When seeking a life plan community, third-party reviews can provide critical insight

Have you ever been in a hurry for a service or a restaurant recommendation? Where’s the first place you turn to these days? The internet! Yes, I do it all the time myself, especially when I need to find an out-of-town restaurant or have a major appliance repaired at my home.

Sometimes you can find out a lot about the organization in question and sometimes not. I’ll often check out customer reviews posted on a variety of sites to learn more about real-life experiences. Reviews posted on the internet are from actual users of the service, so most times I think they are good indicators of the quality I’d receive. But did you know some of these reviews are purposely “hyped” by friends of the company or owner? And yes, some of the ratings are very low, based on one person’s experience that occasion – maybe they had a bad server, or perhaps they had to wait longer than they thought they should. Whatever the case, personal ratings must be taken with discretion.

Thankfully, continuing care retirement communities – better known now as life plan communities – have multiple third parties looking over their shoulders to help consumers discern the good from the not-as-good.

In North Carolina, multiple governmental agencies exist to offer consumers at least a first line of protection, primarily through disclosure and inspection. But many communities go the extra mile and invite an additional third-party accrediting agency into their organizations for further scrutiny. The main, and essentially only, accrediting body for life plan communities is CARF, or the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (which, in my opinion, probably needs to consider a name change, but once upon a time it was known as The Continuing Care Accreditation Commission). CARF accredits approximately 300 life plan communities across the country, including roughly 18 in North Carolina, and among these Well•Spring, A Life Plan Community in Greensboro.

Next week, surveyors from CARF will descend upon Well•Spring for a three-day review of its operations. Surveyors will examine everything from governance to housekeeping as they compare Well•Spring to established standards for accredited communities. Most importantly, these surveyors will include a financial specialist who will examine Well•Spring ‘s current financial status, as well as its financial outlook.

We hope for – and expect! – a good outcome from the survey. But I think it’s important to note that consumers should rely on more than happenstance internet ratings when choosing something as substantial and life-long as a life-plan community. While these ratings should be part of one’s decision-making, adding in an objective – yet educated – third party accrediting body’s “seal of approval” is yet another level of assurance when making this beneficial and significant commitment.

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