Continuing Care Retirement Communities
The Benefits for Couples
Whether you’ve been married for decades or you’ve found the love of your life in later years, you’re hopefully enjoying a long, happy life together. You most likely may not want to consider what will happen when one of you gets seriously ill or injured, or has more demanding healthcare needs than the other, especially if you are both active and in good health now. However, just like many topics related to the future, it’s better to discuss these issues ahead of time, before you are in a dire situation that requires an immediate decision.
The good news is that today’s options for post-retirement living offer not only a great spectrum of care for an individual, but excellent ways to ensure that you’ll be able to share your golden years together with less-intrusive (but still readily available) care when and if you need it.
How Continuing Care Retirement Communities Work
For example, today’s continuing care retirement communities, or CCRCs for short, are gaining popularity with seniors who wish to continue enjoying independence while reducing the stress associated with everyday life (like caring for a large home, property maintenance, grocery shopping and meal preparation, and personal transportation). These new apartment-like housing options are attractive because they offer healthy and convenient dining (both in a shared dining room or delivered to your apartment), numerous social and learning activities, fitness centers, and local transportation. Residents often enjoy meeting like-minded seniors and new friends, while still having the independence and space to invite over family and old friends whenever they desire.
Drastically different from the sterile, hospital-like settings of “old fashioned” nursing homes of past generations, these continuing care communities offer housing that ranges from independent-living condos or apartments, to rehabilitation facilities, to rooms with long-term, increased health care and monitoring. The driving philosophy behind a continuing care facility is to offer a spectrum of health services, allowing residents to move back and forth in the level of care or assistance needed without having to relocate or experience a major change in lifestyle.
How CCRCs Benefit Couples
This can be especially helpful for couples, with the knowledge that, unfortunately, most of us will age at different rates and need a varied amount of care at different times. For example, a couple may have been married for 45 years, enjoying an active lifestyle together and living in their family home. However, when one person experiences an injury or serious illness, it may cause the two to be separated for an indefinite amount of time. Is the remaining spouse prepared to take on all the responsibilities and chores of the household, while also traveling miles to spend time with the hospitalized spouse? Is he or she prepared for the isolation that can result in an extended absence, or – if the sick spouse remains in the family home – for the increased responsibilities of caring for him or her, or arranging and paying for in-home care?
On the other hand, imagine this same couple has already moved into a continuous care facility of their choice. They’ve visited and shopped around, and found a location they really enjoy, filled with other active seniors and numerous activities. If the same injury or illness scenario were to happen, the injured spouse would spend time in a rehabilitation or nursing unit until his or her strength and mobility has returned. The remaining spouse, rather than driving for miles or trying to balance the needs of the house with caring for the injured loved one, can simply maintain his or her lifestyle in the couple’s apartment, while still visiting and checking on the spouse as often as desired, simply by walking across campus to see him or her.
Once the injured or ill spouse is back to regular health, he or she simply returns to the apartment with as little disruption as possible. In the unfortunate situation that the spouse’s condition becomes chronic or even terminal, he or she is already in excellent hands of the onsite medical staff that can provide the facilities and care needed, even if it increases over time. The remaining spouse can continue to easily visit and spend time with his or her loved one, while being comforted by living nearby and being able to interact on a regular basis.
Again, these are scenarios that most of us would prefer not to discuss, especially when it comes to a loved one. But being prepared and keeping an open mind is an excellent way to ensure you’re making the best decisions for your future while not under duress. In many cases, continuous care facilities can actually be cheaper than living at home because so many of the amenities and monthly expenses are covered in a single living fee. Take the time now to discuss the future with your partner and consider all the scenarios and options to ensure you’re aligned and teamed up to take on whatever the future may bring, together.