Finding the right senior living solution is a daunting task, especially when critical health care decisions are being made during emotionally charged and urgent circumstances. The right senior living specialist will lighten the load of a caregiver or family through their personalized, compassionate, and comprehensive approach, learning about the family’s and senior’s care needs, budget, location, religion, and hobbies. Based on the individual’s unique criteria, your specialist will lead the family to the right community type, whether it be Independent Living, Assisted Living, Memory Care, short-term respite care, or advice for in-home care. And through a systematic matching of the senior’s needs with the local community’s services, your specialist narrows down the search to the few that ultimately apply, saving you from the time and stress of sorting through all the mismatches. This enables the family or caregiver to focus on what is important – the care of their loved one.
Think of the senior living specialist as a puzzle master who’s helping a family put together a puzzle without the box top. A qualified and trusted specialist will have valuable resources (other puzzle pieces) for the family should they be needed, like elder law attorneys, mover managers and down-sizers, financial advisors, veterans’ affairs experts, home health agencies, and hospice agencies. Access to this network of trusted resources is what sets your senior living specialist apart from all others, and builds the trust between the senior and the specialist. The senior living specialist should provide a personalized service approach, being there with you through the entire process, including follow-up after move-in. Most senior living specialists’ services are free to families or seniors, where they are compensated by the senior living communities through a one-time commission.
Among the many questions families ask about long-term care, the two most common are “How much will long-term care cost,” and “What exactly is assisted living?” Planning for the cost of some kind of long-term care after age 65 is really the best approach, whether through Long Term Care insurance or saving a specific amount of your current monthly income. Recent data reported indicates 70% of people over 65 years of age will require some form of assistance, whether short-term or long-term, so planning for what seems inevitable is the prudent approach to securing your assets.
Paying for long-term care can be categorized in two ways: Asset Protection and Asset-Based. Asset protection sources include Long-Term Care Insurance and Life Settlement (cash out) of a life insurance policy. Asset-based sources are the most common for seniors including income from Social Security, VA or company pensions, and annuities. Other asset-based sources include cash from savings and checking accounts, IRAs and other equity building investments. Homes and other real estate that can be quickly converted to cash (whether through sale or a reverse mortgage) fall in the asset-based category.
Supplemental sources designed to help low-income seniors pay for long-term care include state-funded Medicaid and special veteran pensions like Aid & Attendance or Housebound programs. “Won’t Medicare pay for long-term care like assisted living?” is a popular myth. Medicare does not pay for assisted living, but will pay for medical costs related to doctor, nursing, home health services.
“What exactly is assisted living?” The general population tend to think of assisted living as a nursing home. And while there are a few common characteristics, assisted living is designed to provide assistance with what are called Activities of Daily Living or ADLs. Unlike a nursing home, an assisted living community will not provide medical services like intravenous injections, tube feeding, tracheotomy care, wound care, or rehabilitation services, just to name a few. An assisted living resident will typically receive the following services and amenities:
- Assistance with ADLs – mobility, clothing, grooming, bathing, and toileting.
- Medication management, ensuring right dosages at the right times, as well as, ensuring all prescriptions are refilled and available.
- On-site access to visiting doctors, nurses, podiatrists, mobile x-ray and optometry services (