When to Get On the Wait List at a Retirement Community

If you or a loved one is considering their senior living options, you likely have started doing research on the retirement communities. Or perhaps you have a loved one in need of long-term care or memory care and staying in the home will not be safe for much longer. With all the different communities and facilities available, it can be a lot to take in so the decision process can take some time. This varies from one person to another because some senior living decisions are needs-based and move much quicker, while others are more preference-based and can take months or even years. Once you hone in on a few specific places that meet your criteria, you may want to consider getting your name on their waiting lists. Many facilities, particularly assisted living or nursing care facilities, are likely that they have one.

The Timing Conundrum

Ideally, one should not wait until the day they need to move to begin planning. If for no other reason this can be problematic because there could be a waitlist for the facility you like best. But one of the challenges of planning ahead for long-term care housing needs is that it can be hard to foresee exactly when you will need it–it could happen slowly with the natural aging process or the progression of a degenerative disease, or it can occur quickly with an illness or injury. So it is advisable to get on three or four waiting lists if you are looking at assisted living or a long-term care facility for yourself or a family member; this way, when the time comes and you need care, you will hopefully be near the top of the list for at least one facility.

If you are eyeing a CCRC, another consideration is that many of these communities require that new residents be relatively able-bodied in order to enter into a continuing care contract. In fact, many life plan communities have a very active base of residents who live independently today but want to be someplace where care is available to them onsite when needed. Most CCRCs maintain an assisted living and/or health care center in addition to offering independent living. Therefore, residents moving into a CCRC do not necessarily know when or how much care they may eventually need.

How Retirement Community Waiting Lists Work

Most communities or facilities will require a deposit in order to add your name to their waitlist; the amount can range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. In some communities, this deposit may be refundable if you change your mind or get into another facility first; always ask about the waiting list refund policy. As it relates to assisted living facilities, sometimes the refund will only be refunded if the resident is unable to move into the facility for health care reasons.

Many CCRCs also have waiting lists. Yet, the waiting lists for CCRCs are not necessarily for assisted living or nursing care because CCRCs provide access to a full continuum of care with new residents first moving into independent living. When adding your name to a CCRC or assisted living list, you will typically specify which type of unit you desire. When a resident living in your desired unit type moves out, then the unit will become available to you.

There are two common forms of waitlists that you will find at various facilities.

The open-ended waitlist is the more flexible of the two types. When your name reaches the top of the list, you are not required to move in immediately; you can keep your top position on the list and wait until the next desired unit opens up. The challenge with this type of list is that it gives an inexact picture of how many people are actually ready to move to the community so it can take a long time for your name to come to the top slot.

Some facilities have a “three-strike rule” waitlist. As the name might suggest, for these communities, if you get to the top of the list and turn down that opening three times, you get bumped back to the bottom of the list. You will even run across a few communities that have a one-strike rule for their lists.

Once you are on the waiting list, CCRCs or other retirement communities frequently will offer a variety of perks to future residents–maybe unlimited use of their pool and exercise facility, or access to other community events and activities. In fact, a growing number of CCRCs are beginning to call their waitlist a “membership.” Taking advantage of this benefit allows you to begin the process of assimilating into the community and meeting future neighbors, even before you live there.

It is also good to be aware that some communities will have an internal waiting list. If you find yourself in a situation where you need (or want) to move into the community and your preferred unit is not available–forcing you to settle for your second or third choice–you can go ahead and move in but stay on the internal list and wait for your desired unit-type to open up. Existing residents will typically get priority over non-residents, so you may be able to get your preference relatively quickly, though you may be required to pay a transfer fee or pay the additional cost if your desired residence is more expensive. Be sure you ask about any charges you will incur. 

Your Waiting List Checklist

Before you get on a waiting list:

  • Research, research, research so you are as educated as possible about your senior living options and various scenarios. Be sure you understand the details of the residency contract and what your fees include.
  • Take a tour of your top contenders; you may find that two or three really stand out when you visit them in person, while others may be easy to eliminate.
  • Ask as many questions as you can about the community or facility, their contract types, and their waiting list policies (including refunds).

