Senior housing choice costly, complex
One of the most difficult decisions a family faces is when to move an elderly family member into specialized housing.
How to start can be overwhelming, but if you follow certain steps, it can make the search more manageable.
One of the first questions you must answer is what kind of care your family member needs.
Virginia Traweek, of SeniorHousing Move.com in Dallas, said there are essentially four different levels of care offered by senior living communities, and it's important to understand what each offers.
• Independent living: For seniors who don't require assistance. Independent living is usually offered in either apartment or cottage settings and generally includes meals, housekeeping and social events. Costs can range from $1,000 to $3,000 a month, she said.
• Assisted living: For seniors needing assistance with activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing and eating. Costs range from $3,000 to $5,500 a month.
• Memory support/dementia care: For seniors with cognitive decline because of Alzheimer's or other diseases. Costs range from $3,000 to $5,500 a month.
• Skilled nursing care: For seniors in the end stage of life who require care 24 hours a day. Costs range from $4,166 to $6,666 a month.
In addition, there are senior living communities that offer multiple levels of care on the same campus in what is called a continuing care retirement community, or CCRC.
For a CCRC, the entrance fee ranges from $150,000 to $400,000, with 90 percent refundable when you move out, Traweek said. Monthly fees range from $1,500 to $3,000, depending on whether the resident is single or in a couple and on the services provided.
A senior living community will want to assess your loved one's needs before he or she move in.
“One of the most difficult things for family members is to be objective about the condition that their parents are in,” said John Falldine, managing director of the Edgemere senior living community in Dallas.
Here are steps you should follow in choosing the correct senior housing:
Start early: “Even if you think you won't need senior care for a long time, learning about local communities, their pricing and amenities can make it easier when you decide to move,” said Traweek, a former senior housing development consultant.
Also, she notes that there are advantages to moving into senior housing before there's a crisis.
Visit the communities: This is critical. There's no better way to get to know a community than spending time there.
When you visit, use your senses: sight, smell and hearing.
“Is it clean? Does it smell good?” Falldine said.
Notice whether residents are clean and how the staff interacts with them. Do they treat them with respect and kindness?
“Visit the place at least twice,” said Lue Taff, geriatric care manager at the Senior Source, a Dallas nonprofit. “If you visit on a weekend, you will get an idea of how the place operates without a lot of management staff there. If you visit during a meal, you will see more of the people who actually live there. You will notice if the staff is very helpful.”
When you visit, talk with the families of residents to get their insights.
“Talk with family members in the parking lot, because they will give you the real story,” Taff said.
Ask whether the facility has active family and resident councils, and speak to members about their impressions of the facility.
“How much authority does your resident council have to make decisions about the future of the community?” Traweek said.
Understand the costs: Taff said some assisted living communities charge a monthly fee that includes services such as bathing, dressing and dispensing medication, while others charge a base fee and charge extra for “however much care you need.” That may include having meals brought to your home or having assistance to get to the dining room.
Determine which fee structure best fits your needs and budget.
It's important to know if there is an entrance fee to a community. This may be known as a “buy-in” and can be substantial. Is the fee refunded after you move out or die? How long will your estate have to wait before getting the money back?
Ask about health care: Inquire about how the senior living community will handle medical needs.
“What hospital will you go to if they call 911?” Taff said. “It will probably be the hospital that is closest to the facility.”
Are your loved one's doctors and hospitals within the range of the community's transportation services?
The bottom line is to trust your instincts and never move your loved one into a place that makes you uneasy or doesn't feel safe.
Pamela Yip is a personal finance columnist for the Dallas Morning News.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Natural gas industry buys share of Super Bowl spotlight
- Kennametal plans plant closings, job cuts in fallout from oil and gas decline
- PPG submits offer for French sealants, adhesives business unit
- Trib 30 stocks drop to 4-month low
- BNY Mellon is putting iconic Citizens Bank Tower up for sale
- Consumer comes to the rescue as companies step back
- Consol Energy posts $74M profit in fourth quarter
- Phelan: Fuel-saving tips for winter driving
- Obama seeks $215M for precision medicine initiative
- Wolf signs ban on new drilling beneath state land
- Subaru BRZ still needs upgrades