Shopping for a CCRC for yourself or a loved one can seem overwhelming. It is important to not only understand the levels of care a community offers, but their fees and pricing structure as well. Here are some pointers when it comes time to tour communities and make your selection.

1. Ask lots of questions related to pricing, entrance fees, income requirements, monthly fees and additional charges.

CCRCs all have their own entrance fees and requirements. Some of these fees can be quite significant. Amenities and services vary greatly from community to community, and services some CCRCs include as part of their standard package are considered incidental fees at another community. That is why it is important to clarify what is included at each community you visit. Also ask who decides when your loved one must move to a higher (and more expensive) level of care? How much notice will they give if the monthly fee will increase? Are meals, laundry and housekeeping included in the monthly fee at every level of care? Are there extra fees for medication reminders/assistance? Are there any entrance fees or move-in fees? Are there any additional fees for cable or local phone service? Don’t be afraid to ask staff if there are any charges that you haven’t asked them about. Also ask them what happens if your family member runs out of private funds. Do they have a life care fund available that will allow your family member to remain there? Anticipate spending extra time understanding the payment structure of each CCRC you are considering.

2. Tour the entire continuum of care.

You want to be sure to tour the entire campus, although not necessarily with your family member. If you are trying to convince your mother it is time to make a move to independent living, you might want to tour only the independent living with her. Then come back and tour the assisted living and long-term care on your own. You know your family member best, but some seniors are put off seeing higher levels of care when they don’t yet need them. Observe as you tour. How does the staff interact with the residents? Do they know their names and talk with them respectfully? Ask to meet the administrator and ask him/her about the hiring process. Is staff given background checks? Is there on-going training and education after they are hired? Is there a licensed nurse on-site 24/7 or just on call? What is the staff to resident caregiver ratio? As with every level of care, staff will be the key to the care your loved one receives. Is there enough staff and are they knowledgeable, helpful and caring?

3. Investigate the social, educational and recreational opportunities.

Ask to see the calendar of events. Are there different calendars and activities for each part of the CCRC? You might want to pick one activity that interests your loved one and have them come back to participate in it. Are there weekend and weeknight events as well? If religious services are important to your loved one, are those offered at the community or is transportation available to take them to a local church? Are their planned outings to local attractions and shopping centers? What about on-campus clubs and groups such as card clubs, craft groups, and resident gardens? You want your loved one to be as active as possible for as long as possible. Does this CCRC meet that requirement?

4. Dining services are important part of a CCRC.

In a retirement village, the evening meal can be an important event of the day. Do residents “dress” for this meal? Is that consistent with what your family member likes? Does the food smell and taste good? CCRCs often employ a chef. Is a dietician available to oversee the menu planning as well? Is the dining room tastefully decorated and clean? Are tables and chairs in good repair? Are all meals included in the monthly fee? Are guests allowed to come for meals and what is the cost? What are the hours meals are served? Is it restaurant-style with menu options? Do the different levels of the CCRC each have their own dining room? Is there enough help available in the dining room?

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