In 2018, I went to work at a local senior community. It was a concept known as a continuing care retirement community, or CCRC. This community had independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing and memory care all in one campus. Once you moved in, you would never need to move out. We were actually the only CCRC in Las Vegas. I came into the position with great anticipation of really helping families get the best care for themselves or for their parents or grandparents. Unfortunately, I did see a lot of the opposite.
First off, if you are planning for a community of this type in your future, realize they are expensive. Our smallest 1 bedroom (about 600 sq. ft.) was over $134,000 PLUS $3,400 per month every month until you went to a higher level of care (at which point costs would go up higher). I heard of one in California where a 1 bedroom was over $600,000 up front and over $8,000 per month.
Second, listen carefully to what they are telling you. Then repeat back the information so that they must confirm it. In communities like the one I worked in, you never actually sold real estate (and so unfortunately, you were never kept to standards of integrity that we are). I knew a director of sales that all the time told clients of savings of over 50% (when in fact, they were more like 10 to 30%). He is still the director of sales and he still sees no problem spreading false information to make a sale.
Look closely at the community. I mean REAL close. If you were a property manager would you have replaced the carpet years ago? I know of one director of a community where the maintenance team was understaffed and weeks behind schedule and that director told the maintenance director to eliminate a maintenance position so they could save money and hopefully get a bonus.
Before making a commitment, show up unexpectedly at dinner time. You’ll want to see what the food is like when they can’t make special preparations ahead of time. I know one couple who moved out (losing hundreds of thousands of dollars to do so) simply because the food was so bad.
Talk to existing residents as much as possible. Especially if none of the sales or management staff is around. You want to hear first hand experience of what it is really like to live there. There was one day where one of the folks in a memory care had wandered off in the night half dressed and the 1 staff member there to oversee 12 residents in that area had no idea. A resident living there may tell you information like that.
Investigate the community. I spoke with a woman who moved to another community instead of the one I was at. She told me how twice in the previous 12 months that community was shut down for health code violations.
Finally, you can never arrive too early to independent living but you can arrive too late. The first family I ever got a deposit from while I was there had been telling the community for 5 years that they weren’t ready. One day I was called and the lady said, “I am so glad you called. I am ready and I want to move in.” Unfortunately, after we took the deposit, we did a brief 11 question cognitive test. She only got 2 correct. We had to refund her and send her away. She had no idea what year it was or how old she was. Her own son didn’t realize how bad her cognitive state had become.
If you are thinking about senior communities for yourself, your parents or grandparents use complete diligence before making your choice.