After you get on a waiting list:

  • Relax. You have made a major life decision to plan for your future; it will likely feel like a tremendous load has been lifted.
  • Begin thinking about organizing your home; consider what you will and will not be able to take with you when the time comes to move.
  • Begin thinking about when you will be ready; consider making a list of determining factors such as age, overall health (including the ability to safely drive), current housing situation, savings and assets, family considerations, etc.
  • Take advantage of any perks offered by the community to future residents who are on the waiting list; you will grow more comfortable with the surroundings and meet new friends too.

Adding your name to the retirement community and assisted living facility waiting lists is one of the ways you can plan for your future. This step can give you and your loved ones a level of security, knowing that you will be well-cared for as you age.

The above article was written by Brad Breeding of myLifeSite and is legally licensed for use.

LifeSpire of Virginia Announces Dr. Tiffany Franks As New Board Member

LifeSpire of Virginia is pleased to announce that Dr. Tiffany Franks, President of Averett University, has joined its Board of Trustees. The appointment comes as part of the organization’s ongoing partnership with the university.

In her role as trustee, Franks will provide strategic leadership, planning and oversight for the organization.

Franks became President of Averett University in July 2008. With 24 years of senior-level administrative experience in higher education, that began when she was 23 as the dean of students, Franks’ leadership style and problem-solving expertise has led her through leadership roles in admissions, financial aid, student life, marketing and communications, public relations and fundraising. Before taking the helm at Averett, she served as the Executive Vice President at Greensboro College in North Carolina.

“Dr. Franks’ expertise as a trusted leader, community developer and fundraiser will be a valuable resource as LifeSpire of Virginia continues to grow. Her participation on our board is a continuation of the partnership with Averett and our organization’s commitment to lifelong learning, intellectual and spiritual growth for both residents and employees,” said LifeSpire’s President and CEO Jonathan Cook.

The partnership provides employees with a 40% discount on tuition for online and in-person classes at Averett, LifeSpire residents to attend college-level lectures right where they live and Averett students to serve as interns at LifeSpire.

Ways to Support the VBH Foundation This Holiday Season

For many people, the holiday season is all about giving gifts to loved ones, decorating, preparing favorite recipes, spending time with family and friends and reflecting on the year’s blessings. As you make your list, you may want to consider a gift in the form of benevolence this year.

Lakewood Retirement Community’s Honor Tree

For 70 years, LifeSpire of Virginia has remained committed to seniors. During this time, we have never asked a life-care resident to leave their home due to insufficient funds that resulted through no fault of their own. Through the generosity of loyal donors like you, the VBH Foundation will provide almost $1.2 million in essential services and programs to 52 seniors this year.  Safe, secure housing, wellness and spiritual programs, nutritious meals, socialization, prescription drugs, rehabilitation therapy, and skilled nursing care all help to keep a senior healthy and active.

During the holiday season, the VBH Foundation sponsors an Honor Tree in each of our communities. We decorate these special trees with the names of individuals who have been honored or remembered with a gift to the VBH Foundation during the year. The holiday season can be a difficult time when you have lost a loved one, and the Honor Tree is one way to commemorate their passing. More information about making a tribute gift is available online.

Other Ways to Give

Support Spiritual Life

As a faith-based organization birthed in Christian values and Virginia Baptist traditions, LifeSpire’s communities seek to provide spiritual refreshment and encouragement to residents and staff alike. Each community offers chaplaincy services and provides a variety of spiritual life programs. You can be a part of promoting spiritual wellness by giving to support spiritual life programs and pastoral care. Find out how online.

Invest in LifeSpire Staff

LifeSpire’s mission of “empowering individuals with choices in purposeful living” doesn’t just extend to our residents. We also want to empower our staff to achieve their full potential and live their very best lives. As a result, we offer scholarships and tuition reimbursement to help further their education.  Ultimately, the impact of this support extends to LifeSpire residents—knowledgeable and content employees deliver the ultimate in care, service, and hospitality.  You support these opportunities for LifeSpire team members when you give to the employee education fund.

Contact Us

If you have questions regarding charitable giving, please contact VBH Foundation Vice President Jodi Leonard at (804) 521-9213. Gifts to the VBH Foundation, a 501(c) (3) nonprofit, tax-exempt organization (#52-1373103), are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. We will send an acknowledgment of your gift to the specified address.

