Experiences: Is Kendal a Good Value?

Below is an excerpt from the book Experiences: Life in a Continuing Care Retirement Community, which is a compilation of essays and poetry written and published by residents of Kendal at Longwood.

By David Leonard

When my wife, Leslie and I retired, there were many reasons why we and our four children wanted us to enter a respected Continuing Care Retirement Community such as Kendal. Leslie’s long widowed grandmother got younger with the good fellowship when she entered one in Iowa; my parents were able to remain close to each other when my father developed dementia after they entered another Quaker CCRC here in Pennsylvania; and I always knew they were well-cared for, even though their children were widely dispersed (as are ours) and could visit only infrequently.

However, let me focus here on another question that troubles many families who consider Kendal: isn’t it very expensive (if not a luxury) that fritters away the children’s inheritance. When Leslie and I were getting ready to retire from the University of California, she went to a set of retirement seminars it sponsored. The specialist on retirement homes advised all of us that it was less expensive to stay at home as long as we could and then go into a nursing home when care was needed. Leslie immediately objected that the inevitable outcome of this recommendation was that you became single, for it was sure to result in the separation of a couple when the health of one of them deteriorated. And at Kendal we have observed that when one spouse does inevitably die before the other, he or she receives superb social support from the community of other residents with whom one has built close ties over the years of dinners together.

The flaw in the financial part of the advice was more complicated, however, and deserved careful consideration. Leslie and I were educators and never had much money, so we are very frugal in the way we spend money. We and our children came to have no doubt that Kendal represented a very sound investment. How can this be, you might ask, given the monthly charges and the significant entry fee?

Obviously these are more expensive than that if would have cost for us to stay in our home as two healthy seniors. This comparison is illusory, however. The odds that both of us would simple drop dead of a heart attack at home, with no extra hospitalization and nursing home charges, are small and the chances that it would happen to both of us at the same time are infinitesimal. The best of the likely scenarios, had we remained in our home, is that one of us would end up in a costly nursing care facility while the other commuted for visits from home. In other words, we would have died separately, with little social support around us.

The real comparison, then, is not what it would cost us to live in retirement at home now but that it would cost when one of us developed a condition require the availability of a nurse. The latter can be very expensive. One of my grandfathers was modestly well-off when he developed Parkinson’s. He was cared for at home but that required nurses. In today’s dollars the family spent about a million dollars on his care before he died. Very little was left for my grandmother to live on and there was no inheritance for the children.

When Leslie and I chose to invest in a move to Kendal, we reasoned that we were purchasing a dramatic reduction in the risk that one of us would end life impoverished and a burden on our children. Our entry fee really is an annuity on a paid-up long term care insurance policy. And our monthly charges—which are guaranteed not to rise as we move into more expensive stages of care—are the premiums for all the rest of our long-term care costs. Once we were in Kendal, we were able to cancel the long-term care insurance policies we had started fifteen years earlier. And one of our songs wrote to thank up for sparing him from ever having to have one of those painful talks on how “Mom (or Dad) it really isn’t safe for you to remain in your home any longer.”

Insurance against risk is never cheap but most of us know that it is wise, and when we are spending it on an organization such as Kendal, which effectively is guaranteeing that we will never be unable to afford the care we need, we and our children consider that it is a very good value indeed.

For more information about what it’s like to live at Kendal-Crosslands Communities, give us a call at 610-388-1441, or visit us here to request your free information kit.