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Assisted Living Costs Demystified: What to Expect and How to Plan

Assisted Living Costs Demystified: What to Expect and How to Plan

Suppose you are one of the estimated 17.7 million family caregivers in the United States. In that case, you might be thinking about long-term care options, especially if your loved one requires assistance with activities of daily living. Assisted living communities are one of the best options to provide 24-hour access to this type of assistance in a secure, supportive environment. 

How much does high-quality assisted living cost? According to a cost of care survey conducted by Genworth in 2021, the national average cost for assisted living is $4,500 a month. However, assisted living costs can vary widely based on location, amenities available, size of the community, and the level of care required. Generally, urban areas or places with a higher cost of living will also have higher assisted living costs. Arizona, where many of our Solterra Senior Living communities are located, has a lower cost of living, making it a popular destination for many seniors. 

Genworth provides a helpful Cost of Care Survey Tool that compares assisted living community prices by zip code and calculates future costs. As you research your options, keep in mind the different assisted living costs and how to pay for them.

What Assisted Living Costs to Expect 

When choosing an assisted living community with your loved one, assess their needs and ask about their preferences. The following are factors that will help determine the assisted living costs for your particular situation:

  • Level of care needed: How much assistance with activities of daily living does your loved one need? Many seniors require minimal assistance, but more extensive care might add to the cost. Keep future needs in mind as well. For instance, if your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, you should make sure that the assisted living community has memory care services available. More specialized care can sometimes add to the monthly or overall cost, so it’s a good idea to ask about costs for every level of care in case your loved one’s health needs change.
  • Amenities: What amenities are important to your loved one? Many assisted living communities have on-site hair salons, media rooms, libraries, exercise centers, planned social activities, and more. Ask whether all amenities are included or if you pay according to which amenities you choose.
  • Other services: Housekeeping, laundry, chauffeured transportation, and dining are some of the most popular services offered at many assisted living communities. As with amenities, ask whether the monthly rate includes access to these services or whether they are an additional cost. 
  • Room and board: Monthly costs for room and board will vary depending on what type and size of living space you choose (e.g., a studio apartment will cost less than a one- or two-bedroom) and whether you prefer a private or shared room.
  • Contracts and fees: Some communities require an entrance free up front, which might be refundable. Different contract setups might affect the cost. Month-to-month contracts have the highest rate, while yearly or longer-term contracts offer some financial benefits and savings.
  • Size of the community: If your loved one requires more specialized care, like memory care, or significant assistance with activities of daily living, you would likely prefer a community with a lower resident-to-staff ratio to ensure more personalized care. Communities with fewer residents generally cost a little more, so factor that into your plans. 
  • Medication management: Although many assisted living communities include medication management as a service in their base monthly or annual fee, not all do. If your loved one would benefit from this service, it’s important to ensure it is included.
  • Utilities and maintenance: For private living spaces like apartments, check whether utilities like electricity are included or charged as a separate fee. 

Planning and Paying for Assisted Living Costs

Before you make a final decision about the right assisted living community for your family, thoroughly research your choice. Ask questions about the pricing structure, services, and amenities, what exactly is included in the price, and any additional fees you might incur (e.g., if you change your mind before the end of the contract and want to move your loved one to another community, or if your loved one’s health needs change, requiring more specialized care). Once you have a grasp of the assisted living costs for your community of choice, the next step is figuring out how to cover those costs.

Although it can initially seem overwhelming, many financial solutions are available to help families navigate long-term care options. Consulting with a professional is a significant first step in the planning process. Financial advisors, eldercare attorneys, and insurance agents can all give valuable insight and advice about potential financial solutions and sources of assistance, both public and private, including: 

  • Private insurance
  • Retirement savings/IRAs
  • Home equity and other personal assets
  • Social Security Disability Insurance
  • Supplemental Security Income
  • Deductions or credits from your annual taxes

The following is a brief overview of several additional options to explore. 

Medicaid Programs

As a national program jointly funded by the federal and state governments, Medicaid provides health coverage for millions of Americans every year. Eligibility is primarily income-based, but other groups qualify based on age or medical needs. In general, Medicaid recipients tend to be lower-income families, people with disabilities, pregnant women, children, and seniors over the age of 65. 

Since each state administers the program to best serve their residents, Medicaid eligibility requirements and coverage vary, depending on where you live. Medicaid planners can help you understand your state’s Medicaid program. You can do a quick Google search or use the free online service from the American Council on Aging to help you locate a Medicaid planner and determine if you are eligible for benefits. 

Eligible Medicaid recipients can use benefits to pay for some medical costs but not room and board. Also, the assisted living community must be Medicaid-certified.

Long-Term Care Insurance

Certain long-term care insurance policies may cover some of the care your loved one would receive in assisted living, such as: 

  • Assistance with activities of daily living
  • Skilled nursing care
  • Occupational, physical, speech, or rehabilitative therapy
  • Dementia care

If your loved one already has a long-term care insurance policy, talk with your insurance agent to see what is covered. With this type of insurance, you generally need to have a policy in place before moving into an assisted living community. Check out the American Association of Long-Term Care Insurance for helpful information and resources about long-term care insurance. 

Veteran’s Benefits 

Veterans and their spouses may qualify for special assisted living financial assistance, called the Aid and Attendance Benefit. Offered through the Department of Veterans Affairs, this tax-free benefit can help offset the costs of long-term care in assisted living communities for veterans and their surviving spouses who require assistance with at least two activities of daily living, like bathing, dressing, or eating. At Solterra Senior Living, we believe exceptional senior living should be affordable and accessible to everyone. We work with families to make sure that assisted living costs are not a deterrent to having the life your loved one wants and deserves. We are Medicaid-certified, and many families combine that coverage with VA benefits, personal funds, insurance, and other financial solutions to make choosing our beautiful communities an affordable reality. Whether you are just starting out researching your options or ready to choose a community, feel free to contact us at Solterra Senior Living to ask questions, schedule a tour, and learn more about how we can help your loved one live well!