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A contract with a continuing care retirement center is an important document. It may lock you into paying a set amount for months and even years: you need to carefully ask questions of the center you decide to contract with before you sign on the line. Make sure you know exactly what you're agreeing to: what costs, what services, and what kinds of care. Every center's contract is different, but here are some items that may or may not be in your contract that you need to make sure are on paper.

• What kinds of care will be given on the premises? It's important for you to know what will happen if your loved one needs medical care. Will he be taken to a medical center? Is that center nearby? Will the care be administered there? Who will transport him?
• How much health insurance is included in the plan? Who is responsible for paying the medical bills? What kinds of care will the center's plan cover? Is there a dental plan? If the plan isn't to your satisfaction, you may want to look into upgrading the plan.
• Who determines whether advanced care is needed? How will that decision be made? What will be the determinants if your loved one should be taken to another facility?
• Will the contract be broken if your loved one dies? What if he wants to go home after only a few months? Will you get any kind of refund on your fees?
• Make sure the exact nature of the charges are listed in the contract.
• Make sure all services that will be covered are listed.
• Make sure the contract lists when refunds are given.
• If the contract is for both of your parents, make sure you know what happens if one of their conditions improves or diminishes. Are you responsible for more fees if one has to be moved to a nursing home facility?