Using the Holiday Season to Talk to Your Family About Your Future Care

As the holiday season gets underway and families come together to celebrate, it may seem like a good time to broach the topic of your future care with adult children. Conversations like this can be awkward and difficult for both parties, especially amidst the joy of the season. Each may feel a bit of denial about the realities of aging. For the elder loved one, it’s that they are no longer as independent as they’ve always been or considered themselves to be, and for the adult children, it’s that their parents still exist in their minds as strong, self-reliant figures, and this image is being turned on its head. You may not worry that having this discussion may put a damper on the festivities, but having everyone together for such an important topic may bring everyone peace of mind.

Here are some topics to touch on with your family when you decide it’s time to share thoughts about your future care.

Health: Educate your family on the reality of the current state of your health and what you know about the trajectory of your health in the near future. Perhaps you are still in good health but are planning for the future. However, if your health or independence has begun to decline, this may be a good time to share it, especially if it could be hereditary. It can be jarring to learn that a parent or family member is no longer completely healthy, so make sure the conversation is open, answer any questions and consider providing resources for your family to learn more.

Living arrangements: If you have already made arrangements to move into a retirement community or even an assisted living community, tell your family about how and when you came to this decision. Keep in mind: They may be blindsided, but also potentially pleased, by aspects of the conversation, including the idea that they will not be your caretaker as they may have anticipated. Bring informational materials about the community to give them, and let them know why you are excited about this place. This move could alter how you previously spent time with your family, so discuss how visiting will work now. Let them know that this decision will free up the family to focus on the most important things without having to worry about potential care needs. If you haven’t yet made solid plans, ask your family for their opinions and ideas about your future care.

Future care wishes: This can be a hard conversation to have, but it is important to discuss end-of-life choices and other related official matters. Discuss long-term care, your will (if this applies) and how to handle medical decisions if it becomes pertinent. Again, this can be a delicate topic to, so keep the conversation light and candid. Let your family know that you are not discussing this because it is relevant at the current moment, but because it is relevant for your future as you plan out your aging process.

The above content is legally licensed for use by myLifeSite .

LifeSpire of Virginia Promotes Jodi Leonard to Vice President of the VBH Foundation

LifeSpire of Virginia is pleased to announce that Jodi Leonard has been selected as the vice president of the Virginia Baptist Homes (VBH) Foundation. In this role, Leonard will lead the annual planning, relationship building and fundraising administration for the organization. For the past four years, she served as the organization’s director of development. Her expected transition date to the vice president role is January 1, 2020.

Leonard succeeds Pat Morris who will retire in December 2019 after eight years of service.

“We are grateful to Pat for her service to the foundation. Her work will leave a lasting impact on our organization. While we are sad to see her go, I’m confident Jodi will pick up right where Pat left off,” said Jonathan Cook, LifeSpire’s President and CEO. “In Jodi’s tenure with LifeSpire, it has become abundantly clear that she is dedicated to serving non-profits and is always willing to go above and beyond for the residents and staff in each of our communities. Her commitment to servant leadership and passion for our mission make it possible for our residents to live purposefully in their home long after their resources have been exhausted.”

A Long Island native, Leonard has more than 25 years of fundraising experience in Virginia and New York. She recently received her designation as a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) from CFRE International signifying confidence in ethical fundraising, accountability, service and commitment to making a difference for good. She also completed a Leadership Intensive Training for New and Emerging Directors from the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance.    

Leonard attended Nassau College in New York and received certification in fundraising from the University of Richmond’s Institute on Philanthropy. She keeps busy at home with three children, two dogs and one guinea pig.

LifeSpire Congratulates Culpeper Baptist Church for AARP Community Partner of the Year Award

Genea Luck, AARP Virginia Associate State Director for Community Outreach for Central Virginia, presents Rev. Hans Murdock of Culpeper Baptist Church with the 2019 Community Partner of the Year award. (Photo credit: Melody Robbins)

On November 12, Culpeper Baptist Church received the AARP Virginia Community Partner of the Year Award during the AARP Virginia All-Volunteer Assembly in Richmond. The church won the award as a result of its community engagement and partnership with LifeSpire’s community in Culpeper, Va., The Culpeper.

Hans Murdock, the senior adult pastor and chaplain at The Culpeper, accepted the award on behalf of the church. Murdock splits his time between Culpeper Baptist Church and The Culpeper in a unique arrangement designed to meet the spiritual needs of residents and seniors in the broader Culpeper community.

