Choices in Senior Housing
Growing older is a fact of life. But how and where a person does is not. Older adults have more housing choices available to them than ever before, but these options may leave you with more questions: What kind of lifestyle do I want? Do I want to stay in my current home, or move somewhere else? Do I want to live in a community with other older adults? What kind of assistance is available to me when and if I need it?
Feeling confused? Not to worry. There are a variety of services available to help older adults stay at home, meet new people and live healthy and fulfilling lives. Here's what you need to know about these options and, more important, how you can find and afford the one that's right for you or your loved ones.
Adult Day Care
Provides a variety of health, social and support services in a safe setting during the day. Some programs are designed for people with Alzheimer's disease. The average monthly cost for this service is $1,680.
Help people figure out what services are needed and work with clients to develop and arrange the services that best fit an individual's lifestyle.
Financial Counseling Programs
Help individuals manage their day-to-day finances as well as Medicaid, Medicare or other insurance programs.
Home Health Care Services
Offer part-time nursing services, personal care, help with chores, medical supplies or equipment and different kinds of therapies in a person's home. The average hourly rate for a certified home health aide is $32.37, while the average uncertified home health aide charges $18.57 an hour.
Provides nursing care and specialized services like grief counseling to individuals who are dying and their loved ones. Hospice care is available in a person's home, at a health care facility or in a hospice center.
Offer different kinds of therapies (physical, occupational and speech) at home or in a therapy center.
Active Adult Communities
Individuals over 55 may want to consider living in an active adult community. Often described as an alternative to single-family ownership, these communities offer residents the option of living in a community made up solely of other over 55 residents, as well as a range of on-site activities and amenities. Each active adult community is designed differently and may include single-family homes, condominiums, town homes, multi-family dwellings or manufactured housing units. A community's size, location, amenities and design will determine their entrance fee.
Senior housing is another option for people who want to live on their own, but want to live in a community of other seniors without the responsibility of keeping up a house.Depending on the community, a person can rent a senior housing apartment either at the market rate or, if his or her income level applies, a lower rate. These apartments are often designed with their tenants in mind. Many feature specially designed bathroom railings or power outlets higher up on the wall. Senior apartment communities may also offer a 24-hour emergency call service, transportation programs, meals service and social activities.
Moving into an assisted living residence is a good option for individuals who need help with everyday activities, like taking medicine or getting dressed, but want to stay as active and independent as possible. Many assisted living residences are affiliated with retirement communities and nursing homes. This can make the transition into assisted living easier as a person's needs change. All assisted living residences feature single and double rooms. Some offer suites and larger apartments for those residents who can afford them.
Make Planning a Priority
Planning shouldn't start in the middle of a crisis. It starts by figuring out your preferences, understanding what needs might arise and learning what the costs might be to pay for the services you or your loved one will need and want. To start the planning process, consider asking yourself or your loved one the following questions:
Who is the one person I will depend on for support as I age?
If I need to move out of my home, where would I most like to move?
What's the one thing I would like my loved ones to know about my preferences as I age?
You can use the answers to put a plan into place by meeting with your lawyer, taking a trip to the bank, or buying a long-term care insurance policy.
How to Pay for Long-Term Care
Private Payment Sources
Long-term care insurance is a type of insurance designed to cover people's care and services costs as they age. Traditionally, it was used for nursing home care. Now, it can cover a variety of aging services, including assisted living, retirement communities and adult day care. Long-term care insurance typically pays a daily rate to providers for these services.
Because every policy is different, find out exactly what levels of care and services your potential insurers will cover and how far the policy's payment cap might take you before you exhaust the benefit. That way, you can research providers with an open mind, and not a limited budget.
Public Payment Options
Medicare is a health insurance program for all people over 65 and certain disabled individuals. Medicare covers a limited amount of long-term care, including:
Nursing home care after a hospital stay of at least three days. This coverage requires substantial insurance copayments after the first 20 days and cannot be used for more than 100 days.
Short-term home care services in a home or assisted living facility.
Home care only if an individual is homebound and needs therapy or skilled nursing care.
It is important to remember that Medicare coverage is limited to services that will help an elderly person recover from a medical problem. It does not cover care costs for people with chronic conditions, like Alzheimer's disease. Medicare also does not cover assisted living costs.
Medicaid is a program that covers impoverished individuals' health care costs. Because of high long-term care costs, however, nearly 65 percent of all nursing home residents are Medicaid recipients.
To qualify for Medicaid, you must complete a state application and verify that you no longer have any savings or other assets to pay for your health care. The government also requires states to examine your financial history for the past five years to assure you have not transferred assets out of your name to avoid using them for these costs.