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When to Get On the Wait List at a Retirement Community

If you are considering your senior living options, you likely have begun doing research on the retirement communities. Or perhaps you have a loved one in need of long-term care or memory care and staying at home is no longer a safe option.

Planning ahead for long-term care housing needs can be hard – you don’t know when you’ll need it. It may happen slowly as you age, or it can become urgent due to illness or injury.

But you shouldn’t wait until the day you need to move to begin planning because you may find that a lot of communities have a wait list.

Is getting on a wait list a good idea?

Once you’ve narrowed down some retirement communities you like, you may want to get on a couple of wait lists. This is especially advisable if you’re looking for assisted living or long-term care for yourself or a loved one. This way, when the time comes and you need care, you will hopefully be near the top of the list.

If you are eyeing a continuing care retirement community (CCRC, also known as a life plan community) like Lawrence Presbyterian Manor, you may need to get on a wait list to move into independent living. Many CCRCs have a very active base of residents who live independently today but want to be someplace where care is available to them onsite when needed.

How retirement community wait lists work

Most communities will require a deposit in order to add your name to their wait list; the amount can range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. In some communities, this deposit may be refundable if you change your mind or get into another community first; always ask about the waiting list refund policy. In assisted living communities, sometimes the deposit will only be refunded in the event that the resident is unable to move in for healthcare reasons.

When adding your name to such a community, you will typically specify which type of unit you prefer – such as a one- or two-bedroom apartment, a garden level apartment, or a townhome. When a resident living in your desired unit type moves out - often to a higher level of care - then the unit could become available to you.

There are two common forms of wait lists that you will find at various facilities.

The open-ended wait list is the more flexible of the two types. When your name reaches the top of the list, you are not required to move in immediately; you can keep your top position on the list and wait until the next desired unit opens up. The challenge with this type of list is that it gives an inexact picture of how many people are actually ready to move to the community so it can take a long time for your name to come to the top slot.

Some facilities have a “three strike rule” wait list. At these communities, if you get to the top of the list and turn down that opening three times, you get bumped back to the bottom of the list. You will even run across a few communities that have a one strike rule for their lists.

Some communities also have an internal wait list. It allows residents who didn’t get their first choice of apartment when they moved in to wait for their preference to open up. Existing residents will typically get priority over non-residents. This may allow you to move into a community sooner with the option to change units later on, although you may be required to pay a transfer fee or pay the additional cost if your desired residence is more expensive.

Wait List Perks

Once you are on the wait list, retirement communities frequently will offer a variety of perks to future residents – maybe unlimited use of their pool and exercise facility, access to the dining room once per month, or invitations to community events and activities.

Many communities are beginning to call their wait list a “membership.” It’s recommended that you take advantage of this benefit. It allows you to get to know the community’s culture, staff members and future residents and determine whether you’ll be happy living there.

Your wait list checklist

Before you get on a wait list:

• Research, research, research so you are as educated as possible about your senior living options and various scenarios. Be sure you understand the details of the residency contract and what your fees include.

• Take a tour of your top contenders; you may find that two or three really stand out when you visit them in person, while others may be easy to eliminate.

• Ask as many questions as you can about the community, their contract types, and their waiting list policies (including refunds).

After you get on a waiting list:

• Relax. You have made a major life decision to plan for your future; it will likely feel like a tremendous load has been lifted.

• Begin thinking about organizing and downsizing your home; consider what you will and will not be able to take with you when the time comes to move.

• Begin thinking about when you will be ready; consider making a list of determining factors such as age, overall health (including the ability to safely drive), current housing situation, savings and assets, family considerations, etc.

• Take advantage of any perks offered by the community to future residents who are on the wait list; you will grow more comfortable with the surroundings and meet new friends too.

Adding your name to retirement community and assisted living waiting lists is one of the ways you can plan for your future. This step can give you and your loved ones a level of security, knowing that you will be well-cared for as you age.

The above article was written by Brad Breeding of myLifeSite and is legally licensed for use.

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