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Assisted Living

What is Assisted Living?

For seniors seeking an independent lifestyle with comprehensive assistance when needed, assisted living communities can be a great option. Residents of assisted living communities are free to engage in a wide range of activities at their own discretion. Most facilities are set up as apartment style housing, complete with common areas and safe, open spaces. Typically, residents are free from any severe mental or physical disabilities, requiring assistance mostly with the activities of daily life (ADLs).

In many cases, assisted living communities can be part of larger campuses that provide residents with communal amenities. Swimming pools, fitness rooms, TV lounges, even gardening areas can be found at assisted living facilities across the country. Some states may list these communities as 'personal care homes,' which can indicate smaller, home-like settings with fewer residents but similar services. Most communities welcome pets and other service animals, with some locations even helping to take care of your critter if it becomes too difficult.

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Assisted living communities center around maintaining a lifestyle of independence with little stress over daily chores and homeowner responsibilities. Meals, laundry, transportation, and assistance with other ADLs such as medication management and hygiene are the main benefits of an assisted living community. However, skilled nursing services and higher levels of medical treatment are not typically offered. Specialists trained in memory care and Alzheimer’s related services may be offered in a distinct wing of the facility depending on its size.

Costs of Assisted Living Communities

Assisted living and personal care homes can vary in cost depending on which services you decide to pay for, as well as where the facilities are located. Many times this type of senior care is found in larger campuses or continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs). This means that prices will depend on the overall features and accepted methods of payment from each facility to the next. 

Prices range from a minimum of $600 a month, a median of $3,600, and a maximum of $11,250 in the United States today. On average, that means you’ll pay around $43,000 a year for an assisted living residence. The next five years expect to see a 2% growth rate for this industry, yet the demand is only going to increase.

Paying for Assisted Living or Personal Care

There are many options when trying to find a financial plan that works for your future stay in an assisted living community. To make things easier, some communities have their own financial guides to help you review the policy for your long-term care option. Geriatric planners and other impartial financial advisors can be great resources when looking into what payment methods are available to you or your loved one.

Long-Term Care Insurance

Almost all assisted living communities are covered by long-term care insurance policies, including those covering home and personal care options. Others may only provide coverage for facility-based care options, so be sure to read over the specifics of your policy with a legal counselor if possible. 

Additionally, it is not uncommon for insurance companies to require that you prove your need for assistance in two or more areas of your activities involved with daily living. Although long-term care insurance is usually a great way to receive the care you need, it is an option that many people have not taken full advantage of.

Life Insurance

Although life insurance funds are thought to remain off limits until one’s death, this is not always the case. Depending on the terms of your policy, there may be the ability to cash it out through what are called accelerated, or living benefits. In this scenario, the company will buy back your policy for 50 to 75 percent of its face value. This can depend on your health and current medical needs. Some policies may require that policyholders are terminally ill in order to receive this money, while others remain more flexible.

If for whatever reason your company declines your request to cash out your policy, it is still possible to sell it to a third-party company. This results in receiving what’s called a senior settlement, or life settlement valued similarly at 50 to 75 percent of the original policy’s value. The difference is that this third-party company will continue to pay any premiums up until the death of the policyholder, receiving the benefits thereafter.

Benefits for Veterans

As a veteran, you may be entitled to benefits that can be used to pay for your long-term care option, especially if you have sustained any injuries while serving. This coverage comes through the Veteran’s Administration (VA) and can be very useful to those who have low income. To qualify, an individual must have been on active duty for at least 90 days and/or served one day during a time of war.

It is common for veterans seeking long-term care coverage to be told they have too many assets in order to qualify. To combat this, talk to a qualified elder law attorney to learn how you can re-allocate or adjust your assets. 

Medicaid

For seniors with no savings, assets, and lacking a steady source of income, programs like Medicaid can be the solution. Although this is a federal program, the way states apply Medicaid coverage varies. In order to qualify, you must be within certain income limits and have less than the specified amount of assets. To apply, check out the eligibility requirements on Medicaid’s website or call your local Aging and Disability Resource Center.

How to Choose the Right Community

Another important aspect in assessing your future long-term care option includes getting to know the community and its staff. Whether classified as assisted living or a personal care home, the inspection records of your future community can be found online or through a public records request. Reviewing these records can reveal any violations that might prove to be deal-breakers.

Additionally, take a tour and meet some of the staff of a community you’re interested in. Take note of anything that might infringe upon your quality of life were you to move there. Getting to know the staff and administration beforehand can help make the transition more gentle, serving also to determine if there will be enough people to care for your particular needs.

Assisted living communities can be great options for seniors looking to retain a relatively independent and active lifestyle, meanwhile receiving assistance in the areas they need. With plenty of available options, finding an assisted living option has never been easier! 

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Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between home care and an assisted living facility?

There are several differences between home care and assisted living. Home care means hiring a trained professional to provide care right in your home, while assisted living involves moving to a community to receive similar care. The amount of assistance that home care provides depends on your senior's needs and can be tailored accordingly. Home care can range anywhere from weekly companionship and therapy to 24-hour skilled nursing care or even hospice. In contrast, assisted living provides seniors with an enriching community of their peers and medical attention as needed, making it a flexible option for many. 

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Can my parents still move into an assisted living community if their house hasn’t been sold yet?

Of course! If it is a financially viable option, then they may move at any time. There are no rules or requirements that state that those that live in assisted living communities may not still have property in their name. However, issues may arise if they are seeking coverage through programs like Medicare or Medicaid which have asset limits. If they do not plan on moving back into the home or selling it to anyone in the family, seeking options like a reverse mortgage can make assisted living costs more manageable. 

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Finding the perfect senior care community is only part of making your loved one’s senior living transition smooth. At SeniorCaring, we know that it is also equally important to be aware of what other community services and resources are available to your family’s senior. Choose your location and find local resources for your senior.