I once heard a joke that it is cheaper to take a cruise than to live in an assisted living facility. Out of curiosity, I had to look it up. Are you ready for the answer? It’s not true! The average per passenger per day cruise for 2013 is projected to be $200.85 while the average assisted living costs across the nation is $110 per day. (Now a single occupancy room for one person in a nursing home averages $222 per day, so book that cruise… just kidding!) All joking aside, assisted living facilities are quite steep and cause much anxiety among seniors. Here are 10 things you should keep in mind as you analyze the financial part of this decision:
1) Location – Like any real estate market, location can make a huge difference in the value of the property. OpenPlacement has just about every assisted living facility listed by state (and there are about 31,000 in the nation). When you click on your state’s name, you’ll find a detailed explanation of the assisted living facility requirements in your state along with the average cost per month.
Moreover, you can click on your city for a listing of all of the facilities located there. You’ll find links to websites (if available), addresses, phone numbers, and the capacity of each facility. Once you click on an individual home, it will list the type of patient they are able to accommodate (such as one with Alzheimer’s, incontinent, or wheelchair bound), what features are available (such as activities and transportation offered), and what their staffing looks like (on call doctors, available physical therapists, etc.).
2) Rising Costs – According to The Genworth 2013 Cost of Care Survey, assisted living increased the most among all the senior care services at 4.55%. They recommend that seniors prepare for an average 3 -5% increase in their base rate per year.
3) Apartment Options – Obviously the bigger the apartment, the higher the cost. Some things to also consider are whether you want a studio, one bedroom or two bedroom apartment. You also might want to consider the view, proximity to elevators or social areas, and whether there is a balcony or private patio.
4) Care Needed – While many seniors who live in assisted living homes are quite independent, many need help with medications, bathing, or getting to the dining hall. Facilities have either a point system or a level of care assigned when charging their residence. For example, administering medications once a day may cost an additional $150 a month. If a patient falls, they may be charged an additional fee as they need more help than the Level One title they were assigned.
5) Non-Medical Costs – Not all additional costs are medical; you’ll have to pay a deposit and possibly extra funds for outside activities, transportation, apartment renovations, or guest meals. Also ask whether phone, cable, and utilities are included. Be sure to ask for a consumer disclosure form so there won’t be any surprises on your monthly bill.
6) Money Matters – Money doesn’t grow on trees, so how do most people pay for this season of life? Equity in homes, a reverse mortgage, long-term care insurance, veterans benefits, investment portfolios (like an IRA), and in some cases Medicaid are all used to help seniors cover the cost of living. (Medicare is NOT accepted at facilities that provide non-skilled care to help with daily activities.)
7) Commitment – Assisted living facilities tend to rent on a month-to-month basis so if it’s not what you’re looking for or the costs are just too high, you need not be overly worried. (However, it is standard courtesy to give a 30 day notice.)
8) Better Safe Than Sorry – What safety features does the apartment have? Is there a walk in shower with hand rails? How is the lighting? Is the floor carpeted to prevent slipping? Are there stairs? It’s better to find a move-in ready place than to incur renovation costs or avoidable medical bills.
9) Services Included – While the cost of senior living homes may sound high, most include housekeeping, gardening, laundry service, three meals a day, fitness programs, transportation, security, and entertainment.
10) Down to the numbers – You will help you to add up all of your potential costs and then put several senior living home budgets side by side for a comparison so you can make the best financial decision for your future. You can work with various senior living homes to help you with this, a financial advisor, or utilize online calculator tools to help factor the costs too.