare coverage, for one monthly service fee. That fee covers
— Short- or long-term personal care
— Skilled nursing care, or memory support without a change to your monthly fee because of the need for increased care
— A home’s electricity, water, heating and cooling, trash removal, real estate taxes, and property insurance are all covered by the same monthly fee.
Medical Services Provided by a Continuing Care Community
There is no shortage critical care services provided by continuing care facilities. While the type of care provided depends on the senior’s unique needs and budget, any health care consumer who seeks home care can expect the following services offered:
Physician’s care. Doctor care is a critical component. If a senior lives in his or her own residency, that care will likely be provided outside the home, at a doctor’s office, medical clinic or hospital. If the senior resides in an at-home community, doctor care can often be delivered on the premises or, at the patient’s discretion, at the physician’s office.
Nursing care. Home care services also provide at-home nursing care or, in the case of an in-home community, nursing care will be provided regularly on a 24-7 basis. Typical treatment includes medication administration, pain control and management, wound dressing, operation after care, and general health support.
Occupation, physical, and speech therapy. As seniors age in place, they may require a more intensive regimen of medical care, which often comes in the form of physical therapy. Whether it’s a senior looking to relearn life skills like walking, talking, or even eating after a major illness or injury, home communities have therapists on staff to handle those services. That’s vastly different from in-home care, where the senior lives in his or her own residence, and as a physical therapist can treat the senior in the home, as part of a broader home care service plan.
Social services. Seniors who require mental wellness treatment and therapy can receive direct treatment from medical and mental health professionals. That treatment includes counseling and steering patients more direct care for more severe mental health problems.
Home health care. Continuing care communities also provide health aides to help seniors, right in their residencies. Typically, home health aides help seniors with everyday activities like walking bathing, dressing, exercising, nutritional services, and other everyday lifestyle needs.
Homemaker care. CCRC service providers also staff homemaker specialists who can help seniors with everyday chores like grocery shopping, pharmacy visits, laundry, cooking and cleaning. Care can be provided for all residents living at an in-home senior community.
CCRC Pricing in Context
Continuing Care Retirement Communities offer flexible pricing arrangements to suit a potential resident’s unique needs.
Basically though, in exchange for lifetime housing and amenities and quality medical care, CCRC’s usually charge a so-called “entry fee, along with monthly service charges. While the average fee appears high at first glance, many life planning communities allow entry for as little as $100,000.
Not that contract terms can and do vary, so it’s a good idea to discuss cost and financing options with a care center administrator, with input from you family financial advisor. According to myLifeSite, which tracks over 500 CCRC’s across the U.S., average entry fees range from approximately $107,277 on the low end to $427,054 on the high end. Average monthly service fees range from $2,089 to $4,154.
One other thing to note is that there are some CCRCs who do not require an entry fee. All other things equal, the monthly fee will almost always be higher at a rental CCRC than at a comparable entry fee community.
In addition, full refunds are usually included in any life care facility contract.
Tips on Choosing a Continuing Center Provider
If you’ve decided to enter into a life care center, then it’s time to conduct some research, compare different providers, and examine what level of home care service you can afford with your household budget.
Start by getting recommendations from your physician, a social worker, a church or other faith-based organizations, along with family and friends. Get a list of potential life care centers and ask to speak directly with the director of admission. Ask about general conditions in the facility and what types of services the life care center offers.
While on the call, schedule an on-site visit tour of the lifecare center. Make sure to talk to as many managers as you can at the facility, including the nursing care, nutrition and dietary, social services, housekeeping, and accounting manager or administrator.
Leave time at the end of the call to talk costs and financing – you’ll have this conversation directly with the admissions officer.
Once you know the price levels at a specific continuing care community center, you can take the numbers home, run through a calculator or other budget tool, and see if the financial side of residing at a life care center makes sense for you and your family. Make sure to talk numbers with your loved one’s early on in the life care selection process – your budget will allow you to narrow down life care centers and enable you to make better choices.
Throughout the entire process, take notes and build a checklist of items that will help you ultimately make a better decision and get you into the best life care that works for you.