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Retirement living choices.

Ways to pay at Indiana retirement communities

The advice is common: Plan now for retirement. But a key part of retirement planning often goes unpondered until the later years: What kind of living arrangements do you want to have in your 60s and 70s and 80s? And when you find a place, how will you pay?

While there are many variations, there are basically two payment plans at Indiana's retirement communities. The traditional plan involves paying a large up-front entrance fee, in exchange for lower per-month service fees that cover things like meals, activities and housekeeping. The other plan features generally higher per-month charges, but no entrance fee.

Westminster Village West Lafayette follows tradition in its payment arrangements. "We're set up on a 'life-occupancy' basis," says Kathy Meeks, the facility's executive director. "You pay a one-time occupancy fee, which gives you the right to live here for the rest of your life. Then there's a monthly service fee that is based on the different services used and the size of the space you're occupying. The amount of the life-occupancy fee depends on the space you're going into, and it keeps the monthly service fees lower."

In order to make life occupancy possible, Westminster Village West Lafayette and other "continuing-care" facilities offer a wide range of living arrangements. "We have cottages and apartments, and once you need services requiring nursing we have an assisted-living unit with a 24-hour staff," Meeks says. "We also have a health-care center, which is a skilled nursing facility." Typically, residents will move first into a cottage or apartment, with the knowledge that more care and services are available in the assisted-living and health-center units as the need arises.

A crucial part of the life-occupancy arrangement is the guarantee it carries. "If you run out of money through no fault of your own, you're still able to stay here," Meeks says. Thus, the entrance fee is sort of like an insurance policy, ensuring that the senior will always have a place to stay even if costs become overwhelming.

"The entry fee is for your continuing-care contract," agrees Chuck Hefley, vice president of administration at Wesley Manor in Frankfort. "We'll keep them regardless of what happens." The entry fee, he says, begins at $15,000 and goes up depending on the size of the unit residents are choosing. If new residents choose to leave within a year, a prorated portion of the fee is refunded.

But life-occupancy isn't for everyone. "Ours is strictly a monthly rental facility," reports Doris Scherette, leasing agent at Towne Centre in Merrillville. "All we require is a security deposit equal to the first month's rent when someone moves in." Like many retirement communities, Towne Centre has a health-care center available for residents who develop a need for more intensive medical services.

Summer Trace in Indianapolis follows a similar approach, says Bill Bramley, the community's general manager. New residents need only a security deposit and the initial rent to move in. The rent, he says, includes at least one meal a day, weekly housekeeping and laundry, most utilities, transportation and activities. "A health-care facility is attached also, so we offer a continuum of care from independent living to assisted living to long-term health care."

While many retirement communities stick with one payment option or the other, it's becoming increasingly common to find communities with a choice. One example is the Peabody Retirement Community in North Manchester. "You may, if you wish, pay an entrance fee, which is refundable, and your monthly maintenance and service fee is less," says Richard Craig, the executive director. "The other plan calls for a very modest entry fee that is non-refundable, and the monthly maintenance and service fee is a little more."

The United Methodist Memorial Home in Warren also offers a choice of payment plans, says David Souder, the associate administrator. "They can pay an entry fee and so much a month, or they can pay by the day, with no entry fee."

Souder says the choice boils down to what seems to be the best investment. Younger seniors who anticipate a long stay at the home often choose the entry-fee plan, figuring it'll pay off in the long run because their monthly fee will be less. Older seniors may be less certain that they'll come out ahead with the entry-fee plan, and often opt for the daily fee arrangement. In either case, they can take advantage of the usual services, along with use of an on-site medical clinic complete with doctors, physical therapists, an optometrist and a dentist.

Betty DeVoe, executive director of Westminster Village Muncie, says her community sets up payment choices in a different way. The first plan, she says, is the traditional approach with an upfront entry fee and a monthly service charge. "But then we came up with what we call Plan 2 and Plan 3," she says. Plan 2 still charges an entrance fee, but splits it into 60 monthly payments, which are due along with the service charge. Plan 3 is a monthly lease arrangement with no occupancy fee.

Most of these types of innovations in payment plans are relatively recent. "The life-occupancy approach was very much the norm in our industry up until five or 10 years ago, but increasingly I've seen them moving in the leasing direction," says Lynn Binnie, administrator of Westminster Village Kentuckiana in Clarksville. His own facility is one that made the move several years ago.

While the method of payment is an important consideration, seniors ultimately must choose a retirement community based upon what seems to them to be a comfortable home. And some simply don't want to live in a nursing-home environment, says Sonia Long, executive director of Tanglewood Trace in Mishawaka.

Her facility is essentially an apartment community designed just for seniors. The units have kitchens, but meals are available in a restaurant-style dining room. Housekeeping and flat laundry services are provided, just like in other retirement communities.

Other seniors may feel the standard retirement community apartments are not enough, but they don't want an independent-living cottage either. That's the type of resident that Four Seasons Retirement Community in Columbus had in mind when it constructed a set of new luxury apartments, according to Stephanie Eckert, the marketing coordinator for Baptist Homes. The units have two large bedrooms, big bathrooms, a great room with a dining area, full kitchens, and a washer and dryer. They also have porches, either screen-enclosed or glassed-in.

Seniors and their children also must take into account special medical needs when making their decisions. Most communities try to meet residents' needs, and some are going to great lengths to establish themselves as specialists in certain areas. Does the prospective resident require special rehabilitation? Marquette Manor in Indianapolis is trying to provide help for these seniors with its new George F. Haislup Rehabilitation Pavilion. Lorraine Kocian, assistant executive director, says the facility serves residents who need physical, speech and occupational therapy.

The Franklin United Methodist Home, meanwhile, is trying to meet the needs of residents with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. It has opened a $4 million special-care unit employing all of the latest ideas for caring for seniors with these types of needs.

There's one final thing to ponder, says Bramley of Summer Trace. When does one make the move to a retirement community? "The time to make the change, I think, is while you're active and can enjoy all of the things that are done at a retirement community. Move while you can still enjoy making friends."
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Title Annotation:retirement communities
Author:Kaelbe, Steve
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Date:Nov 1, 1992
Words:1261
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