In a recent post, Common Sense for Seniors discussed continuing care retirement communities. They seem like nice places to live, with lots of amenities and conveniences, but is it really necessary to move to one?
Imagine that you are living in a home that is already equipped for senior living. You can live on one floor if you need to, and you don’t have to go up or down steps — or not very many — to get into the place. You have grab bars in the bathrooms. You don’t have any loose rugs or cords around that are going to trip you. Perhaps you’re in a condo, so you don’t have to worry about maintenance, or perhaps you’re able to hire someone to help whenever a chore is beyond your capability. If you’re in a city or suburb, you can arrange to have your groceries delivered, and you might be able to take advantage of volunteer or concierge programs that offer rides and other sorts of help. One of the children might live nearby and can keep an eye on your health and capabilities.
It seems to me that a senior could live comfortably in such a situation for a very long time — without forking over hundreds of thousands of dollars to a CCRC.
Of course, CCRC’s come with a lifetime care contract so that, if necessary, you can move up to a higher level of care (assisted living or skilled nursing) at no additional monthly charge. But Medicare (best backed up by a Medigap policy) provides a broad range of medical services to seniors living outside CCRC’s. These include some home health services and 100 days in nursing home rehab after a hospital stay.
If you are aging in place and your health starts to deteriorate, you or your children could consider hiring a geriatric care manager to come up with a care plan and arrange services. Advice on care options in such a situation may also be available from a local agency, such as the Yates County Office on Aging or Fairfax County Services for Older Adults.
Should you have to go into assisted living, so be it. Assisted living facilities are not hard to find. You’ll pay $3,500 per month on average, according to Genworth Financial, which is less than the typical monthly fee at a CCRC. It’s an amount that many seniors can manage based on Social Security, a pension, savings, and the sale of a house.
A nursing home, should you need one beyond 100 days is more expensive — $6,690 for a semi-private room per month on average. If you’re lucky, you bought long-term care insurance years ago. If not, you’ll have to pay the full amount, covering the fee with your income and savings. It would take a long time to pay what you would have paid a CCRC as an entrance fee and subsequent monthly fees. The harsh facts of old age are likely to limit the length of any stay in a nursing home. According to a study published by the National Institutes of Heath, a few of us seniors have long nursing home stays, but the typical stay is just five months. Over 53 percent die within six months of admission.
So I don’t think anyone should feel pressured to move to a CCRC because of the lifetime care guarantee. Life care can be arranged by other means. The decision to move to a CCRC should be made for positive reasons, not fear. If you like the life style, the amenities, and the general ease of living that you’ll find at a CCRC — and you can afford it — by all means, make the move. But if you decide against it, that’s OK too.