The Second Edition of my Book is Available on Kindle!!

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Click here to purchase!

Here’s the overview:

Continuing care retirement communities (called “CCRCs” by industry insiders) are retirement communities that offer multiple living options (independent living, assisted living, and nursing). In exchange for an entrance fee and ongoing monthly fees, CCRC’s agree to care for residents for the rest of their lives.

Written by a former senior housing consultant, Continuing Care Retirement Communities: An Insider Tells All is a sweeping overview of the popular senior housing product. The book shows you:

  • What services are offered for seniors
  • How to find communities in your area
  • What to look for during your visit
  • How to read the contracts and disclosure statements
  • Why some communities go bankrupt
  • Some warning signs for potential residents of CCRC’s

The second edition has been updated and includes three new chapters: the financial analysis of CCRCs, how to learn about quality of care at a CCRCs nursing home, and the state of the senior housing industry since the recession.

You deserve the best coach when searching for the community of your dreams! Continuing Care Retirement Communities: An Insider Tells All shows you the good and the bad in the industry and offers advice on how to make the most of your move into senior housing.

 

Here’s the preface:

[Note: I have decided not to publish a paper copy of this book for a few reasons (mainly that it’s expensive and time-consuming). If you would like a paper copy, shoot me an email, and I’ll figure out a way to send you a file that you can print from the comfort of your home.]

You’re reading a second edition of my book. Why did I feel the need to put together a second edition? Well, some things have changed over the past few years:

  1. I’ve found a new (and better) source for nursing home information.
  2. Improvements in the economy have flowed over into the retirement industry, and consequently, senior housing is doing well.
  3. Hedge funds and other institutional investors have gotten more involved in senior housing.
  4. Readers have written to ask me questions that I feel should be covered in a new edition.

As a result, I’ve added three new chapters and updated the entire book with information pertinent to today’s economic market.

I am also going through some personal changes that make 2015 a good year to rerelease my book.  I’ve been writing about the senior housing since 2011. I initially scheduled one article a week, but, frankly, senior housing doesn’t move that fast. After a while, I got a bit tired of writing the same stuff over and over.

Plus, I’ve always liked digging deeper into intellectual topics and have been doing so in my spare time. In 2014, I started taking higher-level math courses on the side, and as of August 2015, I’ll be starting a PhD program. It will demand a great deal of my attention. Thus, in preparation for that transition, I want to give my readers a fresh look at senior housing before crawling into the cave that is my new PhD office.

In this updated edition, you’ll find all of the same information that was in the original: information about how to find retirement communities, how CCRCs fees and contracts work, how to negotiate for upgrades, and what happened during some of the industry’s biggest bankruptcies.

I’ve also added more information to help readers who have questions about their move to senior housing: a financial perspective on the costs of moving to senior housing versus staying at home, some good advice on learning about nursing homes in your area, and an update on the aftermath of the 2007 housing crash and how it impacted CCRCs.

While I probably won’t be writing for SeniorHousingMove.com or releasing books after 2015, I’ll still have my email, Virginia@SeniorHousingMove.com, and I’ll keep the site up and available. If I see anything that’s incredibly interesting or that seniors need to know, I’ll add a post.  But, frankly, most of what you need is either in this book or on my website.  I don’t anticipate that the industry makes a huge shift any time in the near future.

If you have questions, please email me.  I like helping people, and I don’t mind fielding a few questions now and then about how to find a good community.

I have enjoyed my years at SeniorHousingMove.com, and I appreciate all of the comments that I’ve gotten from my readers over the years.  I hope that I have helped you find the best place to spend your retirement years.

Virginia Traweek

May 1, 2015

Dear Readers

This spring, I’m taking a brief break from blogging. While I have loved writing for you, I have an interesting opportunity that I just can’t turn down. However, I am still researching, speaking and writing about senior housing.

