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Life-Care Communities

By Barbara Resnick, PhD, CRNP, Professor, OSAH, Sonya Ziporkin Gershowitz Chair in Gerontology, University of Maryland School of Nursing

Life-care communities (also called continuing care retirement communities) are for older people who want to move only once, to a place that will provide as much care as they need for the rest of their life. These communities guarantee that residents are cared for within the community regardless of their health. Life-care communities may also provide help for couples who wish to continue to live together or at least near one another even though one partner requires more assistance than the other can provide.

People may begin by living in a house or an apartment. But later, if health deteriorates, people can move to an assisted-living community and finally to a nursing home, all on the same property. Life-care communities offer the security of continued care in one location, without having to move very far.

Many of these communities have community buildings for organized social events, dining rooms, clubs, sports facilities, planned outings, and vacation options. They may provide on-site access to health care practitioners and services, such as wound care, blood pressure monitoring, laboratory tests, x-rays, and help with taking drugs as prescribed.

Financial issues

Many life-care communities are expensive. Some require a large deposit as well as monthly payments and fees for additional services. Sometimes there is an upper limit (cap) for monthly payments and fees. But in many communities, costs increase when the level of services needed increases.

Medicare and Medicaid usually do not pay for residence in a life-care community but may help pay for skilled nursing care when it is needed. Long-term care insurance may provide reimbursement for monthly fees as well as for personal care services, whether provided in an independent living, an assisted living, or a nursing home setting within the life-care community.