By Mitch Adel, Senior Partner
Cooper Adel & Associates
For aging individuals who are having difficulty performing everyday activities, and whose physical, mental, or general health limitations and complications have made independent living a challenge, assisted living may be the solution. An assisted living facility is a popular option for seniors who need some level of daily support or special care, but who still want to retain a significant degree of privacy and independence. Nationally, over one million people are living in assisted living facilities.
Taking the step to leave the home you’ve lived in for so many years can be difficult for you and for your children. You and your family need to make sure that you are making an informed decision. It is not something that should be rushed, and no assisted living decision-making (including questions like if, when, and how to move to a facility) should be made without careful planning and preparation.
Making the call
So how do you make that decision—how do you know when you are physically, emotionally and financially ready for assisted living? The first step is to ask yourself (and your family members) some basic questions.
Physically, are you finding day to day responsibilities a challenge? If you suffer from a lack of mobility, or the inability to care for yourself and maintain your home and property in good working order, assisted living might be a good fit for you. Emotional issues are also a concern: feelings of loneliness, isolation, or depression are all possible red flags, and consistent worries about your safety and well-being might be a sign that assisted living makes sense. The bottom line is that individuals who feel stressed or overwhelmed, or who require a level of care and support that they cannot provide for themselves and that their friends and family cannot provide for them, should think seriously about assisted living. Depending on your answers to these questions, the security, convenience, specialized care, social options and recreational activities at an assisted living facility may be especially appealing.
Financially, it is important to plan ahead and to be strategic and thorough when evaluating your probable expenses as the average cost of an assisted living facility can be more than $45,000/year. The average new resident in assisted living is age 83, living on a fixed or limited income. Limited income can mean limited options, making financial planning all the more essential. There are benefits that may help pay for some or all of the costs of assisted living, but you are likely to require some guidance to get them.
Do’s and Don’ts
Do… Plan ahead
Understand that only about a third of the residents in assisted living live the rest of their lives there. Close to 60% will move to a nursing home facility at some point in their lives. The average person only spends about two years in an assisted living facility, usually because they require a higher level of care that only a nursing home or other advanced facility can provide. Plan emotionally and financially for the long haul, understanding that an assisted living facility is not a 24/7 healthcare provider, and that costs will likely change as your care needs evolve. You should consider setting aside funds that could be available should you need them for future assisted living costs. Take the time to work with a team of qualified professionals led by an experienced elder law attorney to plan a detailed budget sufficient to meet your needs and provide flexibility/security in the event that your needs or your expenses change.
Do…Evaluate the costs
Make sure you understand exactly what and how the facility charges. Some assisted living programs utilize an all-in flat fee, while others may bill you extra for certain services. In the event of a healthcare emergency, who foots the bill? Additionally, make sure you are fully informed about rate patterns and cost increases. Finding out if and when rates may have risen dramatically in past years can give you a better idea of when and if they might increase again in the future.
Don’t… Assume that your Long Term Care Policy covers Assisted Living!
Carefully review the terms of your long term-care insurance (or ask your long term care professional to help you) to ensure that you understand what is and is not covered under your policy. Some policies, particularly older long term care policies, do not include payment for Assisted Living.
Don’t…Assume that expensive always means better
While cost is obviously a central concern, pricier is not always better. Instead of focusing exclusively on the price tag, take the time to evaluate all of the services the facility provides, how those services meet your needs, and what kind of intangibles a facility has to offer. A friendly, welcoming and supportive staff might be the single most important factor for you, for example.
Like any big life step, it’s critical to have a plan that helps set expectations correctly and brings multiple expert perspectives into the mix. Consider working with trusted and experienced wealth management professionals and elder law attorneys to make your planning for and transition to assisted living a smooth, safe and financially secure process.
Mitch Adel is senior partner at Cooper, Adel and Associates, A Legal Professional Association. With offices in Sidney, Centerburg, Monroe and Wilmington, Ohio, Cooper, Adel & Associates has clients statewide and offers regular seminars to educate seniors on critical legal and financial issues. For more information, visit http://www.CooperAndAdel.com..