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Tips for Choosing a Retirement Community

Apr 1, 2007, 1:48 p.m.

Today’s retirement communities offer a wide range of lifestyle choices, from basic apartments to luxury accommodations with all the bell’s and whistles.

Many options await you. Here is a list of different types of senior housing along with defi nitions and questions to ask to help in your decision-making.

Retirement community options range from completely independent lifestyles through skilled nursing care. Features usually include housekeeping service, from one to three meals per day in a common dining area, organized recreational and social activities, van rides to grocery, medical and other appointments, and safety features such as call bells for assistance. Facilities range from basic apartment complexes to campus style, park-like or luxury hotel style settings. Entrance fees and monthly costs vary tremendously. Care options range from very little care for healthy, independent residents, to help with daily living needs for frail individuals, to complete nursing care. Some facilities specialize in treating people with Alzheimer’s or other memory problems.

Independent Retirement Apartments/Communities:

Month to-month rental facilities feature independence for seniors. This arrangement allows you to enjoy an active, independent lifestyle in a community setting with organized social and recreational opportunities, but allows you to move quickly when your needs exceed the services offered. Facilities are usually apartment or condo style units, although cottagestyle living options are growing in popularity. They come with complete living units: kitchen, bedroom(s), living room and bath.

Assisted Living facilities offer independent, community style living such as described above, but also offer more care with 24-hour nursing supervision for help with needs such as medication, bathing, getting dressed and laundry.

Nursing Homes provide skilled nursing care for people who cannot live independently. These facilities offer substantial day-to-day care, have 24 hour nursing and an attending physician.

Continuing Care Communities are designed to meet residents’ needs from the active, independent lifestyles experienced in independent retirement communities, through assisted living, to skilled nursing care all on site at the same facility.

Adult Family Homes provide housing, meals and some assistance with daily living. They are single family homes in residential areas.

Some considerations when choosing a retirement community:

Cost –- According to the U.S. Department of Labor, no more than 60% of your income (or combined income for a couple) should go toward supporting you in a retirement community. Consider entrance fees and monthly costs. Is this a non-profi t or for-profi t facility? Are any subsidies available? Do you have long-term care insurance, pension benefi ts or other resources to help with these costs? *Be sure you know all services that are (and are not) provided for your monthly fee.

TIP: Total all of your current monthly expenses including housing costs, food*, home maintenance, utilities, real estate taxes, housekeeping and other housing expenses and compare to the monthly expense at the community you’re considering. Make sure you know what the contract covers in terms in services and meal plans.

Services –- What are the full range of services available, which of these are covered in the basic fee and which are extra? Do you require help with any day-to-day activities or housekeeping chores? Fully consider all services or assistance you need now or may need soon when selecting a facility. Make sure you fully understand the contract and what it covers in terms of services. What is covered in the upfront fee?

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