Your Guide to Retirement Homes

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Retired life can mean more time to enjoy hobbies and travel, but ultimately a secure home base and access to health care is a main concern in old age. Depending on how independent you want to be and how much medical care you'll need, there are a variety of living situations from which to choose.

And even if you're years from retirement, it may be a good idea to plan ahead to give yourself plenty of transition time.

Staying Put

Ideal Candidates: About 90% of seniors want to stay in their current homes after age 65, according to AARP, and this preference, called "aging in place" may be a good choice for relatively healthy retired individuals and couples.

What you get: Family homes have a lot of sentimental value, and many retirees would rather stay put in a familiar area with neighborhood friends.

And if necessary, retirees who choose this option can renovate or modify their homes over time when they need more assistance getting around.

Installing a stairlift is one of the more widely-advertised home modifications that can be helpful for the elderly, but many choose to move their bedrooms to the first floor of their house.

And if you do stay at home and become terminally ill, you can receive hospice care in your own home to provide comfort and care for you and your family in your final months, according to the the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Cost: Rearranging your home costs nothing, of course, but installing a stairlift, for example, could cost between $2,800 and $4,000 for a straight staircase or up to $15,000 for a more complex, custom stairlift. Hospice care at home may be covered by Medicare.

Independent Retirement Communities

Ideal Candidates: Individuals and couples who are independent, active and want to live in a community of peers with similar interests.

What you get: Depending on the retirement community you decide on, you can choose to rent or buy a home, apartment or townhouse, and you won't have to worry about home maintenance and taking care of your yard.

Some of these areas are gated communities with security personnel as well, adding an extra level of comfort. The facilities with more amenities also have health clubs, hold social events and provide meals, cleaning services and even local transportation for residents.

In some communities, if you do end up needing regular medical assistance, you may have access to free or low-cost health care facilities or be able to bring in caregivers you want depending on the policies of the individual retirement community.

Cost: Cheaper communities that are funded by charities may only cost a flat percentage of your income while moderately-priced and higher-end communities may charge a flat monthly fee that can top $1,000 to $2,000, according to eldernet.com, depending on your location.

Other communities may charge rent plus a fee for utilities, maintenance, meals and other services, the site says.

Caring.com offers a worksheet to help you compare the costs of living in your own home vs. living in an independent retirement community.

Assisted Living Facilities

Ideal Candidates: Elderly individuals who need help with everyday activities.

What you get: Residents of assisted living facilities may receive help preparing and eating meals, bathing, grooming and dressing by staff on site.

However, the term "assisted living" can mean different things in different facilities, according to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and some are privately-owned businesses while others are run by large corporations so you should contact a facility, or even schedule a visit, to see whether the environment is right for you and make sure that it offers the care and amenities you need.

Cost: Assisted living isn't covered by Medicare or Medicaid, the agency says. The monthly charge may be based on a sliding scale depending on your income, or cost a flat rate of between $1,800 to $2,400 a month for the basics, according to Assisted Senior Living.

A Traditional Nursing Home

Ideal Candidates: Patients who may need continued medical attention but don't need to stay in a hospital. That includes those who require a respirator or are confined to their bed, according to Caring.com.

What you get: Constant medical care from a team of licensed nurses in a residential facility. Some nursing homes are set up much like hospitals while others are designed to feel more like a home, explains the National Institutes of Health.

Medicare offers a checklist to help you choose the right nursing home for you.

Cost: Nursing home costs have reached nearly $80,000 a year, according to MetLife.

Continuing Care Retirement Facilities

Ideal Candidates: Retirees who want to have multiple options for the level of care they receive while possibly living independently.

What you get: CCRCs allow residents to move to and from different facilities, from independent residences to assisted living to around-the-clock care depending on their changing needs, according to carepathways.com.

Cost: Generally between $750 and $1,500 per month, plus a one-time entry fee of $40,000 to $100,000, depending on location, size and amenities, notes LivOn Real Estate.

A Look at Quality

It's important to compare all of the facilities you're considering and visit them or have someone else visit them for you to make sure your needs will be met there, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services advises.

You may even want to talk to current residents about how happy they are there. Additionally, you can check nursing home quality ratings online.

Facilities undergo inspections annually, and those that are certified providers covered by Medicare or Medicaid have to meet more than 150 regulatory standards designed to protect residents from things like physical or mental abuse and inadequate care, according to CMS.

Inspections are conducted annually to examine things like quality of care, interactions between staff and residents and the overall community environment, the agency says.

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