An important question I get asked all the time is how do I find the best Assisted Living Facility (ALF)? That question is often followed by something like this, “I know my dad needs assisted living and I want to get him the best option possible, but I’m not sure we can pay for it.” There is no universal answer that fits all, but the new Caring.com website contains a great deal of information about ALFs, how to choose them and even provides a free rating tool to compare facilities. Also take a look at my step by step article, What To Do When Your Spouse Needs A Nursing Home and my blog article How Do You Choose a Nursing Home for information about what you should know when making a decision.
Searching for and selecting the right ALF for aging loved ones can be both time-consuming and overwhelming. There are more than 36,000 assisted living communities nationwide, according to the Assisted Living Federation of America, and the median rate for a private one-bedroom apartment is $2,575 per month, with 86 percent of residents paying from their own finances.
The problem with paying for an ALF is that typically Medicare won’t pay for it, as Medicare only covers up to 100 days of “skilled nursing care” per illness, and an ALF is typically not skilled nursing.(See “Think You’re Covered? Think Again. What Medicare doesn’t pay for…”) Also, Medi-Cal generally will not cover ALF costs because it generally applies only to skilled nursing care as well.
Well, if neither Medicare nor Medi-Cal covers the cost of an ALF, then how do you pay for it? There are two ways of helping to pay for the costs of an ALF we have discussed previously: Long Term Care Planning and the Veterans Administration Aid and Attendance Improved Pension Benefit. Long Term Care Planning is a type of pre-planning with your assets to qualify in the future for Medi-Cal or other public benefits. If you visit Long Term Care Planning, Do You Need It?, you can learn more about this type of planning.
There are now more than one million seniors in assisted living communities, and that number is expected to double by 2030. According to Caring.com research, 14 percent of family caregivers are caring for a loved one currently living in an assisted living facility, and about 50 percent have searched online for a senior living facility or for in-home care.