The Promise of a Continuous Care Retirement Community

Older adults often thrive in a senior living community, where opportunities for personal growth are varied and abundant.

Sherry was naturally devasted when her father died. But almost immediately, she was comforted knowing that her mother was surrounded by supportive and loving friends—friends who had known and appreciated her dad because he and Sherry’s mom had moved into a continuous care retirement community two years earlier.

Elizabeth Mefford, Director of Marketing and Admissions at Cedar Village, says she hears stories like Sherry’s (a pseudonym) all the time. “We always have residents saying, ‘I wish I had done it sooner. I feel I’m part of the community again!’” she said.

Kelly Duebber, the Senior Living Care Advisor & Clinical Specialist of Assisted Living Locators of Cincinnati, agrees with Mefford. “With the right amenities, a senior living community can be a resort-style experience,” she said. “Often, communities will feature things like salons and barbershops; fine and casual dining; heated pools; exercise rooms; craft centers; and more.”

Despite Duebber’s enthusiasm, many people remain confused or apprehensive about what is offered in a senior living community. Mefford believes it is a matter of awareness. “I think there is this ‘unknown’ element to continuous care communities,” she said. “People don’t dive in to understanding it until they have to—usually following a fall or an injury.” Duebber’s experiences are similar. “There are so many things to consider with senior care communities,” she said, “and when someone is facing an important decision because of an event or tragedy in their life, it becomes more challenging.”

Director of AgeWell Cincinnati June Ridgway agrees awareness is a hurdle, but in a broader sense. “The best thing older adults and their families can do to help themselves is learn more about the ‘housing options’ that are available to them,” she said. “Housing options that meet the care needs of their loved one in an environment they can love. Whether that’s in a senior living community or in their own home with a hired caregiver depends on the people and the circumstances. Part of what our agency does is help people determine all their options.”

The benefits of choosing a senior living community are often felt by the entire family. The aging parents get the support and care they need and the family caregivers can experience peace of mind knowing their loved ones get the level of care that’s right for them as their health needs change.

Mefford thinks aging parents often want the socialization that community settings can provide, but their children sometimes struggle with the decision. To help people navigate these situations, she likes to give additional perspective: “There is a lot being offered in these senior living communities: activities, amenities, day trips, and more,” she said. “That’s why my number one question for adult kids is always: ‘Have you talked to your mom or dad about what they want?’ If they haven’t, I say, ‘Let’s start there.’”

The benefits of choosing a senior living community are often felt by the entire family. The aging parents get the support and care they need and the family caregivers can experience peace of mind knowing their loved ones get the level of care that’s right for them as their health needs change.

When it comes to older adults or their children exploring their living options, Duebber says that helping them make the first step is half the battle. “Whether it is an individual, a couple, or a family,” she said, “the questions are often the same: ‘Where do we begin? Where is the manual?’” Though there may not be a manual, or an approach that suits all situations, Duebber maintains that a continuous care retirement community offers a tremendous variety of living and health care options for older adults.

Continuous Care Retirement Community: What is it? A continuous care retirement community (CCRC) is a term describing a senior living community that accommodates all life-stages, and where a range of health, wellness, and lifestyle opportunities are fully available. CCRCs are also referred to as “senior living communities.”

Duebber says there are six basic levels offered in a continuous care retirement community:

Independent Living: Independent living (in this context) describes a situation where older adults are living in a senior living community, but do not use any of the home health care or services provided through that community.

Short-Term Rehabilitation: Short-term rehabilitation is temporary care in a medical center that is usually provided when a resident has experienced an illness, accident, or injury. Short-term rehabilitation helps patients regain their strength and independence so they can quickly return to their community living spaces.

Assisted Living: Assisted living offers residents access to meals, housekeeping, medication management, dressing, bathing, and other personal care assistance. Facilities typically provide both in-home and portable electronic devices, which allow residents to get help when needed. Daily check-ins assure safety and security for the residents.

Enhanced Assisted Living: Enhanced assisted living describes a more acute type of care than assisted living. It usually includes extra physical assistance, on-call nursing, meal assistance, wound care, and a higher staff-to-patient ratio. This form of care lets the resident stay in their community living space for as long as possible before transitioning (if necessary) to memory care or skilled care.

Memory Care: Memory care provides a safer and more structured environment, and is designed to reduce stress for those with Alzheimer’s or dementia. A quality facility will be equipped with technology—door alarms, secure elevators, monitoring devices, and more—that enhance safety, yet encourage the routines of daily life. Caregivers that work with memory care patients are specially trained.

24-Hour Skilled Nursing Care: Skilled nursing care is the highest level of care that can be accessed by a CCRC resident. By law, this type of care must be provided by licensed health professionals, such as registered nurses and physical, speech, and occupational therapists. To be covered by Medicare, Medicaid, the VA, or private health insurance, skilled nursing care must be ordered by a doctor.

While it is important to understand the various levels of care offered in senior living communities, it is perhaps more important to appreciate why these facilities are structured in this way. Moving from one home to another, from one community to another, can be stressful for anyone, but it is extremely stressful for older adults. The ability to enter into a community while one is still active and independent, and remain in that community throughout the latter stages of life is a critical benefit of continuous care retirement communities. “We use the term ‘aging in place’ to describe this progression,” Duebber said. “Our goal is to give every individual the best life, for the rest of their life.”

“In the end, we are social creatures,” Mefford said. “We want to be with others. And in a continuous care retirement community, like Cedar Village, that is what it’s all about. Our residents feel much less isolated than before they joined our community. They blossom here. They flourish here. And the reason is simple: at any stage of life, the more engaged and active we are, the healthier and happier we will be.”

If you or anyone you know could benefit from the services a continuous care retirement community can provide, please reach out to AgeWell Cincinnati. The experts at AgeWell Cincinnati can connect you to 68 services and 8 categories through 1 number: 513-766-3333.