Choosing a Retirement Care Community

Choosing a Retirement Care Community

Eileen St. Pierre, The Everyday Financial Planner

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to tour The Commons, a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in Enid, Oklahoma.  CCRCs provide three levels of living in one central location:  independent living, assisted living, and nursing home care.  Residents can start out living independently and gradually increase the amount of help they need as they age.  Throughout my travels in Oklahoma, I meet a lot of older people who say they want to stay at home as long as possible.  Many say they intend to leave their homes feet first. 

But there are situations where the quality of life of older adults can be greatly improved by moving to a retirement care community due to

  • proper nutrition and balanced meals,
  • accurate dispensing of medication,
  • access to exercise programs, and
  • social interaction.

Questions to Ask

But how do you choose a retirement care community?  Here are my top ten questions to ask:

  1. How long has the facility been in business?  Is it a non-profit or for-profit? Ask for a tour and bring family members along to ask questions. 
  2. Ask residents if they like living there.  Are the residents people you would enjoy being around? 
  3. Can my family and I meet the Executive Administrator or CEO?
  4. How much long-term debt do they have?  You want this facility to be around for a while, not be forced into bankruptcy if they cannot service their debt.  Ask to see a copy of their most recent financial statements and audit.
  5. How often are monthly service fees adjusted?  Ask to see their history of fee increases.
  6. What is the occupancy rate?  Does the facility have a waiting list – and do you get any perks for being on this list?  On the flip side, if there is always availability, but the other facilities in the area are full, try to find out why.
  7. What renovations can residents make at no cost?  What customizations are residents allowed to make at their own cost?
  8. How much input do residents have into the management of the community?
  9. What type of programs and services are available both at the facility and in the surrounding community?
  10. Would you enjoy eating in the dining room?  What types of food services (such as guest meals, room service, and take out) are offered? 

Comparing Providers

You can compare care providers (physicians, hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies, and dialysis facilities) in your area by using the Compare Care Provider tool at the official government website for the Affordable Care Act.

  • To compare nursing homes Click Here.  You can obtain demographic data and nursing home ratings, including health inspection reports, staffing data, and quality measures.  This information is up-to-date and relatively easy to read.

In Oklahoma, the State Department of Health regularly inspects nursing homes and assisted living facilities.  Go to their website, and look under Online Services to access the following information:

There is a lot of information out there to help you select a retirement care community that is right for your loved one(s).  In the marketing brochures and videos, you frequently hear residents say “Oh, I wish I had done this sooner.”  But I was also struck by something else our tour guide said.  Once you reach nursing home care, what’s important is to be close to family, because they are usually the only ones who come to visit.

Visit my Financial Planning for Later in Life page for more information.