Assisted Living: How to Pay for Senior Living

Many families are concerned about how to pay for senior living. Assisted living is primarily private pay, out-of-pocket expense. In some cases, seniors qualify for other resources such as Veterans Aid and Attendance. In Florida, we have Medicaid/Managed Care which pays a relatively small amount towards assisted living fees and the application for such should be handled carefully and in a timely manner.

Additionally, seniors may have signed up for long-term care insurance at some point in the past. It cannot be stressed enough – conversations regarding care and financial plans about how to pay for senior living should be taking place well in advance of the actual need.

Woman Thinking about How to Pay for Senior Living

Consult with an Elder Law Attorney for Financial Plan

Consulting with an elder law attorney (certified in Veterans’ assistance, if possible, and if applicable) to establish a full financial plan is best. While some are put off by the initial cost of planning, the money you will save and, if eligible for benefits, receive, will be well worth the time and investment you make.

What Help is Available to Navigate Senior Living Options

While it is important for seniors and their families to be familiar with some of the specifics and details, they need not be too concerned. In each community, there is typically a local agency that helps seniors and their families evaluate each facility and make recommendations about which may be the best choice. There are national companies as well however they are not as familiar with the local assisted living market and only offer a written list of facilities. A list just overwhelms families and they are still left to determine how to pay for senior living and work through the list provided.

Local agencies are a wealth of knowledge and often provide services at no cost to the family. Facilities will contract with these local agencies, also called “placement agencies” or “referral and information agencies,” and pay them a fee for a referral that results in an admission to their facility.

One of the best attributes of a local agency is that they are very familiar with the specifics of each local facility, including licensing, and the reputation of the facility.  While there are State Inspection reports available for each facility (www.floridahealthfinder.gov), those often need interpreting as well.

Questions about Assisted Living Facilities

What is a significant deficiency and what is a typical deficiency?

What should you be concerned about and what you should just be aware of?

How does the facility license affect my loved one’s care?

These local agencies are also familiar with the licensing of each facility as well as how the facility chooses to use that license. Meaning – just because they have the license, doesn’t mean they utilize all aspects of what it allows them to do. And, to be fair, they don’t have to.

Senior Couple Planning How to Pay for Senior Living

Asking for Help with How to Pay for Senior Living

Another helpful attribute of a local agency is that they do regular business with each of these facilities. They have a relationship and a rapport with the sales staff and often the administrator. The local agency feels comfortable asking for specials or reduced pricing that you may not know to ask for. Perhaps it is a special that just ended at the end of the previous month or an ask to reduce the community fee (a standard fee, like a security deposit, but non-refundable).

Because the agency brings them regular business, a facility is often open to a reduction in fees based on the knowledge that additional business is coming their way. Why shouldn’t the individual consumer get the benefit of volume business?

And finally, many in the senior healthcare world speak a different language. Words and phrases that may be very common to them may leave you completely lost in a conversation. Your interpretation of what was said may be different than what was meant. A local agency can serve as your interpreter and guide through this world that most only venture into once or twice in a lifetime.

Moving to assisted living is a significant transition. Advance planning and accepting guidance from knowledgeable resources are critical to avoiding costly mistakes.

(This piece was originally written when I was a guest blogger for Amy B. Van Fossen, PA.)

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