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(Here is what you REALLY need to know!)

At some point, mature adults or their adult children are put in the position of finding or assisting in the search for senior housing and services to meet the desire for less household responsibility or to meet health or physical needs. Sometimes the mature adult asks for help and advice while other times, the adult children initiates the conversation of moving and assumes the role of “coordinator/researcher/consultant”.

There are many web based articles on this subject with most of them focused on how to determine if it is time to move, commonly used terms , funding resources etc. For someone starting out, it can be a very daunting task as most people don’t know where to begin. So where do you start the process of looking at Senior Communities? How do you compare communities? Is it by cost alone or how beautiful the grounds are? Is it based upon how friendly/caring the staff seem? Is it by how happy and engaged the residents are? This type information is a good start but there are a lot more things that need to be understood and compared in order to find the best possible community.

Getting Started
The first step is to understand the differences between all of the different TYPES of communities: Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC), Independent Living Communities (IL), Life Services Retirement Communities (LSRC) and Assisted Living (AL) Communities. Without this understanding, visits to them will not allow true comparisons. (For an overview and definition of the types of communities click here.) Each type of community offers but also prohibits different services. So before searching the web or visiting the community, it is very important to know the type of community it is.

Comparisons of Senior Community, Services and Amenities
Most all communities will be nice, even beautiful but amenities and benefits can vary greatly. They may or may not offer transportation, meals, social programs, fitness centers, swimming pools and/or homecare and health care assistance. These services and amenities are the easy things to spot and compare and it is suggested a checklist be used so apple-to-apple comparisons can be made. The desirability of a certain amenity will differ for each person. For some, having a golf course on grounds is high on their list while for others, it isn’t important at all. For a detailed comparison spreadsheet which may be used, click here.

Contracts, Documents and Guidelines
Once a comparison has been made of the appearance and amenities of each community, a clarification of the foundation of each community – how it is structured/governed and regulated must be made. In other words, first know the type of community it is so related follow-up questions can be asked. A consideration of current and future home and health needs will help to decide if the community will be able to meet those needs.

A request for any/all contracts, by-laws, community rules etc. should be made and each document needs to be fully read! An attorney, financial advisor or another trusted individual should also review each one. Although these documents can be very long, with lots of legal lingo, it is so very important that they are thoroughly comprehended. There may be restrictions such as limits of how long visitors can stay. Or, some contracts may state that you have to again utilize the community’s management company in order to lease or sell the property before a full or partial refund is given. If that is the case, what is the process when the unit is put up for sale? Does the community/developer have other units on the market that they own which have a priority to be sold first? How is the listing price established and what are the timeframes and guidelines for a refund? Must the unit be returned to its original condition and if so, does the cost of refurbishing get deducted from the refund? Understanding the rules and restrictions of the community prior to signing on the dotted line, will save future confusion and/or regrets.

Care and Support
Everyone’s needs are different and it is imperative to understand how the day-to-day care and support decisions are handled. Is there assistance available for household chores/home maintenance, shopping? What would happen if one person had a serious illness or injury (broken hip or stroke) and needed daily assistance in dressing/eating and personal cares? Would that person have to move out of their home into another building on the grounds of the community or would he/she have to move to a totally different community? Could some or all of the services be brought into the home? Can skilled nursing services be brought in? Could a live-in care giver be hired to help or isn’t that allowed? What services are not allowed to be offered in the home? Again it is so very important to know if future health/service needs occur, what can the community offer and allow OR can the community force a person to move?

Cost Breakdown Now and in the Future
Obviously the cost of the community is very important... For some communities there is an up-front buy-in fee – basically it’s a prepaid insurance plan that guarantees some level of future health related services. The question therefore is: should services that may never be needed be prepaid or should services be paid for if/when they are used (fee for service)? The type of community that usually offers the prepaid health care coverage is a CCRC and if there are current health issues or the potential for serious health issues, acceptance into this type of community will be denied. It is better to be upfront and notify the community of any health issues, so a determination can be made before time and energy is wasted.

Questions to Ask for Various Types of Communities
When a web search for “questions to be asked” is done, a list of general questions (what is the staff ratio, how clean is the community, how friendly are the staff, have there been any violations of codes etc.) is usually found. These are all good questions and ones that should be asked but the following questions are the ones that allow for deeper digging and true understanding of the community. If more assistance is needed in understanding the various community types, please contact us as we will gladly answer your questions. GrandView is not for everyone and we understand that. GrandView is for only those who want the blend of true home ownership, the social opportunities that an active adult community offers and the opportunity to truly age in place in their own home.

To receive a FREE copy of the “Transition to Senior Living Handbook”, a resource that provides you with:

  • Important questions to ask all types of communities during your search
  • Comparison charts to keep the information gathered organized
  • Glossary of commonly used terms to give you a complete understanding when you are presented with them

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