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Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) – When It’s Time For Your Aging Parents To Move: A Guide For Adult Children

Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) – When It’s Time for Your Aging Parents to Move: A Guide for Adult Children

In this first series of our “CCRC 360,” I interviewed three adult children who recently went through the process of helping a parent with their transition to a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC). My hope is that their experience might guide you or someone you know in helping their parents make optimal qualitative and financial decisions.

When considering a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC), children may be as much if not more involved in the decision than their aging parent or parents. The role the adult child plays in this decision is a challenging one because the outcome will potentially have a financial impact on multiple generations. There are also relationship issues that need to be handled delicately, particularly if there are siblings and spouses involved in helping to determine what is best for mom and/or dad.

If you have aging parents, at some point you’ll know it’s time to have “the talk.” Perhaps your parents aren’t keeping up with housework as well as they used to. Maybe your dad has fallen a few times and you’re worried about his safety. Perhaps your mom’s friends are moving away or getting ill, and she’s showing signs of loneliness.

In all of these cases, the big question is: “Is it time for your parents to move to assisted living or a continuing care retirement community?”

Of course, a move isn’t the answer for everyone. Some families may opt to bring in round-the-clock aides to their parents’ home. Other adult children may bring their parents to live with them. However, a large number of my clients do evaluate the option of moving into a senior community.

Having worked with many aging parents and their adult children as they make this important decision, I’ve gathered a lot of helpful insights. The following are some of the key issues your family may face when considering moving your parents to a senior community, as well as some thoughts on what you can do when they arise.

Starting the Conversation
If you’re fortunate, you may be able to introduce the possibility of your parents moving to a senior living community, such as a Continuing Care Retirement Community, well before it’s necessary. The earlier you, as the adult child, can talk to your parents about this option, the more time you’ll have to research communities and let your parents visit them.
However, don’t be surprised if your parents initially have trouble hearing this idea from you. It’s human nature for parents to dismiss ideas—even great ones—that come from their children.

Patrick* raised the idea of a move when his elderly but very vital and active mother began lamenting that her local social circle seemed to be getting smaller and smaller. She missed having friends with whom to go to plays, movies, and other outings. Yet when Patrick suggested the idea of moving to a care community, his mother flatly refused.

A few months later, when one of his mother’s friends began talking about moving to a senior community, something clicked. Patrick’s mother was finally willing to consider moving.

What you can do: Gently raise the issue of your parents moving to assisted living as early as you can. However, expect that it may take some time before your parents will seriously think about a move. You may even need to wait until their friends consider the issue.

If you’re worried that your parents aren’t safe living alone, you might consider asking a good friend of your parents’—or one of their trusted advisors, such as a clergyperson or attorney—to broach the subject with them. If that doesn’t work, you may need to take more direct action (see next).

When Moving is Essential
Both of David’s* parents had been ailing for several years. His mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and his dad fell several times after two knee-replacement surgeries.

For safety, David and his siblings bought his parents Lifeline medical alert devices. Yet David clearly recalls visiting his parents and seeing the devices sitting on their bedroom dresser without batteries. The couple stubbornly insisted on staying in their longtime home and refused extra help.

At one point, both of David’s parents were hospitalized at the same time. Before the couple’s doctor would discharge them, he insisted that they either hire round-the-clock home health aides or move to an assisted living center. The pair wasn’t thrilled, but they had no choice. David and his siblings finally were able to begin researching new living options for them.

Making a Natural Transition
Katherine’s* widowed mother also was forced to consider assisted living after being hospitalized with a broken hip. Yet for her, this change ended up being a positive one. It turned out that Katherine’s mother absolutely loved the community atmosphere of her temporary rehabilitation center. The experience helped her and her family realize how isolated she had become in her family home.

As she prepared to leave the rehab facility, Katherine’s mom saw moving into a community as a natural transition. Fortunately, she had several friends moving into a nearby continuing care retirement community (CCRC) – sometimes also referred to as a Life Plan Community, Katherine’s mom decided to join them.

What you can do: If your parents experience a health emergency, you may have to help move them into an assisted living center quite quickly. If possible, begin researching community options in advance. Ask your parents what communities their friends are considering.

If a move is imminent, research and visit as many viable communities as you can. If you have siblings, split up the task since it can be exhausting and emotional for all of you. Narrow down your options and take your parents to visit the best facilities, if at all possible.

