Levels of Care and Costs of Assisted Living

Levels of Care and Costs of Assisted Living

The idea of staying in your own home throughout your golden years may be very appealing. Maybe it’s a new place you downsized to after the kids left the nest, or a long-term family home that you can’t imagine leaving. But in some cases, you might look at your house and realize that it’s just too much to maintain as you get older. Having some help would be a great thing, especially if you have chronic conditions or other health problems that keep you from doing the things you need to do to keep the house running smoothly.

And even if you’re not worried about home maintenance, you might start to wonder what it would be like to have help with your day-to-day activities like cooking, shopping, and transportation.

That’s where assisted living comes in. Depending upon what sort of help you need in your daily life, you can choose from different levels of care. Some of those levels are very hands-off and allow you to live quite independently in a community of seniors just like you. Other levels are much more hands-on, providing housekeeping services and medical care for the elderly adults who may need it.

While all of this might seem like a hassle to think about, it’s important to consider it now, before you actually need to make the decision. According to LongTermCare.gov, about 60% of us will need assistance with daily living at some point in our lives.1 By thinking about assisted living well before that day comes, you’re adding to your peace of mind and that of your family.

There is a common misconception that assisted living means you will have someone around all the time, cutting into your independence. For most in assisted living, that’s not true. You can opt to have as much freedom as your health will allow. In fact, things like medical alert technology are still highly recommended even if you are in assisted living, because you still have the opportunity to be on your own the majority of the time. Having an emergency button alarm to press that will bring help right to your door whenever you need it is a valuable safety net, no matter what your living situation.

Let’s look at the different levels of assisted living that are available.

Levels of Care in Assisted Living

In some communities designed for elderly residents, a person can live in their own home while someone else handles the maintenance of the home, such as lawn care. They might have access to group transportation or activities through a senior living center. Though these can be helpful for seniors, they don’t quite meet the definition of assisted living.

Assisted living facilities generally break down the level of care into four categories.

·        Basic Care or Level 1. This is for seniors who are mostly independent but require some assistance with the activities of daily living, known as ADLs. These include the basic things necessary to live a comfortable life, such as dressing, bathing, and taking medications as directed. They might need housekeeping services as well or someone to cook for them.

·        Moderate Care or Level 2. In addition to needing some help with ADLs, these individuals need other assistance as well. This level is for those who have chronic health concerns, mobility issues, or other problems with activity, such as using the toilet or transferring from a wheelchair to a bed or shower.

·        Extensive Care or Level 3. These residents have complex medical needs and require frequent attention from staff, including medical personnel. They might require wound care, regular treatments for illness, dialysis, and more. This level of care can also include different therapies that can occur in the home setting, such as physical or occupational therapy.

·        Memory Care. This is the top-tier of physical and mental care in assisted living, with specialized support for individuals who have Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Those in memory care might need constant supervision and care with all activities of daily living, as well as medical treatments.

When you choose assisted living, you often have the option of selecting from two different delivery methods of care: all-inclusive or a la carte.

Those who choose all-inclusive care pay one payment per month (or annually, if you choose), and that cost covers the room itself in the assisted living facility, the food you consume, the utilities you use, and the activities and transportation provided by the facility. Depending upon your level of care, it might also include a variety of therapies and health services. This is usually best for those who need a great deal of care.

A la carte services, on the other hand, are a “pick and choose” option. You will still pay a basic cost for the room in the facility as well as utilities and possibly meals, depending upon how the cost is packaged. But when it comes to other services, you will pay for those as you go. You might choose to pay for caregiving services, housekeeping services, medication management, medical services, rehabilitation, and much more. You might even pay per ride for your transportation or pay for activities you want to participate in. This is usually best for those with fewer needs who still have a lot of independence.

Remember that no matter what level of care you need, a medical alert pendant should be your constant companion. Consider that even in nursing homes, where residents have round-the-clock attention, about half of all the residents fall down each year.2 And in many cases, that results in serious injury. It makes sense to have a medical alarm with you at all times, no matter where you are.

