Searching for the right assisted living situation for yourself or a loved one can be very confusing. There are many different sorts of arrangements, and contracts available, each involving a smorgasbord of services offered and fees charged. How can you make the right choices? In this article, we review the many things you should keep in mind when choosing the right assisted living at the right price for you. Read on to learn more.
What’s The Average Cost of Assisted Living?
The monthly fees in assisted living are determined by many different factors, including:
Generally speaking, you can expect a good quality assisted living situation to cost a little over $4000 a month in the United States these days, or around $50,000 a year. This can vary greatly, though.
Usually, when determining how much assisted living will cost, you begin with a base rate that is determined by up-front costs. This may be anywhere from $2000 a month to $7000 a month. Additionally, you may be required to pay a move-in fee, which typically runs between $1000-$5000.
Special needs and extra services would add to this basic monthly fee. To be sure of getting the most value in your area, it’s a good idea to research the costs of assisted living nationwide.
To determine exactly how much assisted living care will cost you, begin by getting an overall idea of assisted living cost nationwide. For current information, see Genworth’s Cost of Care Survey. This handy tool includes an interactive map to help you pinpoint precise costs for your location and needs.
How Can You Save Money on Assisted Living?
You will notice that the cost of assisted living is generally higher in areas where overall cost of living is higher. When you choose the area you are willing to consider, you may want to expand your circle to include some suburban or rural areas that may be a bit more affordably priced.
Follow up by determining the area(s) you are willing to consider and then doing a site-by-site comparison. Inquire about these items and services:
Ask for a breakdown sheet of all costs and services offered. Get it in writing, and don’t make any arrangements or sign anything until you have had a chance to sit down and compare costs side-by-side. Once you’ve sorted out your top picks, you can begin making site visits to get a feel for the facilities you are considering.
In the US, there are many different assisted living situations to choose from because this sort of living situation is in great demand. More than 800,000 seniors (with about half over the age of 85) live in assisted living settings in the US.
When Is Assisted Living The Right Choice?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Whether you or your loved one are better off aging in place or moving to an assisted living setting depends upon a lot of different variables, such as:
A senior who is fairly able bodied may prefer to live alone with little or no outside care. On the other hand, active seniors often prefer to live in an assisted setting with activities and social events as a way of simply relaxing, enjoying life and making new friends.
A senior in need of more care might be happier staying at home and relying on family and support from social services where applicable. On the other hand, if the family is stressed and/or the home is not safe or easy to navigate, moving to a setting designed for senior life may bring welcome relief to all concerned.
Is Aging in Place Affordable?
Aging in place may be more, or less, expensive than moving to an assisted living. Again, this depends greatly upon what services and what level of care are needed. Available resources and assistance play a big part in determining costs as well.
Aging in place may involve adaptations such as:
It’s wise to keep in mind that these sorts of adaptations and more are already in place in a good assisted living setting. For this reason, assisted living may end up being less costly than aging at home.
When aging in place, rent or mortgage may be the highest cost. In assisted living, high quality personalized senior care will probably cost more than rent or mortgage.
You may be tempted to think that choosing to age in place would be a lot cheaper because of this; however, focus on that word - cheap. Consider whether that’s what you want, and think about the impact of taking the “cheap” route. While family members may be able to provide quality care at low monetary cost, what is the physical and emotional cost for the care providers?
Caregiver burnout can be a real problem for family members caring for a senior at home. It can ruin relationships and break up families. One big advantage of an assisted living situation is the presence of a fairly large staff. Professional aides will, ideally, work set hours and have time for rest and recreation between shifts. This can improve quality of life for all concerned.
Another quality of living cost which may seem expensive when charged as a monthly fee is socializing and entertainment. We don’t think about this in a home setting, but in an assisted living setting, regular activities and social events are something residents can look forward to and count on. To provide the same level of events and activities in home setting would definitely be a lot more work and would cost more than a well planned life enrichment program in an assisted living setting.
Life enrichment is extremely important for seniors as it helps keep them fit, active and sharp. Being in a setting where it’s possible to make new friends and join in social activities helps seniors avoid boredom and loneliness.
