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When you decide to go into an assisted living facility, you have options for the type of care you get and how to pay for it. Medicare assisted living financial help is very limited. Medicare does not typically cover long term care such as assisted living costs—but there is separate assisted living insurance. You should look into these policies when you are eligible for Medicare (at age 65) and comparison shop.
Be sure to research the costs of the facilities in your area and what your insurance covers. There are a number of options available beyond the standard assisted living facility. Assisted living care is not one size fits all, and there is a residential option for people who do not require care in a nursing home. The idea is to provide necessary services while allowing for privacy, independence, and freedom of choice.
Assisted living generally refers to seniors living in a group environment. Seniors receive help with their basic daily living. These may include, but are not limited to:
- Meals (often taken together)
- Using the restroom
- Taking medications
- Housekeeping services
- Scheduling and transportation to appointments (and other transportation)
- Wellness programs
- Laundry services
- On-site security
- Recreation and social activities
Usually, a resident of an assisted living facility has their own apartment or room in a building with other seniors. When you move in, the facility will assess your condition (should your condition change there is an additional assessment) and create an Individualized Service Plan. This customized plan will meet your various medical and personal needs.
But this isn't all these facilities can offer. The facility will also provide social and recreational activities. These can include dances, crafts, exercise, and more. Assisted living facilities also frequently have medical and health care on site.
Assisted living can also offer personal care services. These are similar, but less expensive, to services offered in a skilled nursing facility. Some of the personal care may include all services previously mentioned above, in addition to emergency call buttons in your apartment, physical therapy, hospice, assistance with disorders such as Alzheimer's, and more.
Facility costs vary a great deal. Think of hotels: a motel is cheaper than a fancy five star hotel—but the motel may be perfectly comfortable. You should look at the different environments in each facility to determine which appeals to you. "Fanciness" isn't the only reason for a higher cost. A facility could also offer more assistance and amenities than less expensive facilities. Consider what services are essential for your specific needs. In most cases, you will pay monthly rent and additional fees for extra services.
While Medicare does not cover the cost of assisted living, they do pay for your health care costs while you are there. Medicaid, depending on your state, may pay for some assisted living costs. Although most people pay their own fees in assisted living, 41 states offer "home and community based waivers" to allow low income seniors to live in assisted living facilities.
There are state regulations for assisted living in all states. These regulations dictate the services assisted living facilities must provide, including 24 hour care for people in need of assistance—help will always be on hand.
Other Types of Living Assistance
- Assisted Living (Non-Medical Senior Housing). When you need help with basic tasks like cooking, laundry, medication reminders, consider this type of facility.
- Home and Community Care. Home community care is care provided in your home. Services can include Meals on Wheels, adult day care, and shopping assistance. Medicare and Medicaid even sometimes help with costs connected with medical care.
- Subsidized Senior Housing (Non-Medical). Federal and State programs provide housing to seniors with low or moderate income. Some such facilities have assistance for residents ranging from shopping to laundry. In such a facility, you usually live in your own apartment.
- Board and Care Homes. These are group living facilities for those who cannot live by themselves, but also do not need a nursing home. These usually have more services and provide the help you would get in assisted living and possibly more. Private insurance may pay for this sort of home, but Medicare and Medicaid do not pay for these facilities. These facilities are not closely monitored.
- Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCS). These facilities offer different types of care based on your needs. Some are apartments similar to an Assisted Living facility. Other residents can receive skilled nursing care in this facility as well. You do not need to move to another facility if your needs change. Residents may move from one sort of care to another as their needs change. These facilities often require a substantial down payment along with monthly fees.
When choosing any of these facilities, visit them and ask questions first. Ensure that they meet all of your needs. When you talk to the staff, are they responsive to you? Are there clear, written facility rules? Talk to residents and stop by, unannounced, with a friend. Be sure the activities and events at the facility appeal to you. Most importantly, find out how the staff is trained and check state licensing reports.