How Much Does Assisted Living Cost?

The costs of assisted living depend upon many factors. First, where you live matters – the price in a high-cost state like California, for instance, will be higher than in a state like Arkansas, where the cost of living is much lower. The level of care you choose will also matter a great deal to your bottom line. One facility might cost more because it offers several levels of care and allows you to step up to a different level as your needs change, while another facility might be less expensive because it only provides one or two levels of care.

According to the Genworth Cost of Care Survey from 2021, the national median cost each month for a one-bedroom assisted living apartment is $4,500 – but that price can range from $2,000 to over $10,000 each month depending upon location, facility type, and the care you need.

And it’s safe to say those numbers will continue to increase. In 2004, a room in an assisted living facility that cost $28,200 annually cost $54,000 in 2021.

The same survey found that the median cost of homemaker services – laundry, cooking, and the like – was just shy of $5,000 each year, while the cost of a home health aide working full time was $5,148. Depending upon the level of care you might need, assisted living could actually be a bargain.3 One of the most affordable safety options for seniors is a medical alert system, or personal emergency response system. Those from Alert1 start at $20 per month for 24/7 emergency monitoring services by trained agents who are standing by to help.

How to Pay for Assisted Living

Paying for assisted living can be a big hit to your bank account. Unfortunately, Medicare doesn’t cover the cost of an assisted living facility. It does still cover medical care and treatments, regardless of whether you live at home or in an assisted living facility. While that can save you some money on the bottom line, the room and board is still your responsibility.

So how do you pay for it? While using your personal funds for retirement is an option, there could be other ways to make the financial burden easier.

·        Long term care insurance. These policies cover some types of assisted living. Look closely at the policy to determine exactly what is covered. This can help you make a decision on whether you can better afford staying at home and hiring help or choosing assisted living.

·        Medicaid. If you are a Medicaid recipient, your assisted living costs might be covered. It depends upon the state and their policies. If you do qualify for Medicaid, you might have to meet further requirements on income and assets for assisted living to be approved.

·        Refinance or reverse mortgage. If you own your home, you might be able to borrow against it to pay for assisted living. A reverse mortgage could give you the monthly cash flow you need, or a refinance of an existing mortgage could yield good dividends from the equity. Talk to a financial advisor about how you can leverage your home to pay for care.

·        Veterans’ benefits. If you are a veteran, you might be eligible for assistance through the VA Aid and Attendance program. This program is designed for those veterans who have difficulty with the activities of daily living.4

·        Life insurance. If you have a life insurance policy that offers a cash payout, you might be able to use that money to cover your assisted living expenses.

·        Annuities. If you don’t qualify for long term care insurance, you can still purchase an annuity. There are two types: the immediate annuity and the deferred long term care annuity. Talk to your financial advisor about which one might suit your needs.5

·        Family assistance. Family members who pool their resources can spread the burden of cost among several people, thus making assisted living or in-home care much more affordable.

Staying in your home and being independent for as long as possible is the goal for many seniors, and an affordable emergency button alarm helps many elderly adults to do so. If you reach a point of being unable to do some vital things to care for yourself, assisted living is a great option that allows you to keep your independence while providing you with the care you need.

And keep in mind that you can gradually move in that direction; for instance, you can hire home help for a few hours each day to help you with dressing and bathing, and thus stay in your own home longer. A senior life-saving alert system is recommended to keep you safe as you go about your day, and thus never have to worry about getting help right away if you need it. You can hire individuals to handle the things around your house that you no longer wish to do, such as cooking or cleaning.

When you choose in-home care, review your costs regularly and compare them to that of assisted living. But regardless of where you are, an emergency response solution should go with you. The risk of falls remains the same, whether you’re at home or in an assisted living facility, so plan accordingly with Alert1’s affordable options to keep you protected 24/7.