Assisted living costs
Average costs for assisted living will depend on the level of care needed. Think of it as adding more sides to your plate in a restaurant order. There are basic costs and then as more care is needed, costs will increase. Seniors and families facing the need for assisted living may be shocked by these charges, and it is important to understand how those costs break down and what resources there are for seniors. While most programs operate using a personal breakdown of charges, some programs charge a flat fee and spread costs out amongst residents instead. Costs also vary state by state. In Jacksonville, Florida, the estimated monthly average cost for senior living is a little more than $4,400, close to the nationwide average costs of about $4,000. Monthly average costs at the Bartram Lakes Assisted Living facility start at about $4,119.
Most assisted living facilities charge an upfront reservation fee, also called a “community fee.” This cost is often similar to the monthly average cost for the facility but there are wide variations with some places essentially expecting you to “buy” your living quarters. These fees are usually non-refundable unless the future resident is unable to move in due to health considerations.
Think of the base fee as your monthly “rent” for residence in the facility. Costs will depend on the size and occupation of the unit i.e. costs will vary if a residence is shared, a private room or small apartment. Base fees will usually include utilities, basic housekeeping, maintenance and some meals. The cost will vary depending on the type of service needed.
Care services fee
Care service fees are generally based on the number of activities of daily living (ADL) that a resident needs. This cost is added to the base monthly fee. Accurately assessing how much care will be needed is perhaps, one of the most important aspects of deciding where and how your loved one should be cared for. Detailed assessment and planning will help to create a better plan of care and a better assessment of cost. These costs are usually adjusted on a tiered basis with tier one being the lowest of care and cost needed.
Medication management & other services
If the facility you are considering charges on a fee-for-service model, a monthly medication management fee may be added. This can range from between $300-$500/month. Additional services like occupational or physical therapies would also be charged on a monthly basis as needed. Other non-care services such as parking or additional meals may be included in these fees.
What is included in the cost of a senior living community?
Senior living communities serve the needs of seniors who are fairly independent, yet still have care needs. Costs will vary according to where you live, services, and amenities that are offered. Some communities will offer driver services, on-site medical care, gym or pool facilities – all of which can add to the monthly cost of a lease. A community without these perks can be less expensive or many seniors choose to use outside providers, such as house cleaning, to cut down on community fee costs.
Housing & dining
Room and board are usually included in the base cost of an assisted living facility. This cost will usually include a private apartment and a meal plan providing two or three meals a day. Apartment size and location will have an impact on cost. Consider whether the apartment has a kitchenette, access to parking, is on the ground floor and whether it has a balcony or other outdoor space. All of these considerations can affect cost.
Beyond the basic two or three meals a day, many facilities take pride in their dining options, which can vary from restaurant-like meal settings, to casual dining, coffee shops or grab and go. Careful consideration and planning should go into choosing how your loved one will participate in order to avoid cost surprises.
Activities, entertainment & transportation
Most assisted living facilities will provide activities designed to help residents socialize, keep fit, meet spiritual needs and be entertained. Participation fees may be assessed so that facilities can pay speakers and presenters. Fees may be assessed for use of pools and physical fitness equipment. Transportation fees may include group bus trips, medical appointment transportation and other event transportation. Some facilities may charge a parking fee.
Health services & medication management
Whether it is on-site medical care, medication management or therapies such as physical or occupational, these services are a crucial part of the cost of care. Making sure that your loved one has a health care implementation plan can help to assess what those costs and needs are up front. Be aware that as your senior’s health needs change, those costs will change.
Emergency systems & 24-hour security
We know that you or your loved one choose an assisted living facility with health and safety as a primary concern. Extra costs brought on by health and safety regulations are part of the base fee charges. While assisted living facilities have health and safety regulations that are required by the state of Florida, each facility should have 24-hour monitoring, perimeter safety, exit and entrance door monitoring or locking (especially important in memory care), adjustments to the needs of residents such as walking programs, contagion prevention, and fall prevention.
Salons, barbershops & exercise
Assisted living facilities must provide personal services such as haircuts and nail care. These are usually done on-site through a contracted service. Rates for haircuts and other services are usually below such costs from the outside community, with a haircut averaging between $10 -$20. These are popular services and new residents are encouraged to make standing appointments.