Although I’m not actively blogging, you can still find plenty of good stuff on the site about senior housing. In order to make it even easier, you can read my best, most informative articles by clicking on the links below. I’ve roughly grouped them by topic, but there is a great deal of overlap:

General:

Continuing Care Retirement Communities:

Independent Living:

Assisted Living & Memory Care:

Nursing Homes

Hospice/Home Health/Living at Home:

And, of course, you can always buy one of my books on Amazon:

Also, just because I’m not blogging right now doesn’t mean that I’m not here to help answer your questions. If you have anything that you don’t see answered on my site, feel free to email me: Virginia@SeniorHousingMove.com.

Additionally, I’m still happy to come speak to your group about senior housing issues. You can email me for more information.

Have a safe and prosperous 2015, and thank you for visiting Senior Housing Move.com.

Virginia

Caregivers’ lost income, nursing home scam, suicide amongst seniors, and a giant nursing home company

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How do caregivers cope with lost income due to caring for a loved one?

This makes me sick: A broker in California used nursing home residents’ identities to scam investors.

Seniors contemplate suicide for a number of reasons.

Two big senior housing companies are merging to create a giant retirement community provider.

The Naked Truth about CCRC Entrance Fee Refunds

Continuing care retirement communities market the entrance fee refund as a big selling point.  They try to make it sound like an easy transaction: You give them $100,000 to $1,000,000 up front, and they’ll return a portion of that fee to your estate when you die.  Since you’ll be selling your home to pay for the entrance fee, it’s not like it’s money you’ll miss, right?

Like most things in life, the truth isn’t that simple.  Entrance fee refunds are not the straight-forward transactions that CCRCs would have you believe.  In this post, I’ll share some of the hidden downsides of the entrance fee model, specifically as it relates to the entrance fee refund.

Be warned: This is kind of a dark subject, since it deals with what will happen after you die (or move out of the community).  But, for those who want to know, here are the facts.

Virtually all communities will have some waiting period after you pass. Obviously the manager of the CCRC won’t be standing over your bedside with a check waiting for your family the moment you pass away. But, you would except a check be presented to the estate within 30 days, right? Nope.  The truth is that your family may have to wait for a long time (in some cases over a year) for the refund to be processed.

Some communities require that your apartment be “resold.” In other words, your independent living apartment must be reoccupied by a new tenant.  How long does that take?  Could be months.  Could be years if the community has trouble filling the apartment.  And guess what?  Even after it gets reoccupied, the community usually has 45 days or more to cut your estate a check.

Some communities require that ALL of your apartments be “resold.” Spent a few months in assisted living and/or nursing? Those apartments must also be reoccupied by a new tenant before you get your check.

Refund policies vary if the apartment doesn’t sell. Some contracts stipulate a one-year maximum waiting period.  Others don’t say anything about when you’ll be getting a refund if apartments don’t sell.

No matter what’s in the contract, the community still has to have enough cash to pay it back. This seems like common sense, but most people don’t really think about it.  Your entrance fee refund is 100% dependent upon the community being in the financial situation that would allow them to pay you back.  While most states have laws requiring that CCRCs keep a certain amount of cash on hand for refunds, this can be put in danger if the community is in financial difficulty. Thankfully, this has been a rare occurrence historically.

Want to protect yourself? There’s two main things that you can do:

  • Check your contract. The resident agreement will contain a detailed description of how the community plans on paying you the balance of the fee.  If it’s important to you that your estate get the refund in a timely manner, then pay particular attention to this section of the agreement.
  • Don’t move in if the terms aren’t favorable. For too long, CCRCs have made all of the rules when it comes to resident agreements.  It’s worked out for the most part, but some seniors have gotten seriously burned when communities went bankrupt. While the CCRC lifestyle makes it tempting to overlook things like the entrance fee refund policy, I believe that seniors have the power to express their displeasure and be a force of change in the industry.

Want to learn more about CCRCs? Check out some other posts:

Who owns CCRCS?

What is adult daycare?

What is memory care?

Why pushing for a move to senior housing isn’t a good idea.

Books are on sale!