The Community Partner of the Year Award recognizes an organization or agency that has made outstanding contributions to the work of AARP Virginia by collaborating with AARP volunteers and staff to enhance the quality of life for members of the community.

The church, under the direction of Murdock, collaborated with AARP to host four Movies for Grownups events, two Veterans Appreciation events, a Faith Leaders and Caregivers event and by hosting several planning committee meetings for the Aging Together Coalition.

The church also has several multicultural ministries including a Korean service, a Spanish group and it has promoted the AARP Prepare to Care resource books to their ministries.

 “The local church should lead the faith conversations in our community and I think that most residents want to be connected to a local faith community,” said Pastor Dan Carlton. “It draws the church out of its shell and allows church leaders to be aware of greater needs.”

Culpeper Baptist Church has a long history of community partnerships including the founding of The Culpeper. Today, about 35 residents are active members of the church.

“There’s exponential value in partnerships,” Carlton commented. “Culpeper Baptist Church is one of the oldest churches in the region and is committed to being a model for others in serving the broader community.”

The All-Volunteer Assembly honors AARP Virginia’s most dedicated volunteers. AARP Virginia volunteers provide outreach and advocacy for more than one million AARP members in Virginia as well as all Virginians age 50+, and are committed to community service and helping everyone age with dignity and purpose.

LifeSpire of Virginia Hires Corporate Director of Communications

LifeSpire of Virginia recently named Hillary Smith as Corporate Director of Communications. Smith is replacing Ann Lovell who accepted a role with the International Mission Board. In this role, Smith is responsible for oversight and direction of public and media relations, social media, crisis communication and reputation management.   

“We are pleased to welcome Hillary to the LifeSpire family. Her extensive background in nonprofit public relations and experience as a television news reporter uniquely qualifies her to lead our corporate communication strategy, tell LifeSpire’s story and strengthen the brand,” said Jonathan Cook, LifeSpire’s president and CEO.

Smith has more than 10 years’ experience in communication roles with the Airlines Reporting Corp., NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association and Virginia Society of CPAs. She worked as a television news reporter and anchor for local CBS and FOX affiliates in Beckley, WVa. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in mass communication from Emory & Henry College in Emory, Va.

Smith and her husband, Raymond, have one daughter, Maeve, and a cat named Junebug. The family lives in Chesterfield.

LifeSpire welcomes Corporate Director of Construction Management

LifeSpire of Virginia recently named Derek Meyer as Corporate Director of Construction Management. Meyer is replacing Stan Patterson who is retiring. In this role, Meyer is responsible for oversight and direction of construction, expansion and renovation of all LifeSpire communities.   

“We are pleased to welcome Derek to the LifeSpire family. His progressive experience in engineering and project management has positioned him well to lead our efforts in expanding and renovating our communities for our current and future residents,” said Jonathan Cook, LifeSpire’s president and CEO.

Meyer has more than 10 years’ experience in progressive leadership roles with the Whiting-Turner Contracting Company and Urban Core Construction. He holds a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, and he is pursuing a master of business administration from the Raymond A. Mason School of Business at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg. 

Derek and his wife, Kimberly, have one daughter, Brooke, and a great dane named Memphis Belle. The family lives in Richmond’s West End.

LifeSpire welcomes VP of Information Technology

RICHMOND, Virginia—LifeSpire of Virginia recently named Robert Wilbanks to the newly created position of Vice President of Information Technology. In this role reporting to the Chief Financial Officer, Wilbanks leads LifeSpire’s information technology efforts and is responsible for all aspects of information technology, project management, systems analysis, cyber-security and business management pertaining to LifeSpire and its affiliates. 

“We are pleased to welcome Robert to this position. We appreciate the depth of technical experience and IT vision he brings to the organization,” said Chris Markwith, LifeSpire’s Chief Financial Officer.

Wilbanks has more than 18 years of extensive working experience and is well versed in implementing innovative solutions to complex technical issues, Markwith said. His technical skills include business continuity, networking, and infrastructure design among others.

He holds certifications in CCNA +Security, CISSP, and MCSE Microsoft. Most recently, Wilbanks served as Information Technology Infrastructure Manager with Langley Federal Credit Union. He has also served in progressive leadership roles with Chesapeake Financial Shares in Virginia and Rancho Physical Therapy in California. 

