With so many Boomers entering retirement, and Americans living longer than ever, there are many choices available for retirement communities. Before your make your decision and sell the home, here are some things to consider before selling your home and making your move to senior living.
First, decide what type of community you need now and whether you’d like to remain there if you have memory or mobility problems. Retirement communities that are considered independent living, or a “55 and older” community work well for a healthy, vigorous senior. But your medical needs likely will only be met by going through outside providers, since there will not be health care staff available on site.
On the other hand, some communities are called “Continuing Care Retirement Communities” or “CCRCs.” CCRCs provide a continuum of care starting at independent living, and continuing through nursing home and hospice care and all care needs in between. There is generally a sizeable cost to “buy-in” to the CCRC, which could be $100,000 or more, and then a monthly fee based on the level of care. (The more care that is needed, the higher the monthly fee.) Be sure what part of the buy-in cost may be refunded if you or your spouse decide to move later. This may not be a good choice if you may want to move to be closer to grandchildren later. On the other hand, this is an excellent option for worry-free retirement if you can afford it.
Another type of retirement community could be an Assisted Living Facility. This offers more assistance with meals and health needs than independent living, but it does not offer nursing care. Generally this paid monthly, without a large buy-in fee. Usually the resident must be able to get in and out of bed on their own, and to get around the community at least by a wheelchair. Memory Care is a higher level of care at Assisted Living, for Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Wherever you look, they’ll have attractive brochures and websites. Take an extensive tour of several facilities to compare. You can tell a lot by how the properties look and how well maintained they are. Do you get a good feeling when you walk in? Are the floors and walls clean and are hallways and rooms brightly lit? Is it free of clutter and are there chairs hat are easy to get in and out of? All of these demonstrate a commitment to detail and to the residents.
Don’t just stop with the physical property. Also consider the staffing, and talk with other residents. Does the community seem sufficiently staffed or is it hard to find someone who works there? What is the staff turnover; do they leave quickly or stay for many years? Do staff members smile and greet residents and visitors, and interact with them. After your tour, continue your walk through the community, and see how you are greeted. Stop and talk with others who live there, too, without the sales team present.
Make sure you understand the costs and fees to move in and receive services. Find out how often they increase. Also, find out what happens if you need additional care. It is common for assisted living residents to come in at one level of care, but once there it becomes clear that more care (and more cost) is needed. You want to avoid unpleasant surprises. If you need additional health care, will it be provided by the community, or does the community require that you use a particular outside home health care agency?
Carefully consider whether your money will last. Some CCRCs promise that they will not require a person to move if they run out of money. However, that requires that you not make any gifts or take steps to preserve assets.
Read the contract carefully. In particular, be sure to make clear who is responsible for paying for the community’s costs. Before signing anything, an adult child should be careful of unintentionally guaranteeing payments. Although it is against federal law for a nursing home to require a child to become personally liable for the nursing home bill, there are no such limitations for assisted living or other types of retirement communities. If you don’t understand the fine print, you may want to meet with an Elder Law attorney to better understand it and how it can affect you now and years later.
This is a big decision. Identify possible communities, then research them carefully and visit more than once. Talk with family and friends, and don’t rush into signing a contract that you may later regret.