How to Pay for Senior Living
Have you saved enough for housing?
Shopping. Cooking. Cleaning. The burdens of living alone were taking a toll on Joyce who, at 89, was the oldest resident in her apartment building. Though she'd spent a lifetime saving money, Joyce wasn't sure what she could afford. Her daughter Sandy knew it was time to talk about senior living.
"It took some convincing to help her understand this was what she had saved for," said Sandy. "With the sale of her house and retirement savings, she could live comfortably in independent senior living. Plus, she would be around people her age, have plenty of activities and three nice meals a day."
Joyce's senior living journey isn't unique. Most people are either not prepared for the potential costs of senior living, or think they're not prepared. A survey of 2,000 Americans 18 to over 51 for Brookdale Senior Living revealed 65% aren't saving money to pay for senior living, and 21% said they won't be able to pay for it or don't know how they'll pay for it. Only half said they have a plan in place.
Mary Sue Patchett, Brookdale's executive vice president of community and field operations, recommends avoiding sticker shock by assessing current expenses. You may find that freeing yourself of expenses tied to living in a house - mortgage, food, transportation, utilities, home maintenance and more - and incorporating these into one payment for a senior living community is more cost-effective than expected.
Patchett recommends seeking a flexible pricing structure at a senior living community, as one size does not fit all. Making a choice that fits your situation means you won't be paying for unnecessary services. Sandy found two locations that fit her mom's needs and compared costs of living alone to the cost of senior living. They landed on a Brookdale community near Sandy's home.
"Adult children must understand their parent's misgivings and help them decide what's best," said Sandy. "Considering my mom's age, senior living was a smart move. The cost is comparable to living alone and provides peace of mind for everyone. We know she is eating, socializing and safe."
How do people pay for senior living, and how can you keep costs affordable?
Current assets and income are what most people use to pay for senior living, just as they would pay for expenses staying in their current home: savings, pension or retirement plan funds, social security and annuities. Like Joyce, one big source of funds comes from the sale of their current home.
Long-term care insurance is a possible source for those with chronic disability or illness, if they have a policy. Rules regarding benefits and eligibility vary per state and policy. Veterans' benefits, through the Veterans Aid and Attendance Pension, can help veterans and spouses offset costs of long-term care and/or assisted living at some communities.
Selling or cashing out a life insurance policy may be one route for those who no longer need life insurance. There are many options, so you should shop around. Consult your tax, financial and legal advisers to determine the implications of this option.
Medicaid options may provide some assistance for assisted living, depending on where you live and if you qualify. Do not confuse Medicaid with Medicare, which does not cover assisted living costs.
Family support is another source to consider for help with the cost of assisted living. In many families, children or other family members contribute to the cost of senior living. It's best to discuss possible support with family before the need arises.
By selecting a senior living community that provides just the amount of care you need, you can keep costs low. Many communities offer options from apartments with kitchens and guest rooms to just a bedroom and bath. Opting for a roommate can save a lot. Senior living communities offering independent and assisted living or other care services on one campus helps couples stay together, even when they need different levels of care, and make it easier to move from one area to another if needs change.
Now is a good time to assess your situation and talk with your spouse or family about your needs and desires down the road. Planning ahead lets you tour communities and decide what services and amenities you want and need.
Within forty-eight hours of Joyce moving into her new senior living home, she was thrilled with her decision. And Sandy immediately noticed a change in her mom. She met a group of ladies she refers to as "the girls" and quickly found her purpose as the community librarian. She's happier than she was in her apartment, and according to Sandy, and that's priceless.
You may also be interested in reading "Senior Living: The Difference Between Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities."