Sunday, June 23, 2024

Are you confused about what an assisted-living facility is, and how it differs from a nursing home? And what you can expect to pay? Here’s a guide to this type of housing for older people.

What is assisted living?

Assisted-living facilities occupy the middle ground of housing for people who can no longer live independently but don’t need the full-time medical supervision provided at a nursing home. They might be right for those who have trouble moving about, bathing, eating or dressing, or who have Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.

Assisted-living facilities can look like luxury apartments or modest group homes, but they are staffed with aides who can help residents take a shower, get out of bed, get to the dining room, take medications, or help with other daily tasks and needs. Meals, activities and housekeeping are usually provided. Some facilities have trained nurses on-site, but in many states the facilities are not required to have them at the ready, or at all. Popular buildings — or specialized units within them, such as ones for dementia — have waiting lists.

“The key is to start early,” said Eilon Caspi, an assistant research professor at the University of Connecticut. “You don’t want to wait for the crisis and then have 24 hours to make a decision.”

How can I know how much assisted living will cost me?

The monthly costs to live in a facility generally range from $3,000 to $12,000 or more. Charges are frequently broken into two components: rent and a care plan. Rents are set similarly to the way landlords establish them for apartments, with larger units in more expensive regions having higher rents and rent concessions more likely when many units are unoccupied.

The costs of care plans are based on how much assistance the facility thinks residents will need, at least when they first move in. Most of them assign residents a “level” or “tier” based on the extent of their needs, but some will itemize charges for specific services. It’s like the difference between a prix fixe and an à la carte menu (except you don’t get to choose which approach you prefer within each facility). Assisted-living units or facilities devoted to dementia residents are more likely to set one comprehensive price, though many have tiers.

Make sure the facility’s assessment reflects what the resident will need, or it might increase the price if it is providing more assistance than expected. Check if meals are priced separately.

What charges may catch me by surprise?

Facilities often have nonrecurring initial charges, like move-in fees or “community fees.” You should ask whether there are extra charges for things residents might need or use, like nurse visits, cable television or other kinds of assistance: Such charges can pile up quickly if they’re not detailed as included in the care plan. Some places even charge more if you get medications from a pharmacy other than the one they have a business relationship with.

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