October 08, 2021

Buyer Beware – What Retirement Communities May Not Tell You

As the population of older adults in the United States continues to increase, more and more seniors are moving to some sort of retirement community.  Whether you are looking to move to such a community or you are looking for a community for a loved one, there are some important items to consider; they may be disclosed up front or may be hidden “in the fine print” by the retirement community.  Below are some items you should be sure to inquire about when evaluating retirement communities:

1.  What type of community is it?  The terminology can be confusing – there are active-adult communities, assisted living facilities, continuing care retirement communities, and, of course, nursing facilities.  The type of community will determine what services are offered, the type of activities that are offered, the type of medical care provided and whether or not the facility is subject to federal or state regulation.

2.  Is there a doctor or nurse on site?  Some assisted living facilities may not even have a registered nurse on site despite their population of frail and vulnerable residents.  Regulations vary by state.  Particularly in this era of COVID, you should inquire about medical staffing so that you or your loved one are not waiting for a medivac helicopter should an emergency occur.

3.  Look beyond the fancy décor.  When evaluating retirement communities, you might be impressed by the fancy furniture or flower displays, but that is not an indicator of the quality of care provided.  You should visit more than once at different times of day and try to visit during a meal if possible.  Visiting during a meal can reveal how staff interacts with residents.  One of the most important questions you can ask is about staff turnover.  Facilities with lower turnover generally provide a higher quality of care.

4.  What services are included with the base rent?  Many facilities charge extra fees for things like meal delivery and medication management.  All of these “a la carte” fees can add up.

5. Can the facility “kick out” a resident?  The fine print may state that the facility can ask a resident to leave if their behavior is deemed a problem.  This could be an issue if,  for example, your loved one has Alzheimer’s and becomes combative.


6.  Does the facility take Medicaid?  Many facilities may answer yes to this question but may not disclose that they only have a certain number of slots for Medicaid patients.  Once funds run out, they may tell the resident that no slot is available for them.

There are many considerations when choosing a retirement community, but hopefully this list can give you a good starting point of items to consider.

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