Colorado Probate Blog - Wade Ash Woods Hill & Farley, P.C.

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Thinking About Moving to a Retirement Community?

Maybe your adult children have brought up the idea, or maybe you’ve had some discussions with friends about their moves to senior communities. Whatever the case may be, if you’re considering a move, be sure to plan well ahead and educate yourself about your options.

There really is no “right” or “wrong” time to move to a retirement community, but if you find that you cannot consistently perform certain “activities of daily living” (“ADLs”), that may be a sign that a move should be in your near future. There are five basic ADLs: personal hygiene (bathing, grooming, nail and oral care); getting dressed; feeding oneself; the ability to use a bathroom independently and safely; and mobility (the ability to move around). A person in need of support with regard to one or more ADLs may be a candidate for an assisted living community.

There are also six additional “instrumental activities of daily living” (“IADLs”), which are more complex tasks which are important to being able to live independently, but are not necessarily required on a daily basis. The six IADLs are: basic communication skills (using a phone or email); transportation (driving, taking public transportation, or arranging for rides); meal preparation, including cleanup and the safe use of kitchen equipment; shopping for food or personal items; performing basic housework (laundry and cleaning); managing medications; and managing personal finances. A person who needs assistance with one or more IADLs may be a candidate for living independently at home or in a retirement community, with added in-home support services as needed.

It is important to plan for a move before you come under pressure from a health crisis or financial problems. You may also need to navigate long wait lists and the need for financial planning and support to get into the community of your choice. Once you have narrowed down your choices, take comprehensive tours, understand all costs and fees which will be involved, get as much information as possible from other residents, and read all contracts and documents you will be asked to sign.

In general, there are three tiers of senior living options in communities. Independent living, sometimes referred to as “senior housing”, offers autonomy within a community with nearby support as needed, and is best for seniors who have no problems with ADLs or IADLs. Assisted living bridges the gap between independent living and nursing care. Options include smaller group homes with a handful of residents and large, apartment style living arrangements. Assisted living units and accompanying services are generally paid for privately. In Colorado, assisted living facilities are regulated at the state level only. Nursing homes are for senior residents who need assistance with two or more ADLs. They also provide care to individuals with chronic illnesses, such as dementia/Alzheimer’s Disease, and rehabilitative care, such as post-operative recovery. They may be paid for privately, by Medicaid, or by Medicare for up to 100 days. Nursing homes are regulated in Colorado both at the state and federal levels.

There are a couple of main types of retirement communities available as well. Continuing care retirement communities (“CCRCs” or “CCCs”) are designed with mostly independent living units. They offer a wide range of living options (freestanding homes, townhomes, and apartments), many dining options, lots of activities, and most importantly, a continuum of health care from general medical clinics all the way up to assisted living and skilled nursing/long-term care. CCRCs require an entrance fee, which can be quite high; a portion is generally recoverable if you leave, or trust upon your death. CCRCs also often require that entrants can live independently and be relatively able-bodied upon move in. CCRCs include a contractual obligation on the part of the community to provide housing and priority access to on site care services for residents. If you are considering a CCRC, look for high occupancy rates, a record of financial solvency, the amount of the entrance fee which is refunded, the regular monthly fees and what they cover, and how different available levels of health care can be accessed when necessary.

Rental retirement communities, sometimes referred to as independent living communities, can vary widely in terms of quality, available amenities and activities, and services offered. They do not require payment of an entrance fee, although certain administrative charges may be assessed to new residents. Health care services are not centralized in the community or guaranteed by a written agreement, and are generally provided in a resident’s apartment unit by way of one or more contracts with outside home care or skilled nursing agencies. This arrangement relieves the community from having to obtain and maintain a license as an assisted living or skilled nursing provider. If you are considering moving into a rental retirement community, consider how you will procure health care, transportation, and other personal services when needed in the future.

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