Dear readers,

I’m in the process of writing/editing a second edition for my book, Continuing Care Retirement Communities: An Insider Tells All.  The old price for the first edition was $13.99 plus $3.99 shipping/handling, but I’d like to clear out some of my inventory so that I have room for a second edition.  Therefore, for a limited time, I’ll be selling the first edition for $5.99 plus $3.99 shipping/handling.  This is a huge steal, and it’s cheaper than the Kindle version.  This will only last for as long as I have the first editions on hand.  Once they’re gone, they’re gone! BUY IT NOW

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Should retirement communities be owned and run like a McDonald’s? (Part 2)

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 Note: This is Part 2 of two. Read “Should retirement communities be owned and run like a McDonald’s? (Part 1)” here.

The Bad News:

Managers don’t always care as much about customers. To be fair, this is an issue that every company faces. As a business owner or manager, your goal is to make money. Most of the time, you do that by making the customer happy. But, sometimes that goal can be obscured, especially when managers have bonuses or other competing interests at hand.

It’s worse in corporate situations where managers get bonuses based on financial performance. This can sometimes lead to short-term thinking, which is not always in the best interest of the customer.

For example, real estate investors and hedge funds are under enormous pressure to improve their return on investment, and sometimes this means taking more aggressive approaches to investing. Some of these plays will pay off. Others will blow up.

Risk is magnified.  Aggressive growth strategies in a large provider of senior housing can blow up quickly if the market shifts at the wrong time.  What’s worse is that communities that are perfectly healthy and vibrant can be dragged down by disasters in other parts of the country.  For instance, declines in real estate in one part of the country can impact sales at retirement communities in that area.  If these communities are owned by a regional provider, then no one outside of that area is really impacted.  However, a national provider that has trouble in one market might be tempted to pull cash from an otherwise healthy community to help cover the costs.

Parting Thoughts:

None of these benefits or drawbacks are set in stone.  There are plenty of corporations that begin shaving services and customer care as they get bigger.  Also, there are plenty of companies that are huge behemoths and yet still manage to make customers happy every single day.  The success or failure of a national chain of senior housing communities depends largely on the way the company is run, which is why it’s really, really important that these companies hire good managers.

I can’t say for sure if the consolidation trend is good or bad. In fact, it doesn’t matter because it’s going to happen one way or another. It will certainly impact residents’ lives, although not necessarily in bad ways.

My instinct is to rattle my saber and declare war against the invasion of Wall Street. Seniors shouldn’t have to worry about their home being sold at a bankruptcy auction after hotshot managers make silly decisions and invest foolishly. But, then again, that sort of thing happened in the industry prior to Wall Street arriving.

Ultimately, I think the rules of the game will have to be rewritten a bit, and, unfortunately, it will be big corporations wielding the pen.  Competition will continue. Consolidation will continue. There will be bankruptcies, but, by and large, the ramifications will be felt only for managers and debt holders, not seniors themselves. However, the benefits of consolidation mean that seniors might see better amenities and more activities.

Read Should retirement communities be owned and run like a McDonald’s? (Part 1)

Want to learn more about senior housing? Check out these articles:

Five questions to ask during your visit to senior housing.

Why do CCRCs charge an entrance fee?

What is adult daycare?

Take your pet with you to the retirement community.

Should retirement communities be owned and run like a McDonald’s? (Part 1)

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Note: This is Part 1 of two. Read “Should retirement communities be owned and run like a McDonald’s? (Part 2)” here.

Five or ten years ago, there weren’t that many really large companies building continuing care retirement communities. Sure, Brookdale and Sunrise were big, as was (and is) Emeritus and Atria. But, they largely focused on nursing homes and assisted living.  Most CCRCs were owned by smaller, regional companies or by nonprofits.

Since the market crashed in 2008, that has changed dramatically. Senior housing has become an increasingly attractive play for anyone from hedge funds to real estate investors.  This has spurred a round of consolidation that is relatively unprecedented.  It’s very possible that in the next decade, the majority of retirement communities in the United States could be owned by the same two or three companies.

Is that a bad thing? 

We tend to distrust big corporations, and I think for good reason.  But, yet, we all tend to eat at chain restaurants, shop at chain stores, and buy products from the same big online retailers.  Is it really a big deal if retirement communities follow suit? Would having a few national chains control the entire market impact consumers?

