Continuing care retirement communities are retirement facilities that offer a number of levels of care which are designed to support their residents through the end of their lives. This is in contrast with specialized retirement facilities, which may offer specific types of care such as assisted living or skilled nursing. At a continuing care community, residents can receive the level of care they need without having to leave, allowing them to maintain connections with friends and neighbors and assuring that they have a home for life.
A typical facility will have an extensive campus with a number of different styles of housing. In the independent living area, retirees can live in regular houses and apartments, living entirely on their own. If people need supportive care, the facility provides assisted living, which may sometimes require a move to a different area, depending on the layout of the campus. If skilled nursing is required for people who are extremely sick or ill, residents can move to a skilled nursing facility on the campus, or to a respite nursing facility to help them get over temporary illnesses.
When seniors enter continuing care communities, they sign a contract in which the facility agrees to provide care for life. The seniors typically have to pay an entry fee, which is sometimes used as the down payment on a home within the facility, and then they pay monthly fees which are scaled depending on the level of care required. One problem with continuing care communities is that they are not ideal for seniors without a source of retirement income or supportive family members who can help pay for care, as the entry fees are sometimes very high.
Some continuing care communities are run by specific groups, such as the Quaker Church, in which case most of the residents belong to that group, although people of different faiths and interests are often welcomed. You may also hear continuing care communities called “life care communities,” reflecting the fact that residents receive care for life.
When considering retirement communities, continuing care communities are certainly an option to think about. Residents only pay for services they actually use, so if seniors remain active and healthy until their deaths, they will not be charged for skilled nursing or assisted living. On the other hand, if seniors develop conditions which require medical care, they won't need to be relocated. It's a good idea to check on the accreditation of continuing care communities; many countries have an accreditation agency which handles retirement homes. Seniors should also visit and try to arrange an overnight stay before committing to a contract.