Fitness activities are often encouraged in assisted living facilities and can help residents with balance, strength and flexibility. Costs of these activities are usually an add on.
Is assisted living tax-deductible?
Medical costs associated with assisted living are deductible but ordinary living costs like room and board are not. However, chronically ill residents who receive care as part of a certified care plan may be able to deduct costs just as they would for hospital care. If a resident is in the hospital for custodial care, then some limited deductions may be allowed. Costs that are regularly reimbursed by insurance or other programs are not deductible.
How to pay for assisted living
Seniors are often shocked when faced with the cost of assisted living, but there are resources that can help. Careful planning and using a combination of resources usually provide the best outcome. Some of those resources include long-term care insurance, private pay, Veteran’s Benefits, and Medicaid but there are others. Sitting down with someone who can help guide you through the best options will help to relieve that initial shock and allow you to make decisions with peace of mind.
Paying out of pocket
For the most part, seniors cover the cost of assisted living through their own resources. They might use a mixture of retirement accounts, pension funds, their Social Security checks, savings and letting go of other investments. These resources are primarily used to address the base costs of assisted living. Other resources can help with the costs of health-related care within the assisted living facility.
Does insurance cover assisted living?
Most health insurance plans do not cover the base cost of assisted living. However, they will cover health-related costs just as they would if the resident was living at home. Long-term care insurance premiums specifically designed to cover assisted living facilities can be used to allay costs and short-term care insurance may be an option to cover the initial period of care.
Using long-term care insurance to cover assisted living
Long-term care insurance can be used to cover assisted living. Most of these insurance policies will cover dementia care and assisted living care for residents who need help with more than two daily living activities (ADL). Coverage of costs will depend on the policy requirements and limitations. There is usually a waiting or “elimination” period of a few months of care before the policy will begin paying out. In some cases, short-term care coverage can be used during this initial period. It is important to be aware of how long the coverage will last. Some life insurance policies also have provisions for long-term care. Talk to a professional advisor about which kind of policy would be most helpful for your needs.
Does Medicare pay for assisted living?
Generally speaking, Medicare does not pay for assisted living. However, some Medicare Advantage plans (Part C) have long-term care benefits and personal assistant benefits that could be used by a senior in assisted living. Medicare covers skilled nursing care (up to 20 days) in a facility, after a hospital stay. Medicare will also pay for most medical care needed by a senior in assisted living but not custodial care. The easiest way to think about it is Medicare can be applied toward the cost of medical care but not day-to-day living expenses.
Does Medicaid pay for assisted living?
Seniors who meet eligibility requirements can get help to pay for assisted living through Medicaid. Federal and state agencies work together to determine what care a person can qualify for. In Florida, there are several programs that work together with the Federal assistance program – Home and Community Based Services (HCBS). They are grouped together under the Medicaid Managed Care Long Term Care program (SMMC). Legal Florida residents who are over the age of 65 or designated as disabled, who meet “nursing facility level of care,” and meet the financial requirements can apply for Medicaid. If a person meets those eligibility requirements, they may qualify for help with many of the medical and personal care management needs in assisted living.
Applying for VA benefits to pay for assisted living
Veterans Affairs benefits can be used to pay for care services while your loved one is in assisted living. Although they do not cover base fee costs of room and board, VA benefits can be used to cover medical needs in residential care. Applying for these services can be complicated so it is important to talk with someone who is well versed in the application requirements. First steps would be to make sure that your veteran is involved in Veterans Health Care services.
Using a reverse mortgage
A reverse mortgage is a loan that a person takes against their home’s equity. Under some circumstances, this may be a viable option to help seniors pay for assisted living or other senior care. However, each person’s situation is different and advice should be sought from qualified financial advisors. Seniors should only use the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM), which is insured by the Federal government and only accessible from a lender approved by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).
While finding ways to pay for assisted living can be complicated, there are resources out there that can be used to help allay the cost of care. Talk to someone who can look at your needs and knows what resources can be used to help costs. Finding someone who can carefully look over you or your loved one’s needs, resources and knows what other kinds of resources are available to help can bring peace of mind.