Like a lot of people, Bob and Judie Knott took care of their mothers in their later years. Though both of their mothers lived in assisted care facilities, the Knotts spent a fair amount of time taking them to doctor's appointments and making sure that everything was done right. They were happy to help. But when it came time for the couple to pick a retirement spot for themselves, they settled on a place that would be able to provide complete care.
So they recently moved to GreenFields of Geneva, a new continuing care retirement community in the west suburb. The Knotts have a 1,155-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bath apartment. But if their health changes, the 26-acre campus also offers assisted living and skilled nursing care.
"This place answers all of our needs," says Bob Knott. "It's like one-stop shopping."
Continuing care retirement communities or CCRCs typically have several different types of housing on a campus, or in one big building. The idea is that the older person moves to an apartment on the campus while independent. As the resident ages, and needs more help, he or she can move into the assisted living facility. Skilled nursing care is also available if the resident becomes very ill or frail. Other services, such as meals, are also typically offered, along with a lot of other amenities including fitness centers and activities.
The first CCRCs were started about 100 years ago by church-affiliated organizations. The communities were originally meant to care for a congregation's elders.
CCRCs have changed a lot over the years. Though some are still affiliated with churches, the communities don't require residents to be a member of the faith. Anyone can usually live at a particular community, though people tend to select a place that suits them.
The Chicago area has a wide variety of CCRCs. Most are on suburban campuses, but some are in urban areas. Each community has its own character.
Jack and Louise Jadel live at The Mather, a new community in Evanston. One of the reasons they selected an apartment in the new two-building complex is that it's located in downtown Evanston. Lots of restaurants are nearby. The Mather is close to Lake Michigan, and close to transportation, which pleases Louise. She volunteers at Chicago's Art Institute, just a 20-minute El ride from the building. "We looked at four different communities," says Jack Jadel. "The location here is a high point."
CCRCs offer lots of activities too. "We are like a little city," says Valerie McGhee, executive director at Sedgebrook in north suburban Lincolnshire. Sedgebrook has 550 residents. It runs 90 different clubs and activities. The water volleyball group plays every Saturday in the fitness center pool. The 92-acre property has walking trails, a plus for the dog owners. Pets of all kinds are allowed.
The fees at a CCRC are somewhat complex. It's not quite like renting, but not quite like owning either. Most communities charge substantial upfront entry fees, along with a monthly fee. The fees vary depending on the location of the facility, the size of the apartment, and services included. Entry fees at Sedgebrook range from the upper $100,000s to the upper $400,000s. Entry fees at some CCRCs can go as high as $1 million. Monthly fees usually start at about $2,000. Monthly fees cover the cost of meals, utilities, activities and other services. The fees may change once the resident moves to assisted or nursing care, depending on the type of contract selected.
Many communities offer a partial refund of the entry fee usually 90 percent. The refund is available when the resident leaves the community and the unit has been resold.
Moves within the community, such as from an independent living apartment to assisted living, are typically coordinated by the staff, and decisions about moving are usually made between the staff and the resident or the resident's family. Many seniors in independent living apartments who need some assistance and want to stay in their own apartments longer can opt to hire their own personal caretaker to help.
Contract for care
Residency contracts vary. Some buildings offer what's called a life care contract. The monthly fee does not change even if the resident moves into the assisted living, or nursing care section of the building. These types of arrangements provide the security of knowing what the costs will be no matter what happens. But life care contracts are initially more expensive than those in which residents pay for health care services if, and when, they are used.
Also, each community may have several different types of contracts. Because of the complexity, experts advise residents consult with financial advisors on the best option.
The cost of CCRCs has been held in check by the housing downturn. Communities have been reluctant to raise prices since demand for the product has generally slowed.
Older homeowners typically use the proceeds from the sale of a long-time home to pay the upfront entry fee. But it can take a while to sell a house in the current real estate market.
The Knotts at GreenFields in Geneva had 32 showings of their single-family home before it finally sold in February. Bob Knott says they had to "come down in price," but the process was pretty smooth.
Continuing care communities sometimes offer homeowners help with the selling process. The communities will refer residents to experienced local real estate agents. Specialists may be available to help stage and de-clutter the homes for sale. Move-in coordinators will help to plan the transition.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun