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Making the Right Choice in Senior Living

Are you or someone you love thinking about the next living stage as you age? You have worked hard for your future and want to enjoy it in an environment where you will thrive. Making the right senior living choice is multi-faceted and includes considering health needs, activity choices, financial considerations, quality of life, friendship, and proximity to family.

The senior living industry has matured in the last 50 years. Senior living facilities now provide a combination of residential living, healthcare and hospitality and often offer several stages of care.

Types of Senior Living

It is important to start by understanding the terminology for senior living options, such as independent living, assisted living, memory care, adult daycare, skilled nursing, and continuing care retirement communities (CCRC). Most residents move to a senior living community between the ages of 74 and 85, but start researching options earlier.

Here are some helpful definitions from the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA):

Independent Living typically offers an active lifestyle and freedom from the hassles of home maintenance. You’ll find residence options such as apartments, freestanding cottages or villas, duplexes, townhomes, and condos, all in a variety of floor plans and sizes. Independent living services and amenities are designed to make things easier and more convenient.
Assisted Living offers privacy and independence in a private apartment or suite with extra care and support as needed. Assisted living is for seniors whose health or well-being requires a higher level of support than independent living.
Memory Care provides specialized care for adults with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of age-related dementia.
Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) or Life Plan Community are campus-like environments that offer a full continuum of senior care from independent living to assisted living and skilled nursing. Many communities also provide home care, memory care, and hospice services. Currently, the average age for entering a CCRC is 85 years old, but it is best to do research on your options well before you reach 85. Qualification for becoming a resident includes financial and medical approval at the time of entry.

Some senior living facilities are for-profit, and others are not-for-profit. This is a business management decision and does not necessarily mean that one is better than the other. Ask during your interview if the organization is for-profit or not-for-profit. Not-for-profit facilities tend to be operated by religious organizations or communities. The hospitality industry was behind the development of some of the for-profit care centers.

Senior Living Costs

The costs of senior living facilities vary depending on the type of care needed and accommodations desired. It is important to do your research to understand senior living costs in your area and how they compare to other housing options in retirement. Understanding the cost structures of your options will help as you plan for this next phase.

Independent and assisted living communities typically have a monthly fee for rent or membership and an upfront payment, which may or may not be refundable.

Many CCRCs require a sizeable entrance fee, but often a percentage of this fee is refunded when the senior moves out or passes away. You do not usually own your unit in a CCRC, however as the industry grows a few centers have begun to offer ownership so that you have a real estate deed. This is especially the case in CCRCs that are linked to a college setting.

Resource Options

Senior living options do involve a significant expense, but there are some practical options to help pay for the costs.

In considering this transition, many seniors have homes with equity built up that can be freed-up when they sell the home. That equity can be used towards the entrance fee at a CCRC or as a bucket of funds to pay for years of the monthly costs.

While Medicare and Medicaid do not cover room and board in these communities (roughly half of the costs), they can help cover expenses attributed to skilled nursing.

Long Term Care policies can be accessed for at least some portion of the medical cost. Often, Long Term Care will pay for a large portion of an assisted living or memory care residence. In the case of a CCRC, additional care services such as aides can also qualify for Long Term Care coverage.

Additional options to consider that could help defray costs:

  • Annuities
  • Health Insurance Riders
  • Health Savings Accounts
  • Life Insurance cash value
  • Trusts

Advice/consultants

Like college, senior care centers have personalities, capabilities, and costs. As you make your decision, it is wise to consult with someone, or a team of people, who understands your values. You may value the advice of your doctor, family, financial advisor, or senior living consultant.

Similar to the college process, a consulting industry has bloomed in the last few years to help seniors understand the complexity of choices and ultimately choose the best place for their circumstances. These companies are thorough, thoughtful and save you time in the search for the optimal place to live in retirement.

How We Help Clients Make the Right Choice in Senior Living

HTG Investment Advisors has many years of experience in helping clients find the “sweet spot” between costs and quality of life in making this financial and emotional decision.

One of the first steps is to understand your current living costs and compare them to various retirement community solutions. We find that the price of a retirement community is often lower than living in your house with all its extra costs.

Cash flow is a key consideration, from the amount you have available for entrance fees, annual maintenance costs, and additional fees for advanced care.

You are likely considering a variety of senior living options. Using a wide array of planning tools, we can help you distill the information so that you are comparing apples to apples. Our caring advisors will listen and guide you through this critical decision-making process. Contact us to learn more.

Jeanne Gnuse

Jeanne is a co-founder of HTG Investment Advisors Inc. She oversees the firm’s client communications, marketing, and community relations functions. Jeanne is the mother of three children and grandmother to seven. She loves helping others learn money value lessons.

Jeanne received her BS from the University of Dayton and pursued graduate studies at Ohio State University.
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