Low-Income Seniors and the Cost of Assisted Living in Florida
Can Low-Income Families Afford the Cost of Assisted Living in Florida?
I’m often asked about the cost of assisted living in Florida by low-income seniors and what I do to help them. Honestly, when I started my placement company having to learn that I can’t help the world was heartbreaking. I even contemplated continuing with my business. We get several calls from families and seniors who are in desperate need of an assisted living or memory care in Central Florida. We are transparent with our process and how we are paid. We are also very honest about the starting cost of assisted living in the Orlando area.
Small residential assisted living and adult family care homes were once the most affordable option and in some cases still are but with high insurance premiums and the minimum wage increase for caregivers, it has been very difficult to locate affordable assisted living communities. So, the most common question that I get from people is, what do you do to help those who cannot afford assisted living and memory care?
What Does North Star Senior Advisors Do?
As a senior placement professional, our job is to narrow down the search options based on the level of care, price, and location. We guide families through the transition to move in and also provide resources. Assisted Living is not covered by health insurance and the average cost for assisted living is $3500 plus level of care. In Orlando, FL there are several facilities, and new buildings are popping up every few months but none are affordable options. Unfortunately, seniors with a fixed income can not afford to pay for an assisted living let alone the cost of care. I always ask during our intake process if they are Veterans and if yes, did they serve during wartime?
Many families and Veterans are not aware of a benefit they may be eligible for called Aid and Attendance. This benefit may pay you an additional $1881.00 per month to pay towards the cost of care in an assisted living facility. As mentioned on www.va.gov, The Aid & Attendance (A&A) increased monthly pension amount may be added to your monthly pension amount if you meet one of the following conditions:
- You require the aid of another person in order to perform personal functions required in everyday living, such as bathing, feeding, dressing, attending to the wants of nature, adjusting prosthetic devices, or protecting yourself from the hazards of your daily environment
- You are bedridden, in that your disability or disabilities requires that you remain in bed apart from any prescribed course of convalescence or treatment
- You are a patient in a nursing home due to mental or physical incapacity
- Your eyesight is limited to a corrected 5/200 visual acuity or less in both eyes, or concentric contraction of the visual field to 5 degrees or less.
Typically, we refer our veterans directly to the VA or approved elder law attorneys for more information about applying for Aid and Attendance.
The Long-Term Care Community Diversion Program
Also, there is a Diversion program that provides financial assistance with the cost of assisted living care in Florida. The Long-term Care Community Diversion Program is designed to provide community-based services to people who would otherwise qualify for assisted living. The participating facility receives $1100 towards the cost of assisted living. The remaining balance is paid by the resident to the facility directly. The issue with this program is the long waitlist. I’ve heard over a year wait and it depends on your level of care. Also, many assisted living facilities are opting not to participate in this program. The state of Florida funds this program and assistance is limited.
Families Exploiting Loopholes Only Make the System Worse
I’m going to be candid in the next thing I say here. You’re free to agree or disagree with me. I truly believe that those who maneuver money into trusts and when I say money and assets, I am talking about a substantial amount is placed in a particular trust so that a person can qualify for Medicaid Diversion and not have to spend their personal funds on care. Honestly, I think we would have more money in the program and less of a waitlist for those who absolutely need financial assistance if laws were strict in regards to allowing this to happen. This will also free up a lot of occupied beds in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Maybe if we allow fewer people to do this, assisted living facilities can get more than the $1100 or so per month from this program.
I get it, you might feel as if you worked hard and don’t want to spend your money so why not let the government help you? I see it as I worked hard and have the money to pay for care and have many more assisted living options to choose from and not just the few that participate in the program… Okay, I spoke my truth here. Moving on…
Newer Assisted Living Facilities and Their Costs
The majority of the newer facilities have marble floors, chefs, granite countertops, and more! Newer communities are appealing to the adult children making the emotional decision of placing their loved one in a facility. These facilities are amazing and beautiful! The average cost for a studio is $3500 plus the additional level of care. I’m also receiving phone calls from residential assisted living facilities charging over $3000 per month. I agree that the obvious decision is to choose a community that is brand new with all the bells and whistles. We want the best for our loved ones but what if there was a nice enough place with good care minus the marble floors, chandeliers, and Taj Mahal look with a comfortable & home-like feel?
The additional cost to add the expensive floors, technology, and granite could help bring down rental fees for seniors… Then you have to factor in the cost of care workers. Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA’s) are already underpaid for the work they provide. These hard workers are caring for our parents and grandparents but living on poverty wages. Why not use the saved funds on activities programs and salary increases for the caregivers?
What if You Can’t Afford the Care You Need?
Finally, answering the question that people ask me every day… What happens to those seniors who cannot afford the cost of assisted living in Florida but need care? Unfortunately, sometimes there is nothing we can do immediately or at all. If the person is high functioning but needs some help or has dementia and needs memory care, it’s a bit difficult to find affordable assisted living facilities because they will go on that long waitlist I mentioned above. If they are not appropriate to go into a skilled nursing facility where they can apply for the Medicaid Diversion program, I refer them to the Senior Resource Alliance or the Center for Aging. I also do my best to see if there is a small residential care home willing to accept someone in their facility pending Medicaid benefits. I’ll be honest, the chances of this happening are slim to none. Most assisted living facilities prefer all required funds upfront. As a placement advisor, we do what we can. We provide alternate resources to those we cannot help.
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