Wilbanks lives in a 105-year-old general store that he restored with his wife, Heidi. Chickens, goats, alpaca and bees keep them busy.

Just Keep Singing: Music And Dementia

By Ann Lovell

Bernice Thomas* sits down at the piano. Her hair is professionally styled, as always, and her pink blouse gives her skin a healthy glow. Her smile is infectious.

“What do you want me to play?” she asks.

“Play a hymn,” her daughter encourages. “Play ‘Jesus loves me.’”

Thomas thinks for a moment. She places her hands on the keyboard. The music begins to flow from deep within her soul. Effortlessly, she moves to the next hymn, “How Great Thou Art,” and over the course of the next 20 to 30 minutes, she plays a series of hymns, all without a hymnbook, all from memory.

Ironically, Thomas has Alzheimer’s disease, a form of dementia that results in progressive memory loss and decreased thinking ability. The WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION reports that dementia is a growing public health problem, affecting around 50 million people globally. Nearly 10 million new cases are reported every year.

Understanding the role that music can play in minimizing the effects of dementia can help families and caregivers seek out programs that enhance the quality of life of those they love, like Thomas, who are suffering from dementia, SCIENTISTS say.

Thomas might not remember that she had her hair styled this morning. In a few hours, she might not remember that she gave an impromptu concert in the community room of her retirement community. But at this moment, the hymns she learned in childhood flow from her fingers like water from a spring.


SCIENTISTS say this happens because the parts of the brain that process art and music are located near the places where memories are stored. Alzheimer’s doesn’t seem to affect those parts, according to studies.

The explanations may be deeper than neurological, writes John Swinton, author of “DEMENTIA: LIVING IN THE MEMORIES OF GOD.” Because of the spiritual and emotional attention that music enhances, the ability to remember and enjoy music when all other memories are lost indicates it is core to our identities — to the “eternal” sense of self that never leaves us. Theologians define that eternal sense of self as “the soul.”

Through memory and imagination, people are time travelers, and “music is a vehicle that we use as we travel through time,” Swinton writes. “Certain songs contain our memories. As soon as we hear them, we’re whisked backward in time to situations, events, and people that were deeply meaningful to us and that remind us of things we have done and people we have loved.”


Scientists have long known that music helps increase cognitive functions, including memory, speech, attention and verbal intelligence. A 2015 COMMENTARY  by Carmela Maltrone and Elvira Brattico, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease & Parkinsonism, notes that practicing music helps prevent the death of brain cells normally related to aging. Regular musical activities, like singing, also help reduce the risk of developing dementia in healthy older adults. Studies show when caregivers sing along, their quality of life improves as well.

“In a recent study, 10 weeks singing practice by both the patients and the caregivers positively affected not only the short-term and working memory of patients but even the quality of life of the caregivers,” Brattico and Maltrone write.

In other words, singing is good for the soul, regardless of age.


Music can also help pull a person out of the cognitive haze Alzheimer’s creates, even in advanced stages, Swinton writes.

“Songs, music, art, dance and ritual actually function as modes of extended memory — that is, places where memory is stored is external to its normal location in the brain,” Swinton writes. “They act as keys that can unlock emotions, feelings and recollections that would otherwise be inaccessible.”

Music therapy for both musicians and non-musicians is not a new concept, and many senior living communities incorporate music therapy into their regular programming for Alzheimer’s patients.

The memory care neighborhood where Thomas lives includes a piano that Thomas plays frequently. The community often invites musicians and singers to perform for memory care residents, and staff in the neighborhood often sing along or dance with residents during the performances.

“It’s amazing to watch residents sing along to songs from the 40s and 50s,” said one caregiver. “They remember every word.”

For more information on what LifeSpire’s memory care neighborhoods can offer your loved ones, contact:

Rose Wallace, The Culpeper, 540-825-2411
Donna Buhrman, Lakewood, 804-740-2900
Liz Gee, The Chesapeake, 757-223-1600
Dreama Slone, The Glebe, 540-591-2100


*Name changed

Ann Lovell is Corporate Director of Communications for LifeSpire of Virginia, which manages four continuing care retirement communities and one continuing care at home, including The Culpeper in Culpeper, The Glebe in Daleville, The Chesapeake in Newport News and Lakewood and Lakewood at Home in Richmond.