Choosing a senior living facility for you or a parent can be a stressful, emotionally draining experience. Not only is it a significant lifestyle change, but costs can be prohibitive when you require a living situation with personal care, such as an assisted living community or one with a memory care provider.
Here are seven helpful tips that can help you offset the high cost of assisted living without compromising the quality of care that is so important for a long-term, positive experience:
1. Research your options and plan ahead
Provide yourself with plenty of time to evaluate senior care communities in your area and research thoroughly before you make a decision. If you are focused on a specific facility or community, join their waiting list. Most often, if you wait until the very time you need a facility, you’ll end up paying for one that either does not meet your needs, or is at the higher end of your budget. People often fall into the trap of moving their loved ones several times until they find the right fit, which results in having to spend significantly more money. As an alternative, do your research: visit your targeted communities multiple times, thoroughly check their licensing and resident reviews, and have your attorney review any contract before you sign on the dotted line.
2. Ask about any move-in incentives or flexible pricing options
Assisted living communities may have the “official price,” but quite often, this can be negotiated depending on their current vacancies. These facilities make it a priority to maintain a high occupancy rate and will often offer discounts to incentivize families to choose their community over another. These incentives can take the form of discounting rent, rent freezes, and the waiving of standard entry fees. Do not hesitate to ask about any possible incentives or to negotiate the price. Your effort could save you or a senior loved one thousands of dollars. Remember that the official cost of assisted living facilities is usually not set in stone. Be sure you take the initiative to ask whether they are willing to negotiate the monthly price.
3. Compare inclusive pricing options versus “A La Carte.”
Many assisted living facilities will offer a “menu” of services, making it possible to only pay for the services you need. In these situations, volunteer services or family members may be able to provide this support more cost-effectively. Keep in mind however, that an all-inclusive could be more affordable, especially in areas where the cost of living is higher, or the ability to ‘fill in the gaps’ proves to be more expensive than all-inclusive options.
4. Consider alternate cities or regions
As with any type of housing, the cost of assisted living will vary widely from location to location. Communities in areas with lower land prices and cost of living are usually less expensive. So if you live in a large city, you may want to explore communities further out of town, or in neighborhoods. An important factor is often proximity to family members. If you have siblings who live in a more affordable part of the country, you may want to consider widening your search to include that region. In general, the Midwest and Southern states provide some of the most affordable assisted living costs in the United States, while the Northeast can cost up to 20 percent higher on average.
5. Consider a smaller living space.
Of course, larger apartments are usually more expensive. If budget is a factor, make sure you explore all the floor plan options available. Also, keep in mind that assisted living residents whose care is paid by Medicaid usually have to share rooms as a requirement. So, whether you’re searching for affordable private pay options, or using Medicaid to help pay for it, the size and layout will be an important consideration.
6. Make sure you compare care options
Before you commit, be sure you research which type of care is the best fit for you or your loved one. Perhaps you don’t need the additional cost of assisted living. For example, independent living might be a better fit for your needs and budget. While you want to be sure you have all the support you need, you also don’t want to pay for more than you need.
7. Look into long-term care insurance
Long-term care insurance has become increasingly popular over the years and can help defray the high costs of assisted living. Long-term care insurance can address that gap, and estate planning can give you greater access to financing long-term care. If you find yourself unable to pay for assisted living out of pocket or are overly-reliant on Medicare or Medicaid, planning ahead and investing in a long-term care policy may be a good solution. But, keep in mind that this requires advanced planning. The longer the wait, the more expensive your policy rates will be. (See #1 above – and plan ahead!)