Why is home so special? Home represents a lifetime of experiences. Fond memories. Important people. Happy times. Hard work. Comfort. A sense of safety and security. Most of all, our homes represent independence. In our homes we make all our own choices about how we want to live, how we want to spend our time, and who we allow into our cherished space.
For some people considering the future, selling a home and moving to a senior living community represents complete loss of independence – or going back into the closet. Even though many modern-day retirement communities are diverse and inclusive, and have been proven to increase wellbeing and longevity from many factors—including increased social interaction and a sense of belonging—having to adjust to living in a community setting and sharing amenities with others is not everyone’s preferred option.
Fortunately, senior living comes in many shapes and sizes. Life Plan Communities (also known as Continuing Care Retirement Communities) offer a full continuum of care, ranging from independent living residences to assisted living, skilled nursing, rehabilitation care, and memory care, all on one campus.
Assisted Living Communities offer apartments or cottages designed for senior safety with services that provide help with daily living needs such as personal care and medication management.
Active Adult Communities (or 55+ Communities) typically offer maintenance-free apartments, condos, or villas with a calendar of activities, and some services such as housekeeping, meals, and transportation. Health care services are not included.
For those who cannot imagine leaving their home—there is a new wave of at-home programs known as Continuing Care at Home (CCaH) developing all over the country, allowing people to age in place and meet their health care needs at home. Not to be confused with Home Health Care Agencies, which provide a wide range of health care services that can be given in one’s home after an illness or injury, these at-home programs offer many benefits, including access to a host of amenities and health care services as they are needed.
CCaH programs are life care membership programs offering the same type of services as a Life Plan Community (or CCRC). They focus on enhancing members’ ability to remain independent in their own homes, continuing to enjoy their current lives as they age. Members pay a one-time fee upon joining and monthly fees in exchange for a lifetime guarantee of a comprehensive package of services designed to address holistic health. Monthly fees do not increase as a member needs care, thus providing predictability of their assets and reassurance that they will get the right care at the right time, regardless of their age or stage of life. As one Thrive at Home member put it, “My long-term care is now a fixed cost. I can plan for my travels and everything else without worry I should have saved the money in case I need a nursing home one day.”
Thrive at Home is a CCaH program Whitney Center, a Life Plan Community in Hamden introduced in September 2016. Understanding the importance of inclusivity and sensitivity in care, Thrive at Home trains its staff through the national SAGECare LGBT cultural competency training and Connecticut’s Getting it Right program. “Inviting people, especially caregivers, into your home is intimate. It is important to us that Thrive at Home be “out and proud,” so our members know they can be too. There is no guessing that we are inclusive if we “come out” first.” says Michelle M. Pandolfi, Executive Director of Thrive at Home. Thrive at Home has received Platinum certification from SAGECare the country’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving lives of LGBT older adults since 1978, and has received Advanced certification from Getting It Right, a program of Connecticut Community Care that works with providers of aging services to create intentionally welcoming and inclusive services for LGBT clients and their families.
CCaHs like Thrive at Home, provide its members with care coordination, home safety evaluations, annual physicals, social and educational programs, medical transportation, meal delivery, personal emergency response systems, in-home and facility-based care and asset protection. Care and services come from the sponsoring Life Plan Community or through partnerships with vetted, established organizations. Members may gain access to offerings of social and cultural events and amenities of the sponsoring Life Plan Community as well. Besides all this, they have the assurance that the comprehensive range of long-term care services, from in-home assistance and personal care to facility-based care such as adult day care, assisted living and skilled nursing care, will be available whenever needed.
Care coordination is at the core of these programs with most offering 24/7 care coordination. Care coordinators regularly assess members’ health and functional status, recommend services and obtain and manage those services on behalf of members. “Every member of ours is partnered with a personal service partner who gets to know each member personally. PSPs help members choose care options that honor their wishes and align with what’s most important to them,” says Pandolfi, “Personal Service Partners are your allies and advocates, providing guidance and options for whatever concerns may arise. Members are in control of their futures. We just provide the information, resources, and support to keep it that way.” Considering the unknowns and difficulties that people face navigating the health care system, care coordinators help alleviate the burden of care from members or their loved ones. Depending on the program, care coordinators can be social workers, nurses or a combination of both.
Applicants to CCaH programs are often financially and medically qualified prior to membership. Designed for those that are healthy and independent upon joining, only those not in need of immediate services and those without degenerative diagnoses are accepted. Some CCaH programs offer portability as a membership benefit. Meaning members can move to another town or out of state and the benefits of the program travel right along with them. The member’s care coordinator then manages services with health care providers local to the member’s new home. Thrive at Home serves members throughout Connecticut and nationwide, currently serving members in six states.
CCaH programs have existed for more than 20 years, but the majority of the 33 programs in the United States have started within the last decade. Three exist in Connecticut. In addition to Thrive at Home with Whitney Center, Seabury at Home out of Bloomfield and in Bridgeport, Senior Choice at Home.
For those passionate about staying home, CCaH programs offer a greater freedom and adaptability than other senior living options. Continuing one’s independence and remaining home, while having health care services provided and pre-paid, regardless of how health care requirements change, offers an appeal that may make CCaH programs a popular choice for a growing number of seniors.
For information about Thrive at Home with Whitney Center call 203.848.2626 or visit thriveathome.org to learn more about membership plans or to attend an upcoming informational session.