What’s the difference between a CCRC and a Life Care community?

elderly woman and younger woman walking outside on path at life care community

What is a CCRC (continuing care retirement community)? How about a Life Care community definition? Is there a difference? If you’re a senior searching for the best retirement living options in Connecticut, these are some terms that may be confusing to you. There are important distinctions between communities offering Life Care and those offering continuing care. Let’s take some time to learn about them.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities
First let’s talk about CCRCs — also referred to at times as Life Plan Communities. In short, they offer a secure pathway for aging and future health care needs. CCRC residents typically enter communities as independent living residents but enjoy access to continuing on-site health care — including assisted living and memory care — should the need for such services arise.

young woman explaining difference between a CCRC and a Life Care community to elderly african american couple

A CCRC eliminates the need for a disruptive move if you ever need a higher level of care. This is an attractive benefit when you consider such a move is otherwise likely to be made under physical or emotional duress. Additionally, spouses could live on the same campus and receive different levels of care just steps away from each other. The community ensures that if one spouse requires health care services, the other won’t need to move closer to a health care resource or deal with frequent long-distance trips for care. This convenience simplifies care significantly and avoids displacing spouses from their social networks at a time when they need them most.

Life Care
CCRCs offers several types of financial agreements, each providing a unique set of benefits to residents. A Type A, or Life Care contract, includes all potential health care costs as part of the initial contract, which includes housing, services and amenities.

Simply put, all Life Care communities are CCRCs, but not all CCRCs offer Life Care. While Life Care communities do include a continuum of care, the term doesn’t refer to care, only to the contract. The Life Care contract requires an entrance fee but ensures stable monthly fees regardless of your care needs.

While an entrance fee may seem off-putting at first, those who opt for Life Care know they can count on high-quality care available at predictable rates for the rest of their lives. And generally they’ll pay far less for these services than they would on the open market. They recognize the value of securing expected rates on long-term care upfront as a smart financial plan to protect themselves and their estate from the ever-increasing costs of long-term care.

Not every CCRC offers the benefits of Life Care

elderly couple playing with dogs outside at ccrc and sitting on bench

Type B, or Modified CCRC, agreements offer lower upfront deposits and monthly fees but also have limitations on covered long-term care services. Heath care is typically provided in one of two ways:

  1. A limited number of free days included as part of the entrance fee, with additional care billed at per diem market rates.
  2. An ongoing, minimally discounted rate.

Health care services may be delivered on- or off-site, and two monthly fees may be incurred if couples require different levels of care.

About one-third of all continuing care retirement communities offer a fee-for-service contract, or a Type C contract. As with Type B communities, housing along with services and amenities are provided. Access to long-term care, while typically guaranteed, is charged at market rates. If the resident at some point requires care on a short-term basis, to maintain their independent living residence that resident would be required to pay the monthly fee on the independent living residence plus the costs of housing and health care received in the assisted living, memory support or skilled nursing residence. While there’s no upfront expense under this plan, the market costs of care can rapidly exceed the amount of an upfront entrance fee without the benefits of prearranged long-term care costs.

Shopping for a CCRC

young woman explaining the difference between a CCRC and a Life Care community to an elderly woman

So which CCRC contract is the best? There’s no one right answer for everyone. It comes down to making the decision that you’re comfortable with after considering things like your family history with regard to life expectancy and health. Are you comfortable with a certain level of risk, as you might find with a fee-for-service contract, or do you prefer to pay more to “play it safe”? Do you own comprehensive long-term care insurance that complements one type of contract better than another? By learning about the different types of CCRCs and considering your unique situation, you can make an educated decision about the type of contract that’s best for you.

No matter what type of contract seems best for you, you’ll want to look closely at any CCRC you’re considering. Here are some tips for evaluating the CCRCs on your list:

  • Drop by for a visit. In fact, many communities allow you to stay overnight to get a better feel for what it would be like to live there.
  • Chat with residents (besides those selected by the CCRC to give you a tour). What do they like or dislike about the place? Are residents’ concerns addressed?
  • Tour the assisted living and skilled nursing areas. Ultimately, they’re a major part of what you’re buying.
  • Ask about staff turnover. It’s a bad sign if, say, the community has a new director every other year.
  • Look at the history of annual increases in monthly fees. Fee hikes of more than 3-4% a year could signal a problem.
  • Ask how the CCRC plans to meet its future obligations. Or if the CCRC intends to expand, ask how it will pay for that development and what impact that could have on fees.

To dig deeper into the quality of a CCRCs health care, use the Nursing Home Comparison tool at www.medicare.gov, which rates facilities and lets you compare up to three at a time. Note the total number of licensed nurse staff hours devoted to each resident per day. The more, the better, especially for registered nurses. For information and inspection reports on the assisted living facilities, visit the website of the state’s department of health, social services or aging and use its facility finder.

For more information, please request our Senior Living Guide by clicking HERE.