It seems that on every corner there is a new senior living building being erected. As baby boomers need more assistance while the age is driving this boom. And just like baby boomer changed America’s landscape in the 1960’s and 1970’s, their needs and tastes are changing how we live in later years. No longer do you just have to go to a horrible nursing home where they line you up in your wheelchairs in the hall. But with change comes confusion, let’s define the new housing standards
Independent Living: You have your own apartment with a small kitchen. Meals in a main dining hall will generally be provided and you can eat there or make your own food in your apartment. The facility will have some general monitoring, such as a button in the apartment that you press in the morning to indicate you are okay. If you fail to press the button by a certain time of day, someone will come by to check on you. In addition, they provide light housekeeping and laundry. Many places will allow you to keep a pet. Make sure if you are considering a place like this to understand the meal plan and what services they provide. What they do not provide is assisted living services (such as bathing or ambulating) or medical services. Many independent living places will have a separate company on site that will provide those services for an additional fee, Independent living is not covered by Medicare, so you will have to pay for this out of pocket. Typical Long-Term Care policies do not cover independent living either
Assisted Living: You may have an apartment similar to independent living with a kitchenette. The facility will provide more daily care items and house cleaning. Most have plans that can be tailored to your needs. For example, you may be able to get around okay but just need some help with taking a shower a few times a week or remembering to take your medications. Assisted living is also not covered by Medicare but may be covered by Long Term Care insurance if you have a policy that covers it.
Memory Care: These provide many of the same services listed above but the units are monitored much differently as they do not want people wandering off. They often have different activities designed to stimulate people with dementia. Also, many assisted living facilities have a memory care unit in addition to regular suites, so couples can stay relatively close to each other.
Nursing Home: A nursing home is generally providing 24-hour nursing care. Few people need this for long periods of times. It may be either after a significant health event such as a heart attack or stroke, or at the very end of life. If you are recovering from a health event, the goal would be to move you as soon as possible to a rehabilitation center, home, or a living arrangement described above. Nursing home care is very expensive and while Medicare does pay for 100 days, it does not pay for continuing care. Most folks are confused about that because they hear the Medicaid will pay for nursing home care. And it does, but Medicaid is for poor people. You will have to spend down your assets to qualify for Medicaid. And don’t think you can just move all your money into a child’s name to be “Poor”. The government has caught on to that trick and has what is known as “Look Back Periods” where they can go back and see what assets you did have so it important to make sure you are planning properly.
If you are considering a move to senior living place, for yourself or perhaps a parent, it is important to look at several before making a decision. Consider all your options and needs. Some of these places are very fancy and some are simpler. Some provide a high level or activities, and some don’t. You or your parent may not like all the fancy bells and whistles, so why pay for it? It is important to shop around and gain a better understanding of your needs and options.