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Live Wisely - April 28, 2021

What is a CARF?

By Carolyn Buttolph

A short time ago, I opened a copy of the Falls Church News-Press. There on page 3 was a full page ad extolling the advantage of aging in place. The punch line was “There’s No Place Like Home”.

How True.

I was reminded of myself 11 years ago when I began to think about the end of life. I began thinking about my final home. I checked with relatives and friends. Almost all recommended the Goodwin House Life Plan Communities – Goodwin House Bailey’s Crossroads and Goodwin House Alexandria. So, early in 2010, I was one of the first residents in the newly constructed Pointe at Bailey’s Crossroads.

I found my home!

Almost immediately, I made a number of new friends and soon was immersed in various committees. The Finance Committee was particularly interesting. In a few years I became chair of that Committee. Later, I was elected to the Resident Council, and occasionally I would encounter Kathy Anderson, our CEO at the time.

On one of those occasions, Kathy Anderson asked if I would be interested in being a “resident” member of the Financial Advisory Panel (FAP) to CARF. I honestly had no idea what she was talking about, but I said I would think about it.

What in the world is a CARF?

I discovered that originally, CARF was an acronym for Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities. Founded in 1966, it was (and still is) an international, non-profit organization. However, its coverage expanded to such an extent that the acronym simply became a name.

What does CARF have to do with Goodwin House?

Well, CARF accredits Life Plan Communities (formerly known as CCRCs or Continuing Care Retirement Communities) like Goodwin House Alexandria and Goodwin House Bailey’s Crossroads. CARF accreditation requires engaging in a vigorous review and assessment of more than 1,500 individual standards, with surveyors closely considering everything from food and resident services to financial stability and building maintenance.

There are fewer than several hundred CARF-certified communities throughout the United States. About 10% of Life Plan Communities throughout the United States seek accreditation. Accreditation sets Goodwin House and its two senior living communities apart and affirms its commitment to excellence.

CARF’s Financial Advisory Panel (FAP) is a group of 12-15 financial experts, including CFOs and executives from accredited organizations, investment banking, accounting and other related firms.

The FAP meets twice a year to exchange information and provide advice and expertise to support CARF financial planning and management standards. By the way, the FAP also includes a “consumer” – an actual resident from a member firm.

That’s my role. As a “consumer” on the FAP, I contribute a different viewpoint than held by most of the group. Quite frankly, however, I have learned much more than I have contributed

But let’s go back to the beginning – my search for a “final home”

I didn’t look for any CARF accreditation. I depended on recommendations from friends and relatives. Recently, I checked with my fellow residents, and most of them did the same. I also checked with a cousin in California who lives in a retirement community like Goodwin House – and the same thing happens there.

Only in retrospect do I now realize that the reason friends and relatives recommend one of the Goodwin House Life Plan Communities is because our organization is held to high standards set by CARF – a situation that friends and relatives just didn’t attribute to CARF.

Now I realize that when I first spoke with a sales counselor about becoming a resident, mention may have been made about CARF accreditation – but the importance of that didn’t register. Nor did it register that a substantial portion of the entrance fee as well as the monthly fee might be a deduction on my income tax return.

Now I realize I was extraordinarily lucky to wind up in an accredited Life Plan Community. Now I realize that I would never put my money in a bank that isn’t backed by FDIC. Nor would I send grandchildren to a college that lacks accreditation.

Of course, I also realize that facilities without CARF accreditation might also provide adequate care – but there is no guarantee that they will.

So, what is a CARF? It is the armor older adults can depend upon to provide for a caring and viable home.


Carolyn Buttolph worked for the Internal Revenue Service for 30 years in a number of positions. In 1972, she was the first woman to be appointed as a District Director. Most of her career was in data processing, and in 1988, she headed the group that introduced electronic filing. Several years after retirement, she served as a consultant to the International Monetary Fund to assist Belarus in establishing a tax system. Shortly after moving to GHBC in 2010, Carolyn found herself as Chair of the Building Operations and Maintenance Committee. Later, her interests took her into the Finance Committee. More recently, she headed up the Trips and Outings Committee to indulge her love of travel. At present, Carolyn Serves on the Financial Advisory Panel of CARF to represent residents of CCRCs such as Goodwin House.

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