How to select a retirement community that is right for you

Retirement communities where the available options range from independent living to 24-hour nursing care, are the answer for an increasing number of seniors.
Choosing the right community can be an intimidating and overwhelming task. Understandably the majority of seniors would like to stay in their own home for as long as possible, however this can be hard to manage in the event of being struck by a debilitating illness.

The most important step in selecting a facility that is right for you is to take a moment and assess yourself by weighing up important characteristics. These can include health, age, financial status, marital status, religious preference, hobbies and personal interests will help outline the kind of retirement community appropriate to the retirees' capabilities and personality.

Most communities include:
Independent living quarters - usually apartments, although sometimes single family homes, for seniors who need little if any help with their daily activities. This type of community will often have regular social activities.  

Assisted living facilities – These are usually a combination of an independent living community and nursing facility. They are for people who require aid to bathe, dress or perform other basic tasks, but are still capable of caring of themselves. Housing can range from regular cottages to large scale housing facilities.

Nursing facilities - for those who need full-time skilled nursing care.
Some communities cultivate an elegant, formal atmosphere, while others strive for casual friendliness. Some encourage communal living with family-style meals and required activities; others offer single-family homes and an emphasis on privacy.

Continuing care retirement communities - This type of retirement community combines independent living retirement community, assisted living retirement community and the nursing home in one setting. Generally, this type of community requires a large amount of entry fee and monthly maintenance charges for an apartment or home, "health care coverage", meals, etc. However, there are many continuing care retirement communities that offer fixed monthly rental and "health care coverage" paid only when needed.
In the past, more often than not, these three types of retirement living options were separate entities. Today, however, more and more retirement communities are providing all three services under one roof. This allows the retirement community to meet the needs of their residents throughout the many stages of senior life.

If you think a retirement community could be a good option for you, here are some points to consider:

Costs: Most communities have a substantial entry fee as well as ongoing monthly fees. They will want to be certain that you can afford these costs, possibly by confirming your assets triple their entrance fee and income is at least twice the monthly fee.

Included Services: Some include medical and nursing home care, others only a certain amount before a fee applies. Some fees can depend on the kind of care you need.

When you should apply: You may be required to pass physical and mental checks before being accepted by some retirement communities. Some places reject candidates with cancer, strokes or dementia. As a result, people who wait until health problems arise risk being denied.

Pets: A lot of places allow pets but there are often size restrictions. Find out to avoid disappointment later.

You can stay overnight at most communities, have a meal and get a feel for the place. While you’re there chat to residents and see how they’re finding it. This will give you a much better insight than taking one of the tours on offer.

Be sure to thoroughly review the contract so you are clear on exactly what you’re paying for. Ask for a list of services that are provided but not covered by your monthly payment. Check if the facility will refund your entry fee if things don’t work out. Some will give you back 90%.

All reputable retirement communities are approved by The Continuing Care Accreditation Commission. A list of these can be found on their website.

Whether the final choice is a facility with a religious affiliation, government subsidized, or privately owned, remember taking the time to make such an important decision is time well spent. With the vast choices available for you today and with some strategies to help you find that ideal place that will suite you, retirement will be an enjoyable and interesting stage in your life.

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