What’s In A Good Assisted Living Contract?
When you make your site visits, be sure to pick up a copy of the contract you will be required to sign. Take it with you to read in the privacy of your own home and/or with the help or your lawyer or other advisor.
A well written contract should include itemized listings for the cost of rent, utilities and maintenance. There should also be an itemized list of services available, such as:
Most of these services are usually included in a base rate. The cost of personal care services may vary greatly depending upon the needs of the resident. A resident who can manage medications, dress, get to meals and activities and eat independently will naturally require a lot less personal care than one who cannot.
Generally speaking, personal care expenses are determined by the amount of time aides would need to spend assisting. Additional services, such as memory care for patients with dementia, physical therapy and the like might add to the costs for personal care.
Flat Rates Can Make Life Simple
There are also assisted living communities that simply charge a flat fee and deliver a standard set of services. This may be a good option if those services and the setting fit the needs of the resident.
You must be sure to get a complete list of everything that is included in the flat monthly fee. Study it carefully to be sure you really will be getting your money’s worth. Also, bear in mind that changes in the needs of the resident may result in a need to move to another setting, and this can be very disruptive and disorienting for seniors.
Can Seniors Age in Place in Assisted Living?
Continuing Care or Life Plan Communities guarantee that the entrance fee you pay up front will provide access to every level of care from assisted living to memory care and nursing home care. In this sort of facility, the entrance fee is applied toward extended care, and it may be tax deductible.
Can You Deduct the Cost of Assisted Living From Your Taxes?
The medical aspect of assisted living is tax deductible. If the resident is in assisted living entirely for medical reasons, the entire cost is tax deductible. If not, the medical fees and expenses are tax deductible.
Can Two Live As Cheaply As One In Assisted Living?
When a couple moves into an assisted living facility, it can be a bit less expensive than costs for an individual. A couple will pay the same price (around $4000) for monthly rent as would an individual. Of course, personal care costs, meals and other services would be billed individually and that amount can vary greatly from person-to-person.
Is There Assistance to Help Pay for Assisted Living Costs?
Sadly, assisted living costs are typically paid out of pocket using Social Security, savings, money from the sale of a home or other assets or funds from a long-term care policy or account. Private insurance, as well as Medicare, Medicaid and other social safety net programs pay little or nothing for assisted living. They may continue to cover your medical needs while in assisted living.
If you are quite well off, you could pay out of pocket. Be aware that it probably won’t take long to go through your investments, savings and retirement funds; however, if you are independently wealthy and want to keep all your assets and continue managing them, this may be the way to go.
A long term care insurance policy is a good investment because it will cover most, if not all, of your assisted living and nursing home costs. Be sure to read your policy carefully to understand any conditions and caveats. It’s very important to purchase your long term care plan early so that you’ll have it in place when you need it.
If you are a veteran, you may qualify for some assistance from the Veterans’ Aid & Attendance Pension to help pay for some costs associated with assisted living. Check with your state’s VA to determine income and asset requirements that may apply to you and your situation.
For low-income residents, some states provide community/home based waivers to help pay for the cost of assisted living. You can find out about this by checking with your state’s Medicaid office.
Make a Lifetime Choice in Assisted Living
Take great care in choosing an assisted living setting for yourself or your loved one. Ideally, you want this to be a successful choice that will provide a happy, comfortable, caring living situation from now on. Seniors who are able to settle into assisted living early, establish a routine and feel at home are far more likely to experience successful, contented aging than those who are moved into assisted living after dementia has set in or those who must move from one assisted living setting to another to accommodate declining abilities.
For the best assisted living setting, look for a situation that is:
If you are choosing an assisted living setting for a loved one, involve that person in the process as much as possible. You may want to do the groundwork to establish location and make some top choices on your own, but be sure to bring your loved one into the process once you have gathered specific information and begin making visits. Their input is important and valuable in making the final choice.
HealthCare.gov Long Term Care
VA: Geriatrics & Extended Care