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Evaluating Senior-Living Options

Evaluating Senior-Living Options

May 06, 2024

In an ideal world, most seniors would prefer to live in their family homes forever.

However, for many, there comes a point where staying put is no longer a viable option.

Dealing with stairs, shopping for groceries, cooking, cleaning, and paying endless bills and ever-rising real estate taxes become increasingly difficult even if they’re still relatively healthy.

This is when many people consider selling their home and moving into senior-living facilities where they no longer have to deal with the hassles of ownership.

Most of these facilities offer meals, daily activities, fitness centers, housekeeping services and transportation to nearby hospitals and medical centers.

Others are designed for seniors who may need help with certain daily activities, such as getting dressed or walking.

This first of a two-part series provides a high-level overview of the most common senior-living options.

Independent-living communities

In an ideal world, most downsizing seniors would probably prefer to move into independent-living communities.

These communities are meant for generally healthy people who don’t need extra help for everyday tasks like getting dressed or bathing.

Residential options may include apartments, townhouses, or standalone homes. While these communities do offer communal meals, units often include full kitchens.

Assisted-living communities

These communities are for seniors who need help with basic living activities such as getting dressed, taking baths, eating or walking. These services are provided by aides who are generally available 24 hours a day.

Memory care communities are specialized assisted-living communities that provide care for people with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.

Nursing homes

 These locations serve seniors who need medical care some or all of the time. There are generally two categories: 

  • Intermediate-care facilities are for seniors who have non-acute medical issues. Nurses must be on call at least eight hours a day. These facilities generally offer medical, pharmacy, and dietary services on-site.
  • Skilled-nursing-care facilities must provide access to on-site nurses 24 hours a day. These facilities are designed for people who are physically or mentally incapacitated and need short or long-term care. They offer the same medical services as intermediate-care facilities as well as assisted-living services.

Residents generally live in private rooms or share a room with another resident.

Some nursing homes offer both intermediate-care and skilled-nursing-care in the same location. This may make it easier for residents who have to transition from one level of care to the other.

Continuing-care communities

At some point, residents of independent-living communities may need ongoing medical care or assistance with daily activities. While some of these communities may allow personal care or home health care aides to help residents in their units, others may require them to move out of their unit to a dedicated assisted-living facility or nursing home. 

These transitions can be physically and emotionally traumatic, removing seniors from a community where they’ve felt at home and established friendships.

Continuing-care communities can help ease these transitions.  They’re designed to serve as “all-in-one” senior living locations, offering independent-living, assisted-living and nursing home facilities and services in a single location. Residences may include apartments, townhouses, detached homes and rooms.

The biggest advantage of these communities is that once seniors move in, they usually never have to move out.

When they’re healthy, they can enjoy the benefits of independent living. Later, if they need assisted-living or nursing care, they can often receive these services in their residence. Most even often hospice care, so when the time comes residents can pass away in the comfort of their own home.

The financial factors

The next article in this series will examine the potential costs of senior-living communities in greater detail, but needless to say, anyone considering moving into one should be prepared for “sticker shock.”

Monthly costs may run anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 or more depending on the location and amenities and services provided.

And many continuing-care communities charge “entrance fees” of hundreds of thousands of dollars up front that cover the costs of a living space and services that may be needed now or at a future time. These centers also generally charge maintenance fees on top of these one-time expenses.

Nursing homes can cost hundreds of dollars a day, and Medicare coverage of these costs is limited.

The importance of planning ahead

Seniors who are considering moving into any of these communities should start conducting research on their options long before deteriorating physical or mental conditions make this transition a necessity.

Considering the highly complex and emotional nature of this decision-making process, seniors should involve their children or other family members and friends to help them evaluate their options and accompany them on tours of facilities they’re considering.

And, given how expensive these facilities can be, those considering making the move may also want to meet with a financial advisor to help them figure out if their retirement nest egg (supplemented, if need be, from proceeds from a home sale) will enable them to afford this transition, especially if they expect to live in one of these communities for many years.

This article was authored by Joelle Spear and Jeffrey Briskin. Joelle is a financial advisor and Partner located at Canby Financial Advisors, 161 Worcester Road, Framingham, MA 01701. She offers securities and advisory services as an Investment Adviser Representative of Commonwealth Financial Network®, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser. She can be reached at 508.598.1082 or Jeffrey Briskin is Director of Marketing at Canby Financial Advisors.

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