Beware! Not All Assisted Livings Are The Same

WhisperingIn West Michigan, we are blessed with well over 100 different assisted living communities. Not only do each of these communities look different and offer different amenities, more importantly they are licensed differently (or not at all), offer different care levels, and are qualified (or unqualified) to accept different funding and insurances. In fact, while we often use the term “assisted living”, that term is essentially a marketing term, not a license that a senior housing community holds. There are three ways that a senior care property can operate in Michigan:

HFA License (Home for the Aged)

AFC License (Adult Foster Care)

And surprisingly…No license at all (legal in MI)

Let’s look at a couple of examples of how a lack of accurate information can impact a family searching for senior housing.

Example 1: Julie is looking for a place for her dad. Dad is in a wheelchair due to a stroke but his cognition is still relatively good. Julie went to visit a couple of assisted living communities and was told by the admission representative that her dad needs skilled care because he could not walk. Actually many assisted livings are able to care for wheelchair bound residents but because of the inaccurate information provided to Julie, she had shifted her search to skilled nursing facilities. If Julie stopped her search at this point she would likely end up moving her dad to a nursing home at considerably more expense and into an unnecessary medical environment. Assisted living communities often offer a more home like and private setting and cost between 30 to 50% less. If given the choice most people would prefer to live in an assisted living instead of a skilled nursing facility, and should be given the tools to understand their options to make the best choice for their loved ones.

Example 2: Tom’s dad was recently widowed and wants to move into an assisted living so he isn’t so lonely and has someone to help prepare meals and make sure he takes his medications on time. He chose an assisted living, but after moving there he tried to use his long-term care policy and was rejected because the assisted living community does not hold a license. The family now must move dad again so that he can use the insurance policy he has paid for so long. To avoid moving again, people need to be aware of how a community is licensed and how that affects their ability to use Medicaid Waiver, Long-Term Care insurance and Veteran’s Benefits.

Example 3: Karen’s mom and dad want to move together to an assisted living. Dad  has a feeding tube but can manage it on his own. Mom is independent and will mostly be a companion to dad. Karen has been calling around but has been told her parents would not be a fit either due to her dad’s feeding tube or the shared room with two distinctly different levels of care. At this point they feel like dad must move to a nursing home and mom will stay home alone. This is hard for Karen as her parents will become very depressed without each other. The fact is, some communities cannot have two people needing care in the same room due to the license they hold. Some communities cannot accept people with a permanent feeding tube due to the license they hold. A handful of communities can and will do both, and this information would be vital in this circumstance.