Assisted living can be an affordable option for more seniors than you think.

There are many statistics and articles surrounding the cost of senior care facilities that have information that is inaccurate or exaggerated, and can make the families of many seniors forgo considering a assisted living because they feel they cannot afford it.   A licensed assisted living can be expensive, but usually runs at least 30% less than a nursing home.  Also, in addition to private pay funds many residents can qualify for VA benefits (even as a spouse of a veteran) or Medicaid waiver.  There are also bridge loans offered by some companies that can loan a person money while their house is being sold, using the value of the house as collateral.  Some facilities run specials that can last up to twelve months, or can help residents to share rooms to reduce costs.  It’s also important to keep in mind that the people moving into assisted living generally have high care needs and are quite elderly and the average length of stay in about 2.8 years.  Many people calculate needing funds for 5 to 10 years, and statistics show that is very unlikely.

When seniors and their family members are making the very important decision of where to spend their last years so they are safe and comfortable, they need to be aware of all possible options.  With incomplete information seniors needing help can end up prematurely in a nursing home or choose not to move at all, when it is to their benefit to have around the clock supervision to maintain their safety, health and quality of life.

The following example can illustrate the creative ways to afford assisted living:

Edward is 88, has an income of $1,000 per month and is a Veteran.  He has Parkinson’s and is having a hard time walking, getting dressed and taking showers, and cannot drive.   He has about $15,000 in his checking account.  The cost for Edwards care at an assisted living would average $4,000 per month.  Initially Edward could choose an assisted living and start paying privately with his income and savings.  He then could immediately apply for VA benefits and would receive approximately $1800.00 per month, including retroactive funds from the date of application.  This would slow down the rate at which his savings are depleted.  He can apply for Medicaid and once he is approved and his savings are spent down, he can be assessed for the Medicaid waiver program and the community can start receiving funds to cover the cost of some of his care.  Even though the income limit for Medicaid waiver is currently $2,200.00 per month, his higher income still qualifies, because approximately $700.00 of the VA benefit is excluded from the income count.   With the two additional funding sources and his income, Edward can afford assisted living.

The timing of applying for and receiving these benefits is important for the success of the plan, but with expert assistance this type of funding plan is possible. Applying for these financial programs isn’t easy or quick and not everybody has the time or energy.  Also, it is certainly possible to not be approved for various reasons.  But these are very valid, legitimate programs that can help people be in the most appropriate and comfortable setting for their needs, while avoiding living in a medically based nursing home and having to use full Medicaid.  Families need to know about these programs as part of the resources that are available to them so they can decide for themselves how to proceed.