As more and more baby boomers reach retirement age, the demand and the cost for long-term care facilities should continue to rise all around the country. The good news is that Medicare and Medicaid cover, to some degree, many of the costs associated with long-term senior care communities. However, even with all of the financial assistance that these two programs can provide, most families still end up covering many of their loved ones' expenses out of pocket. Though the costs that some of these communities charge can be somewhat intimidating, there are several things that consumers can do to help mitigate those costs.
Work with a Financial Advisor
Before you do anything, you should think about reaching out to a financial advisor who knows a thing or two about the expenses that your family will be dealing with for the foreseeable future. By going over your finances with an advisor, you will be able to get a more accurate idea about what your family's financial capabilities will be when it comes to paying all of those out-of-pocket expenses. This information will allow you to make more informed decisions about which communities and what levels of care are within your price range. In any event, you will be able to ensure that your decisions from here on out are informed and financially sustainable.
Selecting the Appropriate Level of Care
Once you know the parameters within which your family needs to work, it will then be necessary to start thinking about what level of care your loved one will benefit from the most. This is an important decision because of how differently priced different levels of care--independent living, assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing communities--can be. While you will surely want to do what is best for your loved one, there is no reason to select an assisted living community when your loved one would be happy and properly cared for in an independent living community.
Even if you are somewhat unsure of where your loved one would be happiest, many facilities offer at least three levels of care--independent living, assisted living, memory care--all under the same roof. That means that your loved one could start out in independent living and then easily move to assisted living if the need were to arise. By selecting the most appropriate level of care for your loved one, you can be sure that you and your family are not paying for any services that your loved one does not need or want.
Research the Cost of Care in Your Area
Knowing the appropriate level of care will allow you to begin researching all of the communities that are available in your area. When you do begin calling around town, you should write down the services that each community offers along with their price points. This information will allow you to determine how these communities are valuing those perks. Once you have a pretty good idea of what each community offers, you should compose a new list of all the services and amenities that will be important to your loved one and use that as a guide when selecting communities that fall within your price range.
Know the Monthly Cost of Care in a Community
In an effort to set themselves apart from their competitors, almost every community will boast a unique set of amenities that are covered under their monthly price. Since the amenities offered at each of the communities will be slightly different, the prices are likely to be just as variable. As such, you should take care to select a community that offers amenities that are as close to your loved one's desires as possible--there is no sense in paying for anything that you do not need. Also, to get a true estimate of monthly care costs, it's important to determine what amenities are covered by your monthly fee and what amenities are "optional," a la carte offerings.
Know What Other Fees Will be Attached
Most long-term senior living communities charge one-time fees in the form of a non-refundable entrance fee, community fee, or deposit that will be due at signing. Bearing that in mind, it will be important for you to read all of the fine print and ask thorough questions about the fees that are charged by each of the communities you visit. The actual costs of these fees are dependent upon fluctuations in the market and overall demand for the community, and you should expect to have to pay at least something just to get your loved one into the right community.
Ask About Special Pricing and Incentives
In what can be a highly competitive market, most senior living communities offer special pricing and other incentives to prospective residents and their families. Even if the offers have not been advertised, marketing directors usually will offer incentives to people who ask about them; it never hurts to ask anyway. For instance, some places may offer to waive their one-time entrance fees or the first month's fee; some even offer to help defray the cost of moving. In any event, these incentives can serve to significantly reduce the cost of care for living in a senior care community.