I see several benefits and drawbacks to this scenario:

Most large firms have better access to capital. Smaller retirement communities have to work harder to get credit in the event of financial difficulty, and it’s more expensive.  Larger firms can negotiate for loans and financing on a much more national basis, making it easier to finance campus improvements or new communities.  They also have better access to development consulting and other services, which might be prohibitively expensive for smaller companies. Overall this is good for residents, since providers can get the funding their need in a more efficient manner.

Standards and procedures will be more uniform. Ever visited a family restaurant that just didn’t function well? The cash register was too close to the buffet line, and the tables didn’t leave enough room for servers to walk? Well, most of those issues have been solved in chain restaurants.

As firms get larger, they learn which strategies work the best, and they optimize their organizations.  That’s good news for senior housing where staff have to handle a large array of situations and can benefit from additional training that smaller companies might not have been able to provide.

Lifestyle improvements. Larger corporations will probably be better-suited for creating amenities and activities that improve residents’ quality of life:

  • Better activities:  Smaller companies usually rely on one dedicated activity coordinator to handle all aspects of resident life.  If there were a few national providers, these organizations could pay a department of people to craft activities, travel, or other amenities that would help improve resident quality of life.  Since large corporations can negotiate on a grand scale, these services might also be cheaper.
  • Travel agreements among communities in the same chain would allow seniors to effectively visit any city in the country and always have a place to stay.
  • Large corporations can afford to investment in aging in place technology, which might help seniors stay independent for longer.

Read Should retirement communities be owned and run like a McDonald’s? (Part 2)

Want to learn more about senior housing? Check out these articles:

What to expect on your first visit to a retirement community.

Three sneaky sales tactics and your best defense!

How to find a CCRC.

What is LifeCare?

Helping Friends find the Right Community

Togetherness

I’ve got a friend who just moved into a senior housing.  Her children live miles away from here, and as she gets older, she has decided that her best bet is to move into a an independent living community.  As she’s gone through this process, I’ve helped her with some of the aspects of the move and, through it, have gained a better appreciation for the role that friends can play during this time in life.

If you’ve got a friend who needs your help in finding the right retirement community, here are some tips:

Ask first. Before moving forward with any of these other suggestions, make sure to ask whether or not your friend wants help.  It seems like common sense, but not everyone wants a companion when they visit retirement communities.

Offer to drive. The retirement community that my friend ended up picking was right down the street from her old apartment complex, but having me there to make sure that we arrived on time, drive her, and drop her off at the door really helped her focus on making the most out of the visit.

Help carry papers or purses. The marketing department will offer you all sorts of goodies during your visit: a folder containing community information, a bottle of water, etc. It’s a lot to handle, especially for a person with mobility issues.  Bringing a backpack or even just offering to help carry these items can be very helpful.

Make a list of questions beforehand. When in the thick of things, it’s hard to remember which items are important.  Consider helping your friend write down a list of questions ahead of time.  Carry the list in your pocket so that it’s easy to reach during the marketing visit.

Offer emotional support. The idea of moving to senior housing can be very stressful for some people.  Seniors often just need a friend to hear their concerns.  Try to focus on listening, and let them discuss their concerns.

Try not to push the issue one way or another. It may be blatantly obvious to you which decision is “the best,” but try to let your friend work through the decision on her own.

Allow her time to come to an independent conclusion. Again, it may be hard to be patient.  But, most people will recognize when they need help.  If you can, allow your friend time to come to a decision regarding her move.

After visiting the local retirement community with my friend, we went out for Chinese food and discussed our impressions of the visit.  At the time, she was against moving, since her apartment offered numerous advantages over the retirement community.  After several months of consideration, she finally decided to move.  Now that she’s been in her new apartment for a few weeks, she wishes that she had moved earlier!

Gone are the days when we could rely on our family to handle all of our aging needs.  Seniors who have no close family members benefit from the trusted companionship of friends.  If you’ve got a friend who is interested in moving into senior housing and has asked for your help, don’t hesitate to tag along and lend a helping hand.

Want to learn more about senior housing? Check out these other articles:

Why it’s not a good idea to get pushy with a senior housing decision.

Signs of trouble in any community.

How to time your move into a CCRC.

Slightly scary articles about senior housing.