Sunday, Oct 07, 2001: ” Choosing a Retirement Community or Nursing Home”

St. Mark’s Adult Education Meeting Summary
“Choosing a Retirement Community or Nursing Home”
Sunday, October 7, 2001


On October 7, Janet Ferguson will offer recommendations on “Choosing a Retirement Community or Nursing Home.”  Janet is the Executive Officer of Marketing for Episcopal Retirement Homes.  Whether we are looking at our own needs, or those of a member of our family, we need to know what to look for, and which questions to ask, when we are preparing to make such a major decision.


St. Mark’s was pleased to have Janet Ferguson, Executive Officer of Marketing for Episcopal Retirement Homes speak with us on the topic of choosing a retirement community or nursing home.  Whether we are looking for our own needs, or those of a member of our family, we need to know what to look for, and which questions to ask, when we are preparing to make such a major move.  Janet has been with ERH for approximately eight years.

Janet opened the presentation by passing out souvenir bird feeders and daily pill containers to everyone (there may still be a few available in the Lounge or Office for anyone interested).  She also showed us the latest edition of ERH’s “Linkage” magazine that is available for anyone who cares to subscribe.


As the elder members of our family continue to grow older, it becomes necessary to think about things that could affect their lifestyles.  Is the house becoming too large to handle?  Is it time to downsize?  Is the house in the wrong location (i.e. too isolated)?  It can be very dramatic to move to a new place and a big change in their lives.  If the new place is easier to manage, it may give the family member much more independence.  At Episcopal Retirement Homes, lifelong learning is the primary theme.


There are number of housing alternatives available.  One is commonly known as naturally occurring retirement communities (or NORC for short).  There are a few of these found in the greater Cincinnati area.  These are usually apartment buildings, which are highly populated by elderly people, usually because of their local and access to shopping areas, etc.  Some of these complexes are assisted by HUD.  One of these is Canterbury Court in West Carrolton.  They provide services above and beyond the norm including social worker availability, transportation, chaplain, and limited meal service.


Another way to lighten the housing burden is for the elderly to share living quarters.  This can be especially common in colder climates where it may be beneficial for two or more people to share a home during the winter months to not only save on heating bills, but to help each other cope in the coldest part of the year.

Some places only offer assisted living.  This may be fine for some, but if a person ultimately needs to be in a place that offers full-time nursing care, then they may be force to move a second time.  This is something that should be considered when selecting a retirement home.


Episcopal Retirement Homes offers three full levels of care.  1) independent living; 2) assisted living; and 3) nursing care.  In addition, they also offer memory support for those who need that special service.  There are also “sub-acute” services offered by some establishments which is short-term medical care which might be needed, for example, for recovery after a knee surgery, or recovery after pneumonia while still on antibiotics, etc.

Next, Janet discussed the various terms of payment.  For independent living and assisted living, fees are usually paid privately.  For long-term nursing care, fees are paid either privately or through an insurance company.  Medicaid will also cover long-term nursing care after all of a person’s assets are depleted.  Medicare will only cover short-term acute care type of medical stays.


 Where does one start to look for retirement communities?  The first step is to look at the big picture.  Particularly where and in what part of the country should you locate?  Once that is decided, the telephone directory can be a good source for getting names and addresses of the nearest communities.  The next step is to call or e-mail to get printed information so that various features may be compared.  What services and amenities are offered?  Look for:  wellness centers, library resource, walking paths, chaplain, meal plan, social workers, transportation, and local proximity to shopping, etc.  Narrow your options down to a few places and then visit and have a full-fledged tour.  Be observant and don’t be afraid to talk to the residents.  (They will tell you how they really feel about the place!)  Do a little research and try to find out how vital the organization is.  Most of the major retirement communities in Ohio are financially stable.  There may be ones in states such as Florida, which are more risky.  There are both “for profit” and “non-profit” types of organizations.  The “for profit” ones are much more stable now.  Initially, they did not have such a good track record.  When it comes to evaluating fees, check to see what is and what is not included.  How many meals per week are included?  Is housekeeping and linen service included?  Make yourself a checklist.  You also need to know what the physical requirements are.   The criteria for assisted living or nurse care is typically determined by the physical needs of the person.  It’s usually up to the health care staff to make that decision.  Sometime, a family member may wait too long to enter independent care, especially those with the “not ready yet” mentality.  Episcopal Retirement Homes offers a multitude of activities for their residents.  This includes visiting symphonies, book clubs, etc.  One resident was quoted as saying “we have too much to do!”.


There are many different types of contracts available.  The type and style of the contract may depend upon what area of the country or state the retirement community is located in.  On the East Coast, a “life care” type of contract is popular.  A large, usually non-refundable amount is paid up front followed by fixed monthly fees.  There is no additional charge should the resident need to move to nursing care from assisted living, for example.  In Ohio, the “entrance fee” type of contract is more prevalent.  These tend to be significantly less that the “life care” up front fee, but the monthly fee can be higher and will be dependent upon what level of care is required.  Then there is the straight monthly fee that solely depends on the type of care needed.  Entrance fees make more sense for younger residents, while monthly fees may be better for older residents.  Entrance fees can vary with age.  A typical fee may be $50,000.  This compares to $200,000 to $300,000 for a life care type of fee.  Janet then discussed some more typical fees.  For independent type of care, fees can range from $1,200 to $2,000 per month.  This usually includes meals and transportation.  There may be a surcharge of $300/month for a spouse. The typical stay is ten to eleven years.  A typical fee for assisted living is $2,500 – $4,000 per month.  This would include 45 minutes per day of personal care to help get the day started, look after personal medications, etc.  The average length of stay may be two to three years.  Finally, a typical cost for nursing care would be $3,000 to $4,000 per month.


There was then some general group discussion.  It was asked if a parent could bring a hobby such as model trains to the retirement community.  This probably depends most upon the facility and if they would have a common room somewhere to accommodate the resident’s wishes.  Then there was some general discussion on three of the retirement communities in the Cincinnati-Dayton greater area:  Marjorie Lee, Dupree, and Canterbury.  Janet noted that Marjorie Lee tend to have older, more frail residents and offers up to three meal per day.  Dupree, which does not offer linen service, tends to have slightly younger residents and offers one meal per day.  Canterbury offers a couple of meals per week.  Since it is subsidized by the government, the fees can vary and are based upon the resident’s income and assets.


Everyone thanked Janet for the informative and enlightening discussion.  She noted that we could phone ERH for more information or feel free to send her an e-mail at