How To Choose A Continuing Care Retirement Community In Denver

To schedule a free consultation with a Senior Advisor, please call Marnie Biln, (303) 222-5281 or e-mail The consultation is free to seniors and their families, and the senior advisement, and placement services are also free. 

Making a decision about senior living options is never easy. But choosing a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) is more complicated, and has farther reaching impacts than finding an independent living, assisted living, or memory care community.

That’s because in order to move into a continuing care retirement community in the Denver metro area, you will be required to turn over a large sum of money – upwards of $250,000. And the plan is to be there the rest of your life, which makes the stakes even higher, and the consequences of a bad decision even more impactful.

This is not a simple or easy decision. There can be tax ramifications, your long-term care insurance policy might or might not cover some of the costs of a CCRC, your estate planning is impacted, and more. Before you make the decision to move into a CCRC, you should consult a lawyer, accountant and/or financial planner.

Below are some main factors to consider and questions to ask when choosing a continuing care retirement community.

You’ll note that many of these factors are financial and legal, and each CCRC has a different structure for contracts, entry fees, refunds of entry fees, monthly costs, and more.

Cost Of Entry
Continuing care retirement communities charge different entry fees, which are largely based on the type of unit that you initially move into (e.g. a studio, 1-bedroom, 2-bedroom, etc.) and the percentage of the entry fee that’s refundable when you move out or pass away.

Monthly Cost
Some CCRCs charge a flat monthly fee that will go up each year, but doesn’t change regardless of which area of the community you’re in – independent living, assisted living, memory care, or skilled nursing. Other CCRCs charge different monthly fees, according to the level of care that you’re receiving at the time. When you’re comparing CCRCs, compare the monthly fees, find out what is and isn’t included, and ask about the history of price increases.

Terms Of Contract
Along those same lines, you’ll want to thoroughly evaluate the CCCRC’s contract. What happens if you move out because you don’t like the community or need to move with a family member to another state? What portion of your entry fee will be refunded when you move out, and how quickly will you receive your refund? What portion of your entry fee will be refunded to your estate after you die? Are unlimited days in skilled nursing included in the monthly fee, or does that care cost extra? You’ll want to ask these questions, and dozens of others, which is why it would be extremely helpful to have an attorney, CPA and/or financial planner review the CCRC contract.

Entry Fee Refunds
Because the initial investment is so high to move into a continuing care retirement community – potentially eating up a large portion of your retirement savings – it’s important to know how much of that will be refunded when you move or die. CCRCs could refund 0%, 50%, or 90% of your entry fee (or some other percentage), but the more the CCRC refunds, the higher the entry fee. For example, if the CCRC refunds 0%, your entry fee might be $250,000; whereas, if the CCRC refunds 90%, your entry fee might be $430,000. A big difference, which is, again, why it would be a good idea to consult with a CPA or financial advisor to see which option would be best, given your financial situation.

Financial Stability Of The CRCC
Because you’ll be writing a check for hundreds of thousands of dollars or more to move into a continuing care retirement community, you want to make sure that the CCRC is financially stable. If the CCRC you’re living in goes bankrupt, another company could take over, but you’d probably lose your entry fees, and your monthly costs could rise.

Some states heavily regulate CCRCs and require that the communities periodically submit financial information, put a percentage of entrance fees into escrow, mandate disclosures, and prohibit sharp rises in the monthly fees for residents. Unfortunately, Colorado isn’t one of those states.

CCRCs are lightly regulated by the Division of Financial Services at the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA), under the category of “Life Care Institutions.” You can find out more about the Colorado statutes and rules on DORA’s site.

The Bottom line: You should perform your own due diligence on the continuing care retirement communities in Colorado that you’re considering. The higher the occupancy rates in a CCRC, the better, because these help ensure the financial stability of the community.

Reputation Of The CRCC
When choosing a continuing care retirement community, make several visits to the community. Ask to speak to residents – in each of the area of the community (e.g. independent living, assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing). Don’t just read Google reviews – Google the facility to see if there are any outstanding lawsuits or other negative incidents that have been reported.

