Understanding Assisted Living Expenses

Understanding expenses

Shopping for the right assisted livingcommunity for your parent or spouse can be a daunting task.  You want to find the perfect place where they will be cared for and comfortable.  You may want to be close to your home or in their old neighborhood near friends. You want to consider the cuisine they are served, their apartment layout, the size of the community, the amenities, and the types of activities they offer.  But once you have all that figured out, you need to understand what it will cost each month.

When comparing communities, the monthly price may be confusing.  Some communities may charge an all-inclusive charge for rent and services, while other communities may charge individually for only the services needed. What is the best fit for your family?

The three typical ways that an assisted living community will charge are:

  • Care points or fee-for-service. This typically refers to charging for rent plus individually for the care services that the resident will receive.
  • Care Levels. Some communities will offer three or four levels of care, and the more care your parent needs, the higher level a family will pay for.
  • All inclusive. Some communities opt to charge a single fee per month that includes the price of rent and all care and services offered.

This variety in pricing options can make the task of comparing costs from community to community more difficult.  It can also make budgeting for families more confusing too.  As a consumer, you will need to ask a lot of detailed questions to understand how the pricing works and how pricing can change as your parent’s needs change with age.  Pricing is fundamentally broken down into two main costs: rent and services.

Rent

The rent is the cost of renting the apartment your parent will live in.  As you would find with any purchase of a home or deciding on where to rent an apartment, the cost will vary with the location and size of the place. If you are looking at assisted living communities in upscale neighborhoods, this will cost more than less desirable areas of your city. And a large apartment with a separate bedroom will cost more than a studio or shared apartment. A no-frills assisted living community will generally cost less than a nicer community with more amenities and programs.

Most assisted living communities roll the costs of basic services into the price of rent, such as housekeeping and laundry one time per week, meals, transportation, basic utilities, security services like a call button, and some basic personal assistance. But as you tour communities, this is something to keep an eye out for and ask questions about.  You will want to make sure that your family clearly understands the services included as part of the rent of an apartment.

Care Services

Care services are the costs that can confuse consumers.  At many communities, these services will be charged on top of the cost of their basic rent.  These expenses may include the cost for assisting with ADLs (activities of daily living).  ADLs include assistance with items such as dressing, grooming, bathing, or toileting. Other care services include medication management, escorting the resident to activities or meals, transfers for those with mobility limitations, or additional care needed for those with dementia and memory loss.

To understand the care needed, and associated costs to the family, a qualified professional will conduct an assessment of the resident before they move into the community.  They will review their health history and determine the number of activities the resident will need assistance with. Care for different residents can vary widely, so this assessment is the best tool to understand what services your parent will need.

Care Points

And this is where the differences in paying for those services can be set up differently.  In one scenario, a family may be charged individually only for the specific services provided; in this structure, each service has an associated number of care points, and the family will be charged a price per care point with the total care charge equaling the total care points for services provided, multiplied by the price per point.

Care Levels

Other communities may offer levels of care where tiered pricing is provided at three or four levels, and these levels are outlined with the services included. A resident may be at the lower end of the care level to start, and as they need more care the resident will be charged the same until they reach that next tier of care level and then will pay more in the next phase.

All Inclusive

Lastly, a community can offer an all-inclusive price for the rent, housekeeping, amenities, activities, transportation, and care services.  Occasionally a community will set a limit for what you will pay.  When you reach that maximum amount they will not charge more no matter how much care your loved one needs.

In any situation where a community assures you they will charge no more than a certain amount, be sure to ask how they will cover expenses for the additional labor and services offered and guarantee the higher level of care needed will be given.  When your family tours an assisted living community, each community will be able to share how their pricing is set up.

What to Ask

We suggest that as you tour communities, you ask very specific questions about what is included in the rent and what is additional.  You will want to ask if there is an entrance fee or a community fee.  Most communities are month-to-month, but many communities will guarantee a rent rate for one year. Ask about the annual rent increase that covers the increase in general expenses like food, utilities, etc.  Discuss the costs of services if your parent declines or needs more help while they are living there and what that might look like.  Make sure to review all contracts and understand the level of care that a community can provide.

The care of your parent is not something that you want to be frugal about, but you need to be aware of the costs that comes with care, and budget accordingly.  Your family will want to understand what the monthly cost is for each community that you tour—regardless of how they charge for their services.  Knowing this number and being able to compare between communities can be helpful when making your final selection.

Visit your local Aegis Living to learn more about assisted living and discuss fees and payment options.

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