How to Begin Looking For the Right Continuing Care Retirement Community?
Once you or your family member has determined that a CCRC is a sound option, it is best to start by talking to people you know and trust. If you know someone who lives in a CCRC in an area that is desirable to you, talk to that person and see if he or she is happy there. Why did he or she select this community? Would he or she recommend the CCRC to other people?
The Executive Office of Elder Affairs (Elder Affairs) maintains a list of CCRCs in Massachusetts that includes their location, the number of units, and a contact telephone number for each facility. This list can be found toward the end of this guidebook. Elder Affairs does not make recommendations regarding selecting specific CCRCs. However, this guidebook should help you to know what factors to consider when deciding if a particular CCRC would make a good home.
Elder Affairs believes that the only way for you to know whether a CCRC would make a good home is to visit. If possible, you should try to make a few visits at different times during the day. You may also want to participate in an activity or social event. Most importantly, you need to speak to a number of staff and residents who work and live at the CCRC. Although it is likely that you will receive a tour and information from an admissions representative, it is important for you to speak with other staff and residents. This is because the primary role of the admissions representative is often to market the CCRC. They are hired to "sell" you a unit. Speak to other staff people (for example, activity director, personal care workers, and dining staff) and residents to get a variety of perspectives.
You may also wish to inquire as to whether the CCRC offers respite or trial stays. Some CCRCs may allow consumers to move in for a short period of time to see whether or not they would be happy living there. This provides you or your family member with the opportunity to see what it would be like to live at the CCRC without signing a lifetime contract.
Several CCRCs have chosen to become certified as Assisted Living Residences by Elder Affairs. In order to be certified, these CCRCs, or at least, the certified Assisted Living section, must meet general requirements regarding staffing, residents' rights, and personal care services. The certified Assisted Living section of the community is inspected by Elder Affairs at least every two years. Although Elder Affairs does not have "report cards" for certified Assisted Living Residences, prospective residents may call the Assisted Living Ombudsman at Elder Affairs at (800) AGE-INFO to ask if there have been any complaints filed against the Assisted Living Residence or if the Residence has been found in violation of any applicable laws and regulations. Prospective residents may also request a copy of the findings of the last inspection done by Elder Affairs. Please note this information will not be available for any CCRCs that are not yet operational.
All Nursing Homes/Skilled Nursing Facilities are required to be licensed and inspected by the Department of Public Health. If the facility has a Nursing Home onsite or is associated with a Nursing Home, you may want to look at the facility's Nursing Home Report Card by calling the Department of Public Health at (617) 753-8118 or by visiting their web site at www.mass.gov/dph. You can also request a copy of A Consumer's Guide to Nursing and Rest Homes by calling Elder Affairs at (800) AGE-INFO.
The Better Business Bureau may also be able to tell you if any complaints have been filed against a CCRC. Other good resources include: The Guide to Long Term Care Alternatives in Massachusetts produced by the Women's Educational and Industrial Union in partnership with the Massachusetts Extended Care Federation, and the Massachusetts Extended Care Federation's Guide to Assisted Living & Continuing Care Retirement Housing.
If you are interested in a CCRC that is under construction, it is particularly important that you ask questions about the company's experience with senior living and financial stability. When visiting the site of the CCRC, it will be difficult to visualize it as a fully operational community. If the management company manages another fully-operational CCRC in the area, you might want to visit that CCRC to get an idea of how it is run.
Remember, a CCRC is a lifetime commitment, so it is important to choose a community carefully and wisely, taking into account any and all of your or your family member's present and future needs.