Assisted Living Guide: Everything You Need to Know
The Only Assisted Living Guide You’ll Need
Assisted living care has evolved since our grandparents were faced with moving their loved ones into a facility. As a matter of fact, the term “facility” is rarely used these days as the word has been replaced with “Senior Living Community.” In today’s day age where we are seeing baby boomers retire in record numbers, we may now notice a trend of seniors moving into these communities more often than before. That is why we decided to put together an assisted living guide full of helpful information to make sure you are adequately prepared when making the decision to transition your loved one.
Assisted Living is a part of long-term care services that provides a combination of housing and personal care as well as healthcare. It’s great for seniors who can no longer live on their own and need help with their personal and healthcare tasks of everyday life, sometimes called Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). This includes Bathing, Dressing, Toileting (incontinence care), and Transferring (to or from bed or chair).
This level of care also makes it easier for residents to socialize with their peers. There are plenty of common areas where people can gather as well as structured activities like games, cultural events, dancing, outings, and more. More and more seniors are looking to move into these very modern and lavish communities for these reasons plus three gourmet prepared meals are provided every day. There are also several amenities offered such as a salon, pool, game room, spa room, you name it! These facilities also allow for potential residents and their loved ones to tour the facility before making a decision.
What Qualifies Someone for Assisted Living?
Communities provide care to individuals who are 18 years of age or older, are free of communicable diseases, and can perform certain things for themselves. Typically, each community differs on the age requirement (usually 55 or older), although by law, you must be at least 18 years old. Eligibility for admission is based on an individual’s care level requirements as well. Residents entering assisted living facilities often need assistance with ADL’s mentioned above. It’s also important to know what level of care you or your loved one needs as there are 4 license types of assisted living that can accommodate different care levels.
Assisted living is not appropriate for individuals who have severe cognitive impairment or show behavioral symptoms such as wandering and need extra assistance due to a form of Dementia. A memory care community would be more suitable for this type of care which essentially offers a more secure environment where residents can not leave on their own without being escorted. Residents in memory care receive the same assistance with ADL’s, three chef-prepared meals a day, daily activities, and other similar amenities to assisted living but gear their programming for those with Dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Also, assisted living is not appropriate for those that have extensive medical or care needs that require daily nursing services such as a Hoyer lift or are bed-bound. If you do require this type of care, a skilled nursing home would be the best option.
Does Insurance Cover the Cost of Assisted Living?
The short answer is no. Assisted Living is privately paid out of pocket and insurance does not cover the cost. However, the below programs offer assistance to help pay.
So, How Do You Pay for an Assisted Living Facility?
There are a couple of programs that can help cover the cost if you qualify:
- Veteran Aid & Attendance (Must have served during wartime or be a widow of an individual who has served. The Reserves does not qualify.)
- LTC Insurance (purchased in advance)
- Long Term Care Diversion Program through Medicaid (govt state-funded program and must not make over a certain amount to qualify)
What is the Average Cost of Assisted Living?
The average cost of assisted living care is $3500/month in the state of Florida. There are communities that charge less as it depends on each individual building. This amount covers the room and board, utilities, water, cable, and sometimes WIFI as well as three meals a day, activities on-site, amenities, and transportation to doctor appointments and outings.
What is not included in the above amount is the care costs. Care is additional on top of the base rent and can be charged a few different ways. Typically, care costs are different bundles or levels, typically 1-5 with level 1 starting anywhere from $300-400 and go up depending on the level. Each community will perform an assessment on the resident l moving in to determine which level they fall into based on how many things they need help with throughout the day.
There are two other ways care can be charged as well: a la carte fees and all-inclusive. They mean exactly how they sound. A la carte fees are where you are charged for each care item that you need (bathing is a charge, dressing is a charge, etc.). All-inclusive indicates that the care is included in the rent which is great for those who are looking for more affordable options. However, this is harder to find as most do not offer this as an option.
How Can You Tell if it is Time for a Loved One to Move on to Assisted Living?
Having the conversation and ultimately deciding to move your elderly parents or loved ones to assisted living or a type of senior living community is one of the hardest decisions a child will have to make. There is no right way but the biggest way to tell if it is time to move your loved one into assisted living is if they are no longer safe living at home. If they are experiencing frequent falls, not receiving the right nutrition, or not able to maneuver through the home are all signs. They may refuse any type of support if you offer help and sometimes may insist they are fine even if it’s evident that’s not true.
