Questions to Ask a Continuing Care Retirement Community

October 2, 2015

As an informed consumer and potential resident, it's up to you to discern which community is right for you. But you don't have to do it alone.

Here are questions you need to ask any continuing care retirement community before you make any decisions. Use this as a guide to help you make the best decision possible for you and your family.

1.Are you for-profit or not-for-profit, and what's the financial strength of the retirement community?

While for-profit retirement communities are driven by the bottom line, not-for-profit housing, long-term care service and support providers are mission-driven.

Their objective is to provide the highest quality and most compassionate careand services to those they serve. Not-for-profit organizations manage their financial resources in accordance with their missions.

Many of these housing and service providers were founded by faith-based and civic groups, and their long-standing values are reflected in their governance and management. They are not driven by daily pressure to increase their bottom line for owners, investors or shareholders.

2. What is included in the monthly fee?
Continuing care retirement communities all have monthly fees, and most of your daily living expenses should be included in this fee, including utilities, monthly dining allowance, scheduled transportation services, home maintenance, 24-hour security. Another important question is what services and fees are not included in the monthly fee. Also inquire if care is included should you need it.

3. What kind of emergency response systems do you have?
Emergency response is a critical component to factor in when deciding between continuing care retirement communities.

Make sure 24-hour security is on campus and ask who responds should an emergency occur pertaining to your health. It's important that a nurse is available 24 hours a day in the case of health emergencies and that the community has a monitoring system in place.

4. How do you measure satisfaction of your residents? Can I see your last two surveys?
Current resident satisfaction levels are a good indicator as to the caliber of the retirement community.

These surveys are normally conducted annually and should be easily accessible, so ask to see the last two to three survey results to determine how satisfied residents are with the level of care they're receiving, as well as determine trends over time.

It's important to ask what the community does with the survey results. For example, if the survey identifies areas of opportunity, the community should utilize the information to form improvement teams and make the necessary changes.

5. How can residents offer input and feedback?
Active engagement between administration and residents is crucial to a healthy, happy retirement community. Ask how administration communicates with residents and how the community solicits and facilitates resident input and feedback.

6. What is the difference between Independent Living, also called Residential Living, and Assisted Living and when would I move to Assisted Living?

States have different regulations that could require a move from one level of care to another. Ask questions to get a clear understanding of what necessitates a level of care change.

7. Can you remain in Residential Living when your needs change and how is aging in place supported?

As much as we may not want it to, our health changes as we age. This process doesn't stop when we move to a retirement community, which is why it's important to determine if the community allows you to age in place when your health status changes.

Are you able to engage in-home help to support those changes? The community should discuss with you the appropriate services they could provide through a home care agency or other service. Some communities may require that you move to another level of care instead of helping you age in place.

8. Can you tell me the five most popular programs in your community and who decides what programs and events are scheduled?

Asking questions about programming will help you determine the range of programs available to you and the likelihood that you'll find some that interest you. As stated earlier, ensure there is regular engagement between administration and residents to help determine if the community is right for you.

9. Can I review your residency agreement?
It's important to review the residency agreement prior to making a decision to move to a community so you can get the full contractual picture. It may help to compare it to other communities' residency agreements, making note of key differences and any areas of concern you may have. Make a list of additional questions and have the community clarify any concerns before making a final decision.

There are several upcoming opportunities to visit Lake Prince Woods and find out about the tremendous advantages of living at Lake Prince Woods. Our Summer Picnic is Thursday, July 30 at 11:30. On Aug. 14 you can get great tips about downsizing, Sept. 4 is our Retirement 101 program, and on Sept. 25 you can ask the "experts"—our residents—about life at Lake Prince Woods.

Contact Kaye Albin, [email protected], 757-923-5504, or [email protected], 757-923-5559, to reserve your place at any of these upcoming events.

Written by Heather Freemont for Judson News.