When people are considering retirement living options, other members of the family sometimes get involved or offer their opinion and advice. We hear regularly from adult children, looking for information and trying to help their parents find the perfect retirement community. Often children are trying to pre-screen and narrow the communities under consideration to make the search easier, or make appointments at local communities when parents are in town visiting.
This whole process might remind you of the college campus visiting process, but with the roles reversed. The campuses might seem lovely to you, but the same issues you might have had with colleges- you didn’t like the food, worrying about what the other kids might be like, the dorm rooms didn’t meet your expectations- are the same things you hear from your folks as you take them around to different places. Each place is different and maybe nothing seems perfect, and it feels like a weighty decision in the life of your family. In the meantime, you may start to feel the same frustration your parents felt when you decided which college to go to based on its ultimate frisbee team, rather than on its academic reputation alone. The things that are most important to you might not be what’s most important to them, but in the end, you’ll all need to be satisfied with the choice.
Questions to Ask
The decision about which independent living community to choose has many of the same concerns that you have when choosing a college.
- How much does it cost?
- What are the extras?
- What’s provided, and what do you have to do for yourself?
- Are there rules about who is accepted and who is not?
- Can I stay here forever, or will I have to move again?
- What happens as I “graduate” from one level of care to the next?
- What is there to do?
- Do I like the surrounding community?
- Do I like the other residents? Do I fit in?
- How far away is it from home?
- What happens if I need help? Who can get here?
There’s a lot to consider, and after a while, all the brochures start to look the same- smiling people on beautiful campuses, and everything blends together. How do you really tell the places apart?
Here’s seven steps that will help narrow your search and find a community that will be perfect for you and your family.
1. Pick a Community Type.
There are lots of retirement living options out there. We have a great e-book that goes into this in detail you can download by clicking here. In brief, there are 55+ communities, Independent Living Communities, Assisted Care/Personal Care Communities, Life Plan Communities- also known as Continuing Care Retirement Communities or CCRCs, home care options, and nursing or skilled nursing facilities. You’ll want to learn about which ones will work for your family, and that can help you narrow the search.
2.Look for Quality Communities.
There are different quality markers to look for when choosing independent living. If you are considering Life Plan communities, the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities also known as CARF accredits communities that meet its rigorous standards for financial health, resident life, staff training, and resident care. Leading Age is a group that also advocates for high standards of care for the aging, and its members are active in education, advocacy, and applied research on aging. Communities that are CARF-accredited and members of Leading Age are signs that the community is dedicated to providing the highest level of care and services to its residents.
3. Know The Level of Care Needed, and the Level of Care Guaranteed
You should know that if your parents are having cognitive issues and are needing some additional levels of care, they may not qualify for Life Plan communities or other independent living communities. Be sure to find this out early on in the process, as it will save you time and help you focus your search.
Life Plan communities like Kendal-Crosslands Communities are designed for people to move into independent living, but they also provide guaranteed care at all levels, from personal care to skilled nursing care to hospice, as may be needed in the future. Other communities that do not provide Lifecare may require you to help your parent move to a new community when they need additional assistance that the community does not offer.
4. Know The Costs- And The Extras
Every community is structured differently in this regard, and it can be exactly like trying to figure out what the real tuition costs are when looking at colleges.
Some places have a month to month rental arrangement. But this also means that if your parent has problems later on, the community may have the option to cancel the rental agreement and ask that you move your parent elsewhere. That can be a real headache for you, and for your parent, especially if they have cognitive or memory issues.
Other communities have low fees to enter, but you pay “Fee for service” for every additional level of care or assistance needed. Some communities even have extra fees for things like using recreational facilities, so make sure you know what’s included and what’s not when comparing monthly fees and costs.
Many Life Plan Communities like Kendal-Crosslands have an initial entry fee, and then monthly fees. For Kendal-Crosslands residents, the level monthly fee covers most everything, access to all programs and amenities, including housekeeping and linen service, as well as one meal a day.
5. Know the Tax Implications
For Life Plan Communities, there is a tax benefit as well. A portion of the entry fee may be tax deductible in the year it was paid, and a portion of the monthly fee may also be tax-deductible as medical care, offering tax advantages not available at all communities. At Kendal-Crosslands Communities, the monthly fees are adjusted once a year for inflation, but they do not go up based on transitions to personal or skilled nursing care under our traditional contract. Your monthly fee stays at the same level as the day you entered, based on your initial cottage home monthly fee. That helps make long term financial planning easier, and we also guarantee care for life even if the resident runs out of funds.
6. Pick a Community That Meets Lifestyle and Goals.
Most importantly, your parents need to feel at home and happy in the community they choose. Some communities have an activities director that organizes everything. For people who like everything to be planned for them, that can be a great option.
At Kendal-Crosslands Communities, the Residents Association at both Kendal at Longwood and Crosslands has over a 100 committees that organize everything from the welcoming committee, to evening talks and entertainment, to cultural outings and more. As a resident-driven community, Kendal-Crosslands Communities always reflects the interests of its residents, and every resident is empowered to start a new group based on their own interests as well. It’s very different from the traditional “Cruise Director” type of community, but our residents love the ability to explore interests in a supportive community where everyone can feel involved and included by design.
In additional, Kendal-Crosslands Communities has a focus on wellness, with its Vitalize 360 program, looking at all aspects of physical, psychological and spiritual wellness and goals. Along with our lifelong learning programs, our residents stay young at heart by staying active and engaged, at all levels of care.
7. Know The Exclusions
Last but not least, ask a few important questions about what happens as people transition to different levels of care. Some communities exclude people with walkers and wheelchairs from the main dining rooms or certain activities, and others do not. As a Quaker-based community, Kendal-Crosslands does not exclude any resident from any part of the community, as health and safety allow.
We hope this helps you as you begin to compare different communities and understand what makes each of them unique. Knowing the questions to ask and the short- and long term implications of each choice will help your family decide on the perfect community to help your parents age with the highest levels of care and dignity.