Sunday, May 8, 2022
It is Sunday, and I'm looking at a long list of things to do next week, with grading exams at the top of my list. Significantly, however, in the last six to eight months, at increasing rates, I'm hearing from current and prospective residents of Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs, also sometimes called Life Plan Communities). Here are examples of some of the most often asked questions:
- "The company that runs my CCRC is about to engage in development of a new CCRC. Is the money I've already paid in the form of an admission fee, or the money I continue to pay as monthly service fees, going to support this new development?"
- "During the lock-down associated with protecting residents and the public from COVID-19, we were asked to give up services that were the very reason we choose this community. But now that we are no longer locked down, the services either are not returning or the fees we are charged are actually increasing. Is there some effective way to object to this disconnect between the promises and the delivery of services?"
- "My parents are thinking about moving into a CCRC. On the one hand, I like the idea of the active community they are choosing. But on the other hand, the amount they are expected to pay in the form of an admission fee is astounding. Why are some communities calling this a refundable fee and others are saying it isn't a refundable fee? What are the protections for the 'refundable' fee?"
- "We have just learned that our nonprofit CCRC is being transferred to a for-profit company as the owner-operator. How is this likely to impact my wife and I as residents?"
Answers to many of these questions depend on the state's laws governing this form of senior living operation and, even more, on the particular contracts between the resident and the provider. State regulators have concerns here too. For those looking for legal assistance in their particular community, I sometimes recommend looking for attorneys in the caller's home state, someone who understands CCRCs from a resident perspective. I first wrote about the need for attorneys who understand resident perspectives in 2006.
Sometimes "elder law" attorneys have this expertise, but not always. Plus, it can be important to consult with an attorney who understands consumer protection laws, and not "just" CCRC law. Finally, if litigation is actually on the horizon, the choice for legal advice can depend on whether the attorneys have expertise in litigation or dispute resolution and not "just" contract law.
So, all of this is a short way of saying that even though, as an legal academic, I often write about the importance of resident rights in CCRCs, and even though I believe the future of CCRCs is very much tied to the answers, I'm not in a position to respond to individual questions. The very fact that I'm writing this Blog Post is a potential indication that something important could be going on in the industry. Perhaps that "something" should be addressed by the industry itself, especially if it wants the CCRC concept not just to survive, but thrive. In my opinion, it is not enough for the industry to say that "every CCRC is different."