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Asking the right questions

Posted June 11, 2014 in Advice Column, Clive

Senior living is complicated, and choosing the community that’s right for you — or helping a loved one make the choice — is challenging.

Think of it this way. With one decision, it’s as if you choose all this: real estate (a floor plan and a neighborhood), a fitness center, health services (including what’s virtually a health insurance plan for the rest of your life), a club (for social life and leisure), education and entertainment services, a long-term investment strategy for your nest egg, workspaces for hobbies, a concierge and where to eat breakfast, lunch and supper. All this — and just one decision.

Sound challenging? Maybe I can help with these tips to jumpstart the decision-making process.

First, educate yourself. Learn what a CCRC (continuing care retirement community) is, how life care works and what the alternatives — like senior rental homes and 55-plus or “active living” communities — can offer. You’ll also want to find out what entrance fees and monthly service fees pay for.

Second, tour. Spend time at every community on your list,so you know what they feel like. How do staff members greet you, and what do they tell you about working at the community? What do residents say about living there — and what suggestions do they have for making the choice you’re considering.

Third, expect the sales counselor to neither pressure you nor take you for granted. The best sales counselors know this decision takes time and will eagerly, patiently get to know you.

Finally, make your list of questions.
•    When may I visit? May I stay overnight?
•    Do other residents keep up with off-site activities and friendships?
•    How is the food? Is there a dress code for dining?
•    What doesn’t health services cover?
•    What costs change as I move through the healthcare continuum?
•    What happens if I outlive my financial resources?
•    When you talk to my children, what will you tell them?

Knowing where to start and which questions you need answered can help you unravel the complications so you can focus on making the choice that’s good for you and your loved ones. What will that be? What’s your plan?

Information provided by Cindi McNair, executive director, Deerfield Retirement Community, 13731 Hickman Road, Urbandale, 1-888-561-6010,

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