Evaluating the Financial Realities of Moving
It’s sometimes difficult to find a community with all the amenities you and your parents want at a price they can afford. Be sure to talk with facility administrators upfront about costs, and to review your parents’ finances carefully.

If you’re unsure whether your parents can reasonably afford the facility, seek the help of an experienced wealth advisor. (Unabashed self-promotion: This is my specialty area). We can help evaluate your parents’ ongoing cash flow against their life expectancy and their chosen adult living community’s costs. We can also help you determine whether there are any financial moves your parents can make to ensure that they pass the continuing care retirement community’s financial assessment, but without completely draining their estate.

Wealth advisors like me, and attorneys who work regularly with older clients, may also be able to help you understand each senior facility’s contract. These legal documents are quite complex when you “buy in” to a community, including a CCRC. They also may include entrance-fee refund options and tax considerations that we can help you better understand in advance.

Simplifying Money Management
Even if your aging parents are still able to handle their own finances right now, this could change as they age. Moving into a senior community is a good time to talk about simplifying your parents’ money so they can focus just on enjoying new activities and friends. A few suggestions to offer:

Set up automatic bill pay: Offer to help them set up auto-pay services from their bank or brokerage account for ongoing bills, such as their monthly facility fee, cable, insurance, etc. That way, if your parents travel, or get forgetful or ill, their accounts will always stay current. This also is a helpful strategy if you live physically far from your parents, and want to make sure they stay on top of their bills.

Consolidate accounts: Many individuals have financial accounts spread out over seven or eight different institutions. This can create a lot of confusing paperwork. It could be an onerous job to coordinate finances once parents become unable to do so. Try to whittle down their accounts to the bare minimum.

Managing Sibling Involvement
There are entire books written about just this one topic. Suffice to say that it is extremely common to have some conflict with your adult siblings over moving mom and dad and managing their ongoing care. If this happens to you, you’re not alone.

In many cases, the best solution is to meet or talk with your siblings on a regular basis about your parents’ care. Agree on a macro level about their needs and how you can help meet them.

Financial help: Some adult children end up contributing money toward their parents’ down payment at a buy-in, continuing care retirement community, or to help with their monthly fees. Be sure that this is financially feasible for every sibling, or agree that those who can contribute more will do so. Your parents’ financial advisor may be able to help you decide how best to share the ongoing management of your parents’ finances.

Logistical help: Split up moving-related and ongoing care duties if you can. Two of David’s siblings lived within five minutes of their parents’ new adult community, so they agreed to handle doctor visits and local errands once their parents moved. David and another sister took charge of clearing out their parents’ house, arranging for the estate sale, and later selling the home itself.

In Katherine’s case, she helped her mother with many day-to-day activities and decisions about her move. She worked collaboratively with her two brothers to organize the actual move day, but her brothers did much of the packing and moving work. Her older brother, a realtor, managed an estate sale and the sale of the family home.

Finally, If Your Parents Have Second Thoughts on a move or CCRC
Even parents who choose on their own to move into an adult community may feel twinges of regret when they first arrive. Don’t worry—it will pass. You didn’t make a mistake.

Katherine’s mom, who was happy to move after her positive experience in rehab, had a temporary change of heart. A few weeks before she was scheduled to move, she changed her mind. The transition was overwhelming to her, and she saw it as a sign that she was making a mistake.

Her family took the situation day by day, and Katherine’s mom did follow through and move. Within weeks, she was thrilled with her new apartment-home.

Patrick’s active mother had also decided on her own to move. However, right after she moved into her community, she told her kids that she appeared to be the youngest resident there. All she was seeing were less active residents coming to meals with walkers and wheelchairs.

As it turned out, many of the more active residents were away on a bus trip to a New York play when Patrick’s mother moved in. Before long, Patrick’s mom met friends who were just as spry as she was. All was well.

What you can do: Don’t panic if your parents complain that they’ve made a mistake about moving. Acknowledge their concerns and encourage them to give the community a week or two. Remind them that they have a probationary period during which they can still leave and get back their deposit (if that’s the case). Before long, they will likely settle in to their new environment.

* Names of the people whom I interviewed have been changed to protect their privacy.

Jim Ciprich
Wealth Advisor, MBA
973.425.8420 ext. 220

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