October 26, 2020

What is a CCRC (Continuing Care Retirement Community)?

Striking the right balance between independence, support, and medical care at an arm’s reach is a challenge for many seniors and their families. Sometimes living at home isn’t an option, but going to a nursing home isn’t the best alternative. If you don't know what a CCRC is, also known as a continuing care retirement community, this might be the solution you’ve been hoping for.

Continuing care retirement communities, also known as life plan communities, give seniors an alternative option. CCRCs offer a continuum of care, meaning that residents who live there will be taken care of appropriately as their health and care needs change.

How Do CCRCs Work?

CCRCs offer seniors with a comprehensive living space that incorporates each of the kinds of needs that come with aging. These independent living facilities empower seniors to live on their own while still having access to community resources, activities, managed care, and support services from an attentive staff.

Let’s say your mother or father are independent and in stable health, but do not want to have to deal with the burden of home repairs and upkeep. At a CCRC, they would be able to move into an apartment of their own without needing to be responsible for maintenance or care considerations. Plus, CCRCs offer a range of social activities for their residents, which helps seniors socialize frequently with neighbors.

These life plan communities also offer a more expansive amount of services and medical care than a conventional retirement community, however. In this regard, CCRCs are much like assisted living facilities. If a resident’s needs change, or a new resident is already in need of more hands-on care, CCRC staff members can provide meals, housekeeping, personal care assistance, and medical attention for residents.

If more care is needed, CCRCs can also function like a nursing home. Skilled nurses live on-site and are available 24 hours a day to provide occupational or physical therapy, medical support, or other kinds of medical assistance that would be harder to coordinate for seniors living on their own outside a facility.

Many experts recommend moving into a CCRC before you need the type of attention a nursing home would provide. This way, you can make friends with other members and become acquainted with the community before your health needs change.

Finding the right CCRC can be a challenge for many families. Care managers go a long way in making the process less confusing. You can find a care manager in your area through Worthright's care manager tool.

What Services do CCRCs Offer?

When first moving into a continuing care facility, residents will be able to choose what type of care they will need to feel most comfortable. They can choose from an independent-living condo or apartment, an assisted living situation, or an area in the skilled nurses' ward. No matter where they settle in, emergency care will always be available if the need arises.

All seniors can enjoy some basic amenities that are available for all residents. These amenities often include:

  • Transportation services to doctor's appointments or other locations
  • Social activities like game night or resident meet-ups
  • Dining services including three meals per day and snacks
  • Educational events like voluntary classes or speakers
  • Nursing services like vital checks or administration of medicine by highly trained medical personnel

Continued care retirement communities want to emphasize residents' independence. Virtually no matter what the individual's health situation is like, there will be somewhere that works for them within the community. Staffers help residents be as independent as possible.

Where Do I Find a CCRC?

"CCRC near me" might be your go-to Google search after grasping what a CCRC is and realizing it is the best option for your loved one. However, be sure to research the costs and specific opportunities available at each CCRC before signing anything.

There are currently around 2,000 CCRCs throughout the United States to choose from. The best way to pick the CCRC that is right for you or a loved one is by determining your wishes and needs, be they amenities, quality of healthcare, or the expected duration of one’s stay.

Odds are good that you can find several CCRCs within your locale, or close to where your loved one lives. Finding a CCRC near you offers several benefits, including the ability for more frequent visits and more flexibility to meet with administrators, staff, and care teams. On the other hand, picking an option that is closer to your loved one’s current location may also make the transition to a CCRC from a home a bit easier emotionally. There are other factors as well, such as cost, that will vary based on location (more on that below).

Ultimately, you’ll want to find the right balance between comfort, cost, and amenities. Don’t be afraid to drop in for an unscheduled visit to get a true sense of the facilities. Ask current residents about their experiences—both good and bad—to get an unvarnished opinion of the CCRC under consideration. Make sure to read reviews online as well during your consideration process.

CCRC Costs and Entrance Fees

Since CCRCs offer such a wide variety of care levels and amenities, they tend to be on the expensive end of other long-term care options. Even securing a place within a CCRC can be expensive.

The average initial payment for a CCRC is $329,000. Some, however, can cost more than $1 million, depending on location and amenities offered. Each CCRC may have a different policy regarding refunds on entrance fees: some may be wholly non-refundable, while others might be refundable after a set amount of time or wholly refundable. Monthly fees for residents tend to range from $2,000 to $4,000 on average.

Each CCRC offers four different contracts that correlate with the amount of care required, the services offered, and the duration of a resident’s stay. Here are some of the most common contract types (as well as their costs):

Extensive (or Full Life Care) Contracts

Extensive (or life) contracts provide the most flexibility for residents, as they offer unlimited assisted living benefits and health services with little to no additional fees later down the road when extensive care becomes more likely. The entrance fees for these contracts range from $150,000 to $600,000 depending on the location and provider, and monthly maintenance fees vary from $2,500 to $4,000 on average.

These contracts are best for residents and families that want the flexibility to choose from different tiers of service without having to deal with additional fees as needs change. An extensive contract also works best for residents that will likely spend the rest of their days within the facility, and have guaranteed needs that would otherwise incur heavy per-service fees found in other contract types.

Modified (or Continuing Care) Contracts

Modified contracts tend to provide a less expensive option than extensive contracts as they offer fewer services up-front. These contracts tend to work best for residents that are not in need of immediate or long-term medical care that would otherwise place them in an assisted living facility or nursing home. This helps keep costs down until more intensive care is needed; at that point, higher fees would kick in that are commensurate with the amount of care needed.

The entrance fee for modified contracts range from $80,000 to $750,000 depending on the facility, and monthly fees tend to cost anywhere from $1,500 to $2,500. Although the spectrum of entry fees is broader for modified contracts than extensive contracts, the lower end of that range does provide a prospective discount if CCRCs near you fall within that price point.

Fee-for-Service Contracts (Type A)

Fee-for-Service contracts offer the lowest barrier to entry for new residents. These arrangements are akin to a conventional apartment rental where residents pay a monthly fee for their housing, but with additional care services charged on a per-incident basis. This can provide a great value for residents that do not require medical services or housekeeping support on a regular basis, as each incident is charged individually rather than being baked into the entry fee or monthly charges.

Most of these contracts come with an entrance fee ranging from $100,000 to $500,000; monthly maintenance fees are usually $1,300 to $4,300 as well. This does not include the cost of other services, however, so be sure that there’s no known need for extensive assistance. Otherwise you may end up paying more on average than you would with another, more comprehensive contract.

Paying for CCRC Fees

CCRCs offer exemplary care and a high quality of life, but can be very expensive for even the most basic contracts. In fact, one's retirement savings may not be enough to cover the initial payment fee—let alone  monthly maintenance costs.

You do have options, however. Worthright's financial planner tool can help you determine what you can currently afford, and how selling your life insurance plan might provide you with the additional funding you need in order to provide you or a loved one with the highest quality of life possible.

The Bottom Line on CCRCs

Continued care retirement communities are a very popular choice for seniors looking for a way to "age in place." There are many options for care available within a CCRC, meaning your loved one can be comfortable there, no matter how their health changes with age.

Seniors who live in continued care retirement communities tend to form friendships with their neighbors and become accustomed to living in that community. As their care needs change, they should remain as comfortable as possible. CCRCs allow them to stay in a familiar environment without the stress of added costs.

The promise of continually adapting care does come at a cost. However, moving your loved one from an independent living facility to an assisted living facility to a nursing home may be even more costly in the end. CCRCs remove the headache of finding a new location by guaranteeing that there will be appropriate care available.


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