How much does it cost?

This is usually the first question people ask about senior assisted living, and it’s an important one, to be sure. But getting a simple answer is, well, not so simple.

Senior assisted living costs depend on several factors:

  • The choices you make regarding services, amenities and type or size of apartment
  • Health care needs and how they will be met
  • The type of pricing structure offered by the provider

That third factor can make it difficult to compare senior living providers. While some charge a flat rate that includes everything, even when health care needs change, most charge a monthly base rate plus extra fees for various services.

Then there are three main ways to assess those extra fees: 1) Unbundling and charging for each individual service rendered, or “a la carte”; 2) assigning a point value for individual services, then grouping the point totals into different price levels, or “levels of care”; or 3) charging for a set list of services, then adding more bundled services as needed for incremental or “tiered” rates.

What about increases?

Keep in mind that the difference between an all-inclusive rate and a base rate to which you can add more fee-based services is that all-inclusive rates are always higher than the base rate in similar facilities. So it may appear that choosing a community that offers the base rate method is the more affordable route – especially in the beginning when the added-care charges are low. However, you must plan for those fees to increase. In fact, they could increase rapidly after moving and reach the point where you are actually paying more per month than if you had chosen the higher, flat-rate option to begin with.

All providers make annual or routine cost-of-living rate increases, but even taking that into consideration, an all-inclusive rate option is going to be a much more predictable expense than one that fluctuates based on care.

Finally, providers also vary when it comes to requiring a deposit or community fee, an up-front investment or a lease commitment.

How do you compare options?

If you’re looking at more than one senior living option – and you should – be sure to ask a lot of questions. Visit several communities and pay attention to how they make you feel. In addition to gathering information about pricing, amenities and service options at different facilities, compare them to what the same level of care or service would cost if it were provided in your current, at-home situation.

The Family Advisor or Director in each Kensington or Evergreen community can tell you what the pricing structure is for other providers in the area and can also provide a helpful Cost Comparison Worksheet.

Who pays?

Assisted living licensure is regulated on the state level, and regulations vary from state to state. The only government subsidy available for assisted living is through the Medicaid Waiver program, which is also determined by each state; the subsidy amount and how it’s administered varies, as well. Many providers choose not to participate in the Medicaid Waiver program, especially if the reimbursement rate does not cover the cost to provide services. For this reason, assisted living is primarily a private pay industry.

However, some of our Kensington-Evergreen residences do accept residents who qualify for a Medicaid Waiver-funded program. To what extent depends on the state, so be sure to ask the Director or Family Advisor.

Are there financial assistance options?

Most folks pay for senior living through a combination of fixed income, savings and home equity, with fixed income typically the smallest piece of the pie. According to the American Seniors Housing Association and the National Investment Center for the Seniors Housing & Care Industry, families often help pay for the cost of housing and care for a loved one, contributing an average of 7% to 15% depending on care services.

We understand that each and every person has unique financial circumstances. Our Family Advisors are knowledgeable about the resources that may be available to you. The following options could help reduce or pay for some portion of your senior housing and health care costs.

Long-term care insurance helps provide funds for long-term care when other insurance doesn’t provide coverage or isn’t available. Eligibility and premiums are generally based on the age and health of the insured.

Programs that sell or convert life insurance policies, such as Life Care Funding, can be applied to senior living costs.

Savings and investments offer a financial resource that may also generate income in the form of interest, capital gains or dividends.

Personal loans may be used as a line of credit and drawn upon to fund move-in deposits, community fees or monthly fees.

Real estate may also offer a source of funding, whether through the sale of a home or a home equity loan.

Tax deductions: Seniors or their adult children may be eligible to deduct all or part of their assisted living costs as a medical expense on their federal income taxes. Please consult your own personal tax advisor to learn more.

The Veterans Aid and Attendance Program can help defray the cost of assisted living, in-home health care or other non-reimbursed medical care for those who served during wartime – and their surviving spouses and dependents. Eligibility requirements are related to past military service and the level of care required.

Companion living – choosing to share an apartment – enables two people with common interests to enjoy the comforts of friendship while sharing the financial responsibility. Residents who live together receive all the benefits of our services and amenities, with significantly lower housing expenses.

Navigating through unfamiliar territory

Choosing an assisted living community is a brand-new experience for most people. A rainbow of choices is one of the things that makes assisted living great – but overwhelming or confusing at the same time.

We’re committed to helping families find ways to make senior living more affordable and to find the place that best fits their needs. What’s most important is for each one to feel at home, whether that’s in one of our communities or another provider’s. For that reason, our Family Advisors will be happy to provide an Assisted Living Checklist of good questions that can help you compare your options and make an informed choice.

Take advantage of the knowledge and experience we’ve accumulated over many years. We promise to give you straight answers.