Continuing Care Retirement Communities, Contracts, Questions, and Elder Law Attorneys

Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC’s), also known as Life Care Centers, are becoming more and more popular as a housing option for seniors. Carolina Bay at Autumn Hall, Brightmore of Wilmington, and Plantation Village are all CCRC’s located here in Wilmington. Each facility offers the promise of an active, social, and stimulating lifestyle with all of the necessary medical care and the security of knowing that you will not have to move again as your level of care increases.

A properly qualified and experienced Elder Law Attorney may be an important part of the admissions process. A CCRC contract is extremely complex and the decision to move from your home into a CCRC is not only a difficult and important life choice, it is also a difficult and important financial choice. And as with any important financial relationship, your role as a resident and the CCRC is controlled by a contract. A qualified and experienced Elder Law Attorney may be a very important part of the team when the decision is made to move to a CCRC. The Elder Law Attorney can assist you in contract negotiations and can explain the contract so you understand your rights and responsibilities. Most importantly, a good Elder Law attorney can help make sure that the contract meets your needs and North Carolina statutory requirements.

CCRC’s, often in exchange for a significant fee, may provide a full spectrum of care – from independent living, to assisted living, to skilled nursing care. Initially the CCRC may accept only people that are healthy and are able to live independently. However, once you are admitted, you are assured that you will have care that meets your needs for the rest of your life and that you will not have to move again. A good Elder Law Attorney can help you understand who decides when you move to the next level of care (from independent living to assisted living, for example) and what criteria is used. You should ask the CCRC what happens if your spouse requires a different level of care than you do. Does the contract allow you to stay with your spouse or must you live separately in different levels of care?

Here are some other very important questions that a qualified elder law attorney can answer after reviewing a CCRC contract:

  1. What are the payment terms of the contract? CCRC’s offer different types of contracts (from a one payment for all services model to fee for service model to a rental agreement) and each one has pluses and minuses and different payment terms.
  2. Who owns the living space? You, the CCRC, or someone else?
  3. As mentioned above, how are decisions made to move residents from one level of care to the next? Often one spouse may require a different level of care than another. Does this mean one spouse must continue to reside in independent living while another spouse moves to the assisted level of care?
  4. When does a resident need to supplement services with paid care?
  5. What happens if a resident runs out of money?
  6. What happens if the CCRC runs out of money/goes bankrupt?
  7. Is the CCRC Medicare/Medicaid certified?
  8. Is long-term care insurance still required when you move into a CCRC?
  9. What is the financial status of the CCRC?
  10. What happens to your funds held by the CCRC when you pass away?
  11. How does a resident qualify for a refund?
  12. Is there an arbitration provision in the CCRC contract?
  13. If you decide to move out, what does the CCRC contract require?

Another good resource for CCRC’s is CARF International. CARF is one of the few organizations that accredit CCRC’s. Likewise, in North Carolina the Department of Insurance puts out a reference guide to CCRC’s that is very useful.

Making the decision to move into a CCRC involves a lengthy contract, a significant amount of research, and a hefty financial commitment. A good Elder Law Attorney can help you ask the right questions and get the right answers before making the decision to move into a CCRC.