Like most of us, we believe we will be able to take care of ourselves for the rest of our lives. Close family members can be instrumental in identifying new needs that mom or dad never had to experience before.
How Do You Approach a Senior About the Necessity to Move?
- Have the conversation early and often so your senior loved one does not feel blindsided by your decision to move them. Include all decision-makers to make sure you are all on the same page.
- Express your concerns when you see changes.
Say things like “Mom, I’m worried about your health and do not like to see you like this. Most of the time, parents do not want to burden their child which makes it easier for them to accept change.
- Focus on any victories in the assisted living.
Did your parent enjoy a meal or activity or sleep really well in their new home? When guilt starts to crawl in, remind yourself of all the benefits that come from care, meaningful activities, and nutritious meals throughout the day.
- Accept there will be uncertainty and give time to adjust
As with change, there will be an adjustment period when you move parents or a loved one, just like with children starting a new school for the first time or going to college. But with time and communication, things will get easier. Remember why the choices were made but also remember there may some uncertainty with how things turn out. Working with a senior placement like North Star Senior Advisors can take away some of this doubt as we provide a guided path to senior living and can provide options that can accommodate your loved ones’ level of care and budget.
Which Senior Living Community is Best for Me or My Loved One?
The process of searching for a senior living community can be an overwhelming experience. With multiple types of facilities to choose from, how do you know which one is best for you or your loved one? This is a question we are often asked when a family contacts us for help. There are 6 types of senior living facilities, to include: Independent Living, Assisted Living, Memory Care, Residential Care Homes, Skilled Nursing, and Continuing Care Retirement Communities. So how do you know which one is best for you or your loved one? Here is a breakdown of the differences between each one (Average Cost in the state of Florida):
- Independent Living Facility (ILF)
(Average Cost $2900/month)
Apartment-sized communities for seniors who do not need specialized care. They offer housekeeping, dining, events, transportation, activities, and typically pay an all-inclusive monthly rate.
If I’m Independent, Why Would I Move to an Independent Living Facility?
Sometimes seniors don’t want to live alone and prefer socialization and oversight. Others prefer to downsize from their large homes to allow others to tend to housekeeping, meal preparations, and transportation. Health care services are often provided by outside providers who either rent an office in the building or visit the building periodically.
- Assisted Living Facility (ALF)
(Average Cost $3200/month plus the level of care)
With the same amenities offered in Independent Living, along with daily personal care for activities of daily living (ADL’s); bathing, dressing, grooming, toileting, and medication oversight. Care staff is available 24/7 to help with care needs.
- Memory Care (MC)
(Average Cost $3350-$5500/month plus the level of care)
Communities that provide specialized care for those living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia in a secured environment. They still have a quality of life and enjoy activities, personalized care, and medication oversight.
- Residential Care Homes
(Average Cost $2500-$3200/month)
A traditional private home that has been converted and adapted to provide care for residents less than 15 but typically around 6 residents with a caregiver to provide assistance with ADL’s. These homes are licensed as assisted living facilities or adult family care homes.
- Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF)
(Average Cost $6000-$8000)
An institution or part of an institution that meets criteria for accreditation established by the sections of the Social Security Act that determine the basis for Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement for skilled nursing care. Skilled nursing care includes rehabilitation and various medical and nursing procedures.
- Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC’s)
(Average Buy in Cost $100k-$400k and $2000-$4000/ monthly service fees)
Communities that provide all of the above or some of the above in one campus. A resident can spend the rest of their life in a CCRC and move between levels of care all on the same campus. There is typically a large sum of money for the initial buy in for the community. When the money runs out, one can continue to stay and age in place.
- Respite Stays are Available
(Average Cost $150-$200/day)
Temporary institutional care of a dependent elderly, ill, or handicapped person, providing relief for their usual caregivers. Senior living communities such as assisted living often offer respite stays.
Can You Get Kicked Out of an Assisted Living Facility?
An assisted living is not legally allowed to “kick you out”. What they are allowed to do is issue a 45-day notice to vacate. That being said, the goal when a new resident moves in, is to never get here. There is a lot of time spent on the initial assessment to ensure the resident is appropriate for their assisted living community. The nurse is present, the care team, and typically the sales director. They ensure the community can accommodate current and long-term care goals, help decide if they can financially afford it, and ultimately determine if culturally, they will like it there.
