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Accreditation of Continuing Care Retirement
Communities: What Does It Mean?

By Lillian L. Hyatt, M.S.W. and a Resident of a CCRC

Excerpted from the Fall 2004 The CANHR Advocate newsletter

According to the Continuing Care Accreditation Commission (CCAC), accreditation is a process that demonstrates that a provider has met CCAC’s standards for service quality. The CCAC has established specific standards to evaluate how well a provider is serving its residents and how it can improve. Accreditation is supposed to be a useful tool for potential residents, especially if the assumption is that an "accredited" facility is better than one that is not.

Unfortunately, the data collected by CCAC on Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) is not currently available as public information. In addition, when a facility’s record shows an obvious increase in the number of deficiencies, its accredited status remains the same for five years unless the CCAC feels it is necessary to do an interim assessment. That means that if a facility is declining, potential consumers might feel a false sense of security simply because it is accredited.

The benefit of accreditation is that it is a valuable marketing tool. Most CCRCs spend between $10,000 and $20,000 to market just one residential unit. If just one resident moves in because the facility is accredited, it will more than cover the cost of the accreditation for the CCRC.

Part of the CCAC accreditation process is finding out what residents actually think about their facilities. However, opinions are sometimes handpicked. In one Northern California CCRC, some residents who filled out the initial questionnaire were screened out and never again asked to give their input about services because they had rated the CCRC services as poor. For potential residents of the CCRC, this might jeopardize the value of the accreditation granted.

The CCAC and the Continuing Care Accreditation Commission (CARF) merged in 2003, and claim that more information regarding facilities will be available to the public in 2005. Still, because a great deal of the information obtained in the accreditation process comes from a sanitized self’survey, it can never be totally accurate in reflecting the needs, opinions or requests for improvement that come from current CCRC residents. As a result, some consumers feel that CCAC accreditation is of limited use to potential residents in making their decision to enter a particular CCRC.