What is a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC)?

A continuing care retirement community (CCRC), also known as a Life Plan Community, combines accommodations for independent living, assisted living, and 24/7 nursing home care into one property, providing seniors with the ability to age in place. According to LongTermCare.gov, joining a CCRC as an active adult makes it easier for aging adults to obtain long-term care services. It’s possible to become a resident of a CCRC as an independent, active adult when you can enjoy being a part of the independent living community. As your needs change, you have the option to move on to assisted living or to an on-site nursing home if you require the next level of care. However, you still remain a part of the same community, something that many seniors find very important.

The Pros and Cons of Senior Living in a CCRC

Although this style of senior housing comes with many benefits, there are some potential challenges that may mean it’s not an option for everyone. Before deciding a CCRC is right for your needs, it’s a good idea to look more closely at the pros and cons of living in a continuing care retirement community.

The Pros

  • Social network and support from people with shared interests
  • All-inclusive maintenance-free living. Amenities vary, but often include:
    • Transportation
    • Social activities
    • Gardening
    • Meals
    • Health monitoring services and health care centers
    • Housekeeping
    • Snow removal
    • Garbage removal
    • Lawn care
    • Security
    • Emergency call monitoring
    • Utilities
    • Fitness centers
    • Lifelong learning programs
  • Independent living
  • Easy access to medical services
  • Flexibility for spouses or partners who have differing care and medical needs
  • Peace of mind for families that family members are living a healthy, active life while being well cared for
The Cons
  • Many seniors don’t like showing the signs of aging and find it difficult to move on to other levels of care when needed
  • Getting adjusted to a new lifestyle in a new place
  • Stress that comes with making the big decision of going with a CCRC
  • The potential for financial risk and burden
  • High cost, which can be problematic for seniors on a fixed income
  • The potential for dissatisfaction with amenities and services in the future

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Common Levels of Care in a CCRC

Because CCRCs offer various levels of care in a single community, it’s possible for these communities to meet your needs over time, even as they change. Three of the common levels of care offered in a CCRC include:

  • Independent Living – Most residents begin their stay at a CCRC when they are still independent, active adults. Residents have freedom and apartment-style accommodations with a variety of residential services available to make life easier.
  • Assisted Living – Many CCRCs offer assisted living services, which may include memory care if needed, as a step between independent living and skilled nursing care. Residents enjoy having the assistance they need with daily living activities without 24/7 nursing.
  • Skilled Nursing Care – Both short-term and long-term skilled nursing care may be offered at a CCRC, including round-the-clock nursing services or rehabilitative care. In some cases, a move to this type of care may only be temporary.

Many residents find that they don’t want to leave their established home within a CCRC when their care needs change. Instead of going to a different area of campus for memory care or for assisted living, many residents choose to go with private in-home care. As many CCRCs begin to recognize this trend among aging adults, they now may allow residents to enter at different levels of care instead of only allowing residents to enter as a part of the independent living community. For this reason, it’s essential to find out what every CCRC requires for entry.

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The Cost of a Continuing Care Retirement Community

A continuing care retirement community is the most expensive long-term-care option available. Living in a CCRC requires an entrance fee and monthly charges for residents. Entrance fees range between $100,000 and $1 million, while monthly charges generally range between $3,000 and $5,000. Entrance fees prepay for care and offer facilities the money they need to operate. Monthly fees vary based upon different factors, including the type of housing chosen, renting vs buying, the type of service contract, and your health. Additional fees may be charged for additional services, such as meal services, transportation, housekeeping, and social activities. Several different types of contracts are used for residents entering CCRCs, and it’s always important to review contracts carefully and get legal advice before signing.

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CCRC vs. Assisted Living

While CCRCs typically offer independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing, and memory care on one campus with a variety of other amenities, assisted living communities only offer assisted living services. Assisted living generally includes round-the-clock assistance from professionals with the activities of daily living, such as eating, personal care, incontinence care, mobility assistance, medication monitoring, laundry, housekeeping, and minor health care services.

CCRCs require an entrance fee (ranging between $100,000-$1 million) and monthly charges (range between $3,000-$5,000), and assisted living communities are often cheaper, although costs vary based on the type of accommodations and level of service.

CCRCs Assisted Living
All inclusive X
Social activities X X
Assistance with daily living X X
Paid for by Medicare
Live at home with loved ones X
Transportation assistance X X
24-hr supervision available X X
On-site healthcare X Limited
Multiple levels of care X
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CCRC vs. Home Care

With home care, services can vary based on unique needs but may include medication monitoring, help with self-care, meal delivery, housekeeping, transportation, companionship, and minor health care services. However, once more advanced medical care is needed, other options may need to be considered. Both CCRCs and home care make it possible for seniors to enjoy aging in place, although home care is significantly cheaper. The cost per hour for home care ranges between $14-40 per hour.

CCRCs Home Care
Assistance with daily living X X
Medical services X
Social activities X
Live at home with loved ones X X
Paid for by Medicare
Therapy towards rehabilitation X
Pain management X
Meal plan or delivery X X
Companionship X X
Independence X X
Memory care X
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A thought while you wait ...

The first 50 years of childhood are the toughest.