New Florida law allows retirement communities to aid seniors still in their homes

May 16, 2011

The following article was published in the Naples Daily News on May 16, 2011:

New Florida law allows retirement communities to aid seniors in their homes

By Liz Freeman

Some seniors are caught between their past and their futures.

Legislation passed by Florida lawmakers during the recent session could offer some remedy.

The legislation addresses continuing care retirement communities and would allow these retirement communities to offer “memberships” to seniors for various services while they still live in their private residences.

State Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, was one of the House sponsors.

“This gives the (continuing care retirement community) the ability to provide services to people who want to live off-campus,” she said. “A lot of people can’t sell their home and they are stuck.”

The legislation enables seniors to become part of a retirement community before they have the need to move on the campus, she said. The membership can involve such services as use of wellness programs, the dining room and at-home health care, she said.

A continuing care retirement community involves a full spectrum of living arrangements for seniors who pay an entrance fee and monthly expenses. They initially move into independent living units on the campus while they are still healthy. As their health declines, they receive nursing or other home-health visits, and then move into the assisted living and skilled nursing areas of the retirement community.

In Florida, there are 70 continuing care retirement communities. Examples in Southwest Florida are Bentley Village in North Naples and Moorings Park in Naples.

In Florida, there are 70 continuing care retirement communities. Examples in Southwest Florida are Bentley Village in North Naples and Moorings Park in Naples.

Dan Lavender, president and chief executive officer of Moorings Park, describes the concept behind the legislation as “life-care without walls.”

Seniors will be able to buy some of the services offered by the retirement community while they are still living in their own home, with the plan to move on-campus in the future.

“It doesn’t necessarily guarantee a move-in but it does give us a way to structure services at home,” Lavender said. “It allows an organization like Moorings Park to create a program where you can begin to get the services at home.”

Moorings Park already has a separate home-health agency, which was started five years ago, but the “life-care without walls” concept is different and goes much further to guarantee a level of health care, he said.

Lavender said this type of service, which the Florida bill calls “continuing care at-home,” already is being offered in other states, such as New Jersey and Tennessee.

When asked if these types of contracts have been offered legally in Florida, Lavender said that was always a question.

“This legislation cleared that up,” he said.

The legislation spells out licensing requirements and regulations, and the contracts between seniors and the retirement communities will be considered insurance products with oversight by the state Office of Insurance Regulation.

The need for the continuing care at-home service is three-fold, said Janegale Boyd, president and chief executive officer of the Florida Association of Homes and Services for the Aging.

The service will help address seniors who can’t sell their homes due to the stagnant housing market but who want to start receiving the service until they can sell and move into the community, she said.

Secondly, the continuing care at-home contracts help meet the needs of seniors who still live at home and haven’t recognized yet that they will need services, she said.

A third point is that some retirement communities, because of the recession, are facing lower occupancy rates and the at-home care contracts will provide a source of revenue, she said.

Each retirement community will develop its contract and packages of services with the expectation that the seniors someday will move into the community, Boyd said.

“At some point down the road, they are paying to live on-campus; it could be one year, it could be five years,” she said, adding that the care at-home contract gives them priority to move on-campus later.

Boyd said the continuing care at-home contracts will not be competing with independent home-health-care businesses because the independent agencies don’t offer meals, wellness and other amenities.

“This bill passed every legislative committee unanimously,” she said. “There is no controversy.”

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