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How to Select a Retirement Community

First, Understand Your Options

LeadingAge Indiana members provide safe, caring communities in which each individual's needs and unique qualities are recognized.  The type of not-for-profit living arrangements available for the elderly range from independent living to skilled nursing care. 

The decision regarding which alternative to consider should be based upon the lifestyle and health status of the interested persons.  Representations from the facility will help you determine which level of care is appropriate for your needs and whether or not their facility provides those services.  The following are some of the options:

Independent living retirement apartments (ILU) - are dwellings that may or may not offer on-site access to health care, but generally provide extra services and recreational activities.  Rent subsidization in available in some communities through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) -- learn more about HUD here.

Assisted Living or Residential Care (AL) - provides housing, meals, and assistance or supervision of daily living activities.  The residents live in a room or apartment, but can have nursing supervision for such things as medication, ambulation or dressing.  There are also a large variety of social activities available.  Many assisted living facilities are licensed by the state and are called residential care.  Effective July 1, 1998, all licensed and unlicensed facilities calling themselves "assisted living" must register with the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration.  The registration process requires that facilities provide sample contracts, which must include certain elements and a standardized disclosure statement.  You should request to see a copy of the disclosure statement when visiting the facility.

Nursing Home (NH) - is a facility which provides care at different levels for people who can no longer live independently because of physical or mental debilitation, emotional trauma, or chronic illness.  Intermediate care and or skilled nursing care is provided in a nursing home. Nursing homes are licensed by the State of Indiana and are inspected at least annually.  You should ask to see the survey report when visiting the facility.

Intermediate care provides a greater level of care than what is available in a residential care setting.  The resident may need some daily nursing supervision.  A nursing home certified as an Intermediate Care Facility may be approved for Medicaid reimbursement.

Skilled nursing care is delivered by a registered or licensed nurse on the order of an attending physician.  A person may require skilled nursing care for either a short or extended period.  A nursing home certified as a Skilled Nursing Facility may be approved for Medicare and/or Medicaid reimbursement.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) offer residents lifetime care thought the availability of independent living, assisted living, and nursing care.  These communities offer additional services such as meals, housekeeping, and laundry.  They also offer a full range of social and recreational services.

Specialized Services - Some facilities offer programs designed to meet particular needs.  Special Units are areas set aside to concentrate on residents with similar diagnoses.  Most special units are designed for the care of those with Alzheimer's Disease and related dementias.  Adult Day Care is offered for situations where a person resides at home or with family, but is in need of social activities, monitoring, or nursing care during the day.  Respite Care is provided in a facility on a temporary basis (e.g. one week, one weekend) and offers a respite to the family caregiver.

Financial Considerations

When visiting a prospective facility find out what services are part of its basic charges and whether or not there is an entry fee or application fee.  Ask to see a list of extra available services and the fees.  Medicare may cover care for a set number of days after a hospital stay, but only for certain limited conditions.  You should not rely on Medicare as a major source of payment. 

The Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) is a free counseling service administered by the Indiana Department of Insurance.  They can help you sort though insurance and payment questions.  Their phone number is 1-800-452-4800. Facility representatives should be able to give you detailed information as to costs and available resources.

Make the Right Choice

There are many factors to be considered when choosing a health care provider.  First, consider the location in relationship to friends and family.  What community activities or services are important to you?  Does the facility have a religious, fraternal or governmental affiliation?  If so, how does that affiliation influence the services and activities of the facility? 

Plan to personally visit several facilities.  To arrange a visit contact the admissions director or the retirement counselor.  If at all possible, involve the future resident in the selection process.  When visiting a facility be prepared to ask questions such as what kinds of scheduled activities are available, what personal belongings may the residents bring them. Be sure to inquire about the meals and snacks.  If possible, arrange to have a meal at the facility.

Overall, this is a major life decision for you or your loved ones. So, take the time to research your options and make the right choice. You will find a high quality of life and clinical attentiveness among LeadingAge Indiana member agencies. We call that the non-profit difference.

For additional information on non-profit housing and services contact:


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