Financial Requirements
As part of your exploration, find out what about the financial requirements that the CCRC sets for residents . Some CCRCs will require you to prove that you have assets worth more than 2 times the entry fee and/or a monthly income of 1.5 times the CCRC’s monthly fee. Regardless of what the CCRC requires, it would also be good to consult a financial advisor to make sure that you have adequate funds to pay the entry fee and take care of your monthly costs for the rest of your life. The worst case scenario would be that you’d run out of assets and money and no longer be able to afford the monthly CCRC fees. In that circumstance, you’d be forced to move to another facility, which defeats the whole purpose of a CCRC.

Health Requirements
All CCRCs also have health standards that residents must be able to meet, in order to move into the community. Health standards and assessments vary from CCRC to CCRC, but the health assessments often include tests performed by the community (including mental acuity tests) and/or a review of your medical records. CCRCs have these health requirements in place, because they’re banking on most residents living for long periods of time in independent living, without the need for the higher levels of care in assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing.

Types Of Unit
Continuing care retirement communities offer units ranging from studio apartments to cottages. When touring a CCRC, find out what types of units are available, whether you can make modifications to them (e.g. add or subtract a wall or replace the flooring), and the cost of the entry fee and monthly fees.

Visit All Areas Of The Continuing Care Retirement Community
Most seniors don’t ask to visit the skilled nursing facility when they’re touring a continuing care retirement community, but you should. Don’t just focus on the independent living unit that you’ll be moving into. Take the time to check out assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing, and find out how many residents live in each area and what those environments are like. Ideally, all aspects of the continuing care retirement community should be as impressive as the independent living surroundings.

Residents Of The Community
On your tours, take note of the residents in each area and ask questions of the community director. What’s the average age of the residents? How long have they lived there? How active and engaged are they? Ideally, you’ll want to move into a CCRC at the right time (for you) and be surrounded by like-minded people.

Amenities, Activities, And Meals
Most continuing care retirement communities, because of their sheer size, have an array of amenities, a variety of activities, and flexible meal plan options. The key is to find out what’s included in each area (independent living, assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing) and whether it will meet your current needs and future needs.

Pet Friendly Communities
Many continuing care retirement communities allow pets in independent living (and sometimes in assisted living). Find out what types of pets are permitted, including sizes and breed restrictions.

Smoking Or Non-Smoking Community
Is the CCRC a smoking or non-smoking community? If smoking is allowed, where are the designated smoking areas?

Spouse or Partner Options
If you’re in a relationship, it’s important to find out about your spouse/partner options. How much are the entry fees and monthly costs for two people, not just one? What happens if one of you needs assisted living or memory care, but the other one doesn’t? What if you become widowed? It’s good to know these answers ahead of time.

Move into a continuing care retirement community too soon, and you might feel like everyone’s older and less active than you. Try to move in too late, and the CCRC might not accept you because of your age or health issues. Explore your options now – even if it seems too soon – and you’ll be in a better position to make a good decision.

Ratings By The Colorado Department Of Health
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment does license the assisted living and skilled nursing facilities inside CCRCs in Colorado. The CDPHE also tracks “occurrences” and complaints. How many deficiencies did the assisted living or skilled nursing facility have in its recent annual surveys, and how many occurrences or complaints were reported in the past three years? Click here to find out the Colorado health department ratings and reports.

Contact A Senior Advisor For Help In Finding The Right Community Or Facility
If you’d like help finding the right community or facility for yourself or a loved one, contact Senior Advisor, Marnie Biln, (303) 222-5281. Her senior advisement and placement services are free.

Marnie helps seniors and their families find communities and facilities in the Denver metro area and Front Range, including: Denver, Aurora, Littleton, Englewood, Centennial, Highlands Ranch, Denver Tech Center, Lone Tree, Parker, Castle Rock, Lakewood, Arvada, Wheat Ridge, Golden, Thornton, Northglenn, Brighton, Commerce City, Westminster, Louisville, Longmont, Lafayette, Boulder, Fort Collins, and Colorado Springs.

Click here to see a list of continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) in the Denver metro area.

For more information on senior living options in Denver, see these related topics:
How To Choose An Independent Living Community In Denver
How to Choose a Residential Care home in Denver
How To Choose A Memory Care Facility In Denver
How To Choose A Multi-Level Care Community In Denver
How To Choose An Assisted Living Facility In Denver
How To Choose A Nursing Home In Denver
How To Choose An In-Home Care Agency In Denver