29 October 2018

One of the most frequent questions we’re asked is how much does senior living cost? The answer isn’t simple and depends on a number of factors including what services you need and where you’re looking. Choosing the right senior living community is an extremely personal decision, and often one that is made by multiple family members, including children, spouses and other relatives. Since Brookdale offers all levels of care from independent living and assisted living to skilled nursing and memory care, we know a lot about this. You can click on this link to find out more about Brookdale’s levels of care.

To help you get a better understanding about how to pay for senior living, we talked with Mary Sue Patchett, Brookdale’s executive vice president of community and field operations. She recently spoke with Robyn A. Friedman, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal who recently wrote about How to Manage Paying for Retirement Housing.

Here are some of the things Patchett shared about paying for senior living.

Where do most people find the money to pay for senior living?
Mary Sue Patchett: When you think about Senior living, a lot of people use their savings, annuities, pensions and social security. A big source of payment is the sale of a home. There is also long-term care insurance available as well as federal aid for veterans and their spouses. Family members will often contribute to the cost of assisted living. It’s not uncommon for children to supplement or support their parents.

Why is senior living so expensive?
Mary Sue Patchett: I think sometimes when you first start looking at senior living you may be shocked by the price, but  many people are actually surprised to learn that senior living could actually be less expensive than staying at home when you take a look at all the expenses you have. It’s a good idea to make a list of everything you’re currently paying for. Are you providing yourself three meals a day, paying for utilities, a mortgage, home repairs, yard maintenance, transportation, cable and internet? Then compare that to all that’s included in independent or assisted living, where you don’t have to do much of the work, and neither does your family.

How can I reduce the cost of senior living?
Mary Sue Patchett: You may want to look at a flexible pricing structure, rather than an all-inclusive. Try the “levels of care” model. You can also choose lower cost rooms. In many communities, rooms that are further from the dining area could cost less. Some communities may allow rooms to be shared, which can save a significant amount of rent. In many Brookdale communities, furnishings are provided for common spaces so all you’d need is a bedroom set.

Will Medicaid pay for senior living?
Mary Sue Patchett: Medicaid is most often a source to pay for skilled nursing care. In order to use it for assisted living you’d have to live in a state that has a Medicaid waiver-type program. Again, depending on the state you live in, that could cover room and board or just the care you receive.

What makes the cost of senior living so different between communities?
Mary Sue Patchett: It’s often determined based on variables such as size and location. To answer this question you really have to ask yourself more questions. What city are you looking to live in? Are you looking for an individual apartment with a kitchen and a guest room, or are you looking for just a bedroom and bathroom? What services and amenities would you like? What level of care do you need? Do you require assistance with daily living? Do you need 24/7 nursing care or rehabilitative services?

What can make this process easier?
Mary Sue Patchett: Start talking about it way before you have to make a decision. You’ll have more opportunities to tour places and more time to really decide what services and amenities you want and need. There are so many options out there now. If you’re a couple, it’s worthwhile looking at the second step, which could be assisted living. You may want to look for a campus that offers both independent and assisted living or care services so you can stay together even when one of you needs more assistance than the other. Senior living is not a one size fits all thing. You’ve really got to decide what works best for you.

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