Of course, sometimes this does not always happen, thus being able to issue a notice.
Unfortunately, as senior advisors, we have seen 45-day notices written to residents. When you work with a senior living advisor, we aim to make sure this does not happen but typically if one is written, it is typically due to:
- The resident has memory issues or has progressed in their dementia journey and the community can no longer accommodate. A common behavior of Dementia is wandering or leaving the home. In Assisted living, they are not secured, so residents can come and go as they please and are not closely monitored like they are in memory care. In an instance like this, we would make sure that if we knew there was a dementia diagnosis, in the beginning, we would help locate memory care or an assisted living that has a memory care, so the resident could transition if needed
- The resident has become violent toward themselves or others. Typically, in both assisted living and memory care, they will do everything in their power to try to calm the resident down in a number of ways. This includes calling the doctor, altering meds, redirection, etc. If this does not work, and the resident is a threat to themselves or others, they may call to have them taken to a temporary facility, commonly known as baker acting.
While every situation is different, the priority is the safety of the resident and residents currently living in assisted living. As senior advisors, we narrow down and present options that will work best for you or your loved one.
Should You Work with a Senior Living Advisor to Locate Assisted Living?
It can be an overwhelming experience as most families have to address the needs of their loved ones while having to take the time to search through countless communities that may or may not meet their needs, budget, and criteria. Without proper guidance, this process can be costly and take more time than needed.
An experienced senior living advisor can not only save you time narrowing down options but work as your advocate during this already emotional and confusing time.
When searching for senior living options there are five important factors that your senior living advisor should consider.
These factors will typically include:
- The culture within the facility
- Monthly Rate and Community Fees
- and most importantly, the level of care.
There is a clinical element in senior living, especially in assisted living and memory care as these communities may have different license types and may potentially be limited on what care they are able to provide for their seniors.
Selecting a community that does not match your needs and likes can be a costly mistake with the average cost of assisted living in Florida being around $35200 per month. That rate will most likely not include specialized memory care (secured for those with Dementia & Alzheimer’s), and any move-in fees associated with the selection of the community.
We highly encourage our families, caregivers, and referral sources in the community such as nursing homes, rehabs, doctors, elder law attorneys, and home health companies to really take the time and research their senior placement providers credentials, level of experience, professionalism, and reviews that reflect a history of providing successful transitions with attention to the level of care and passion.
Not all senior placement companies are the same and unfortunately, as of today, senior placement companies as a whole are not regulated. We want to caution families and seniors to use extreme diligence on how they select a senior placement company and or senior living advisor with their senior living transitional needs. We would also encourage families to ask their senior living advisors about their credentials and background as these are extremely important in an industry that remains unregulated.
North Star Senior Advisors is part of the National Placement & Referral Alliance, This board encourages uniting other Senior Advisors, defending the Senior Placement industry, and protection for seniors and their families from misrepresentation. For that reason, there are different approaches, intentions, variations in approach, and services.
Things to Ask Your Senior Living Advisor
- Experience level. What type of credentials do they have? nurses, social workers, certified dementia practitioners, certified senior advisors, etc. on staff that will take the time to conduct a thorough assessment and present options that match what the care needs are?
- Are they local and do they know the market they represent? Or are they based in another state providing virtual guidance?
- Are they charging you a fee, or are they complementary to you?
- How are they paid for their service?
- Will they be there with you side by side during the entire transitional process to help guide you and answer any questions you may have?
- Will they represent you as your advocate and have your best interest in mind?
Why Should Senior Living Advisors Have Experience and Credentials?
It’s critical for a proper assessment to be conducted in order to know which direction to guide you or your loved one. As mentioned previously, there is a clinical element when selecting an appropriate assisted living or memory care as there are four different senior living license types in the state of Florida.
We find that having a nurse on staff to help conduct an appropriate assessment is helpful as well as Certified Dementia Practitioners who have the expertise to understand the needs of those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia disease. It’s also best for Senior Living Advisors to know and tour each assisted living facility they refer to you.
Selecting a senior placement company, like North Star Senior Advisors that have the credentials, experience, professionalism, and passion for what they do will provide a positive overall experience and ensure that a proper placement has occurred. Let experienced experts guide you!
For more information about assisted living near you or to speak with an experienced senior living advisor today, visit our website at www.northstarsa.com or call us directly at 407-796-1582.