How to Make the Most of Senior Living on a Fixed Income
Senior living communities today often seem more like resorts with sprawling campuses, beautiful décor, luxurious amenities and the carefree lifestyle of a 5-star vacation. But do you have to have a 5-star budget to go with it? For most of us, that answer is a resounding no. In fact, you may be surprised to find that in many cases, the cost of senior living communities is actually less than staying at home. Either way, the truth is you can absolutely make the most of senior living on a fixed income. Here’s how.
Cost of Care
The biggest driver in cost of senior living communities is the type of care. In essence, the more care you or your loved one need, the higher the cost. Here’s what you can typically expect:
- Independent Living2 – For active seniors who require little daily assistance and are seeking a maintenance-free lifestyle with social opportunities; the cost typically ranges from $1,400 to $4,000 per month.
- Assisted Living1 – A residential arrangement providing personal care and health services; the monthly average for a private, one-bedroom is $4,000.
- Nursing Home Care1 – Also known as skilled care, offers a higher level of supervision and care than assisted living with onsite nursing 24/7; the monthly average for a semi-private room is $7,441 and a private room is $8,365.
- Memory Care3 – Specifically for those with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, with specially-trained staff and 24/7 supervision; the cost for a single resident typically ranges from $2,000 to $7,000 per month.
What’s Included In The Cost Of Senior Living
Just as one size does not fit all, one price does not fit all when it comes to senior living. Each community is different in terms of what they offer and how they charge for it. Typically your monthly cost will include: rent, meals, weekly housekeeping, access to activities and amenities such as fitness center and pool.
These options may add to your monthly cost:
- Type of residence such as private or semi-private; studio, one-bedroom or two-bedroom
- Second resident fee if your spouse is moving in with you
- Medication management
- Laundry services
- Pet fees
- Concierge services
- Private transportation
Also be mindful of the most common types of fee models in senior living:
- All-inclusive – Includes all services and amenities the community offers in the monthly cost
- Tiered – Has different levels of options available, each one with a different variety of included services
- A la Carte – You pay a base rate for rent that may include some basic services then you’re charged a flat or per-hour fee for every additional service or amenity you use
Most importantly, be clear on exactly what’s included in the monthly cost of the senior living communities you consider along with what you or your loved one really want and need.
Things To Keep In Mind
To make sure you find the right senior living community for you or your loved one and stay within budget keep these things in mind:
- Location matters – Geography also affects cost, similar to real estate, so perhaps look at communities outside the city or in nearby towns, even a different state.
- Fees please – Many communities also charge one-time fees such as a deposit, an entrance fee or a community fee which may not be refundable so make sure you ask before you sign.
- What’s the special? – Senior living communities may have move-in incentives such a month’s rent for free, assistance with moving costs, even waiving the entrance fee in some cases.
- See how you can save – There are often options to help you offset the cost of senior living communities such as the Veterans Aid & Attendance Benefit, long-term care insurance and life insurance conversion.
- Get help – Assessing your options is confusing, we get it! Talk to your financial advisor, doctor or perhaps a friend who’s been through this to help you compare.
- Give yourself time – Don’t wait until there’s a crisis to look for senior living. Planning ahead gives you many more options and plenty of time to consider what’s best for your family and your budget.
Comparing to Home
Initially it may seem less expensive to stay at home, but make sure you’re comparing the total cost of living at home. For true apples to apples comparison of monthly expenses you must go beyond your mortgage or rent to include the cost of food, utilities, home maintenance, property taxes, insurance and entertainment. Then factor in the high cost of at-home care and/or modifications to make your home more accessible and you may find senior living is actually less expensive!
Not to mention the value of the positive impact on your quality of life with all the social and enrichment opportunities available and the peace of mind of a worry-free lifestyle in an environment designed specifically for seniors with safety features as standard.