Sometimes as we get older, we require assistance to perform basic activities of daily living. This can result from normal aging or a progressive disease or condition. And while many seniors prefer to stay in their own home, many will require more help than can be offered in that setting and must be cared for in a residential facility. You can learn about home-based options for long-term care in part one of this article, but here we will discuss options for when care at home will no longer suffice.
Assisted Living Facilities
An Assisted Living Facility (ALF) is a residential facility where clients live full time. ALFs typically provide some health care services along with socialization, meals and activities. They can be a stepping stone between living at home and a nursing home or an alternative to nursing home care for someone who’s relatively healthy: ALFs often require clients to meet minimum standards of mobility and self-care, such as being able to get in and out of bed unassisted and feed themselves. State regulations vary widely, so ALF policies do too.
Some ALFs have dormitory-style housing or full apartments. Others provide transitional care with a residential wing for clients who are healthy and mobile and a medical wing for more advanced care. Nationally, the median monthly cost of an ALF is $4,051.
A nursing home is a residential facility that can offer the highest level of medical care outside of a hospital setting with skilled nursing available 24/7 and doctors that see residents on site. Other amenities can include meal preparation, laundry and housekeeping services, social activities and planned outings. Not everyone will end up in a nursing home, but for many seniors, this is a part of their long-term care journey. Nationally, the median cost is $280 a day, which works out to $8,516 per month or $102,200 annually.
Some facilities offer specialized care for patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s. The services offered in Memory Care Centers can run the gamut depending on the level of health and functioning of the patient. They can be a separate wing of a nursing home or ALF as well as independent residences — and their costs vary accordingly. Such facilities often incorporate physical safeguards to prevent wandering and safety protocols such as locking up potentially poisonous items, removing individual kitchens from residents’ rooms, and ensuring patients are eating a healthy diet.
Help Now, and Help When You Need it
More information is available from the federal government at https://acl.gov/about-acl/administration-aging. In addition, your state should have one or more departments that assist with legal, financial and medical advice for seniors. Check your state’s health website as a starting point. Many counties and towns offer community programs and other services for the elderly. A phone call to city hall or the county administration office can put you in touch. And if you’re a veteran, there are programs — including nursing home assistance — available through the Veterans Administration.
No one expects you to be an expert on an industry — and make no mistake, eldercare is a big industry. Sit down with your doctor and a qualified financial planner to come up with a strategy to fit your budget and needs. Whether you’re planning for yourself or your parents, it’s important to have an open and frank discussion about everyone’s wishes and means so that you can make the best plans possible.
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