Five Questions to Ask During your Visit


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On your visit to a new community, you’ll probably ask the salesperson about types of care offered, amenities and activities available to resident, and the cost of services.  Here are a few more questions that you might not have considered:

How many apartments are available? This question is very important in existing communities where a large number of empty apartments can signal management or financial problems. It normal for newer communities might have a larger number of vacant apartments, but pay attention to how fast they are filling up. Most communities should take less than 3-5 years to fill (although the number increases during recessions).

What is your pet policy? If you are an animal-lover, you’ll definitely want to know how the community handles pets.

When are payments due, and what are the procedures for making payments? It’s easy to rack up late fees and other penalties if you don’t understand the rules, so make sure that you know exactly how payments are handled.

If I need more care, how will the community handle making those arrangements, if at all? Some communities will help move you and your things to assisted living or nursing, should the need arise. Others will require your family members to coordinate. Knowing the policies and procedures ahead of time can save you a lot of trouble when it comes to finding higher levels of care.

What are my rights and responsibilities? States like Florida have a resident bill of rights.  Most states do not. Check with the community to see what resident rights are included in the contract, if any.  Communities that honor resident

Does the community background check and/or train its employees?  This one is pretty self-explanatory.  You want a community that does at least some training for all of its employees, especially ones that will be handling care.

What is the policy regarding staff giving potentially life-saving care? There was a recent case where a Brookdale employee basically watched a woman die because of corporate policy when it came to rendering aid.  While this is a relatively rare occurrence, you probably want to understand the policy, just in case.

Destination Retirement Communities


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Are you tired of shoveling snow?  Want to vacation and retire in a new place?

If that sounds like you, then you’re looking for what’s called “destination retirement.”  Due to its climate, southern states like Florida and Arizona are known as destination retirement locations.  Other states like South Carolina are also becoming known for their semi-warm climates and retirement-friendly accommodations.

If you’re looking for a destination community, here are a few tips:

Do your research first. The Internet is your friend in this situation. Search for communities in the city of your choice, and then narrow your search by calling and asking questions.

Visit the city when you’ve narrowed it down. Once you have your top two or three choices for retirement communities, book a trip and go see them. With some good planning, you can visit all three in a day or two, leaving more time to relax and enjoy the scenery.

Go back during off-season. That beach that you loved during the summer might be a frozen nightmare during winter. Similarly, that warm spring day in Florida might give way to a muggy, humid night during August. So, consider going back a few times during different seasons to confirm that you can handle the climate.

Ask to try out the community before buying. Many communities offer a guest apartment to potential residents. Their policies vary, so make sure to call before booking your flight!

Consider renting if you’re nervous. Pulling the trigger on a new city and retirement community can be tough, but you don’t have to make an all-or-nothing decision. If you’re worried about making the decision, consider a more temporary living situation like an apartment in the area.

Destination retirement isn’t for everyone, but some people find it to be the perfect retirement adventure!

Retirement Community Warning Signs

Blank Danger And Hazard Triangle Warning Sign Isolated Macro

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I get asked all the time if there are things that someone should watch for during their visits to senior housing facilities.  While some communities can hide poor management or bad staffing, it’s very likely that you’ll notice some signs if there are any.  Here are the top things to watch for during your visit:

Foul odors.  Bad smells are a bad sign, especially in assisted living or nursing. You should be concerned if you can clearly smell urine or feces.  If it’s enough to make your stomach unsettled, there’s a good chance that you should leave.

Unhappy staff. Ultimately, a retirement community is only as good as its staff. Disgruntled worker can cause all sorts of problems, including stealing money or abusing residents. If the staff aren’t happy, then get out while you still can.

Empty apartments. It’s not always a warning sign, especially in new communities or during recessions. But, retirement communities that cannot keep their apartments full likely lose money. You don’t want to move in, only to have the place close six months later.  If a facility has 50% vacancy, ask them why.  If they are the only ones in town with that many vacant apartments, then you should do extra research to make sure that there aren’t problems or skip them entirely.

Lack of maintenance or attention to detail. While it doesn’t seem like a big deal to let the shutters go an extra year without being painted, delaying regular maintenance is a sign that management might be fine with waiting an extra day to bathe nursing home patients or brush their teeth.  Do extra research before moving into a facility where the small items are not fixed in a timely manner.

I wish that I could say that every single retirement community in America was safe, but that’s simply not true.  The truth is that consumers have to be wary of their senior housing choices.  While I hope I’ve drawn attention to some typical problems, the best thing that you can do to stay safe is simply to pay attention to your gut feelings.  If you don’t feel comfortable, then get out.

Finding Communities that Share your Beliefs


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If you have a strong religious preference and want to be around other seniors who share your faith, then you might look for a retirement community that is affiliated with or sponsored by your religious denomination:

Most communities welcome all faiths. As you might expect, retirement communities make more money by not limiting their residents to one type of faith.  Even communities that are sponsored by Jewish, Presbyterian, or other denominations, welcome residents of all faiths.

Some communities focus on one faith more than others. Some communities cater to specific religions by offering things like Kosher meals, Catholic mass, or other religious observances.  If these are important to you, make sure to ask the community marketing agent during your visit which activities and ceremonies are observed on campus.

Communities with religious affiliations aren’t automatically good. One of the most well-known bankruptcies in senior housing to date was a B’nai Brith-sponsored community.  All of the residents lost the right to their entrance fee refunds when the community was sold out of bankruptcy.  Just because the community is affiliated with your faith does not automatically mean that it is financially-stable or is a good place to live.

Overall, moving to a religious-affiliated community can be a good thing.  It depends on your personal preferences and the options available in the city where you will be moving.  You might also keep in mind that communities often offer shuttles to local religious centers.  Even if they don’t cater to your specific denomination, they might give you a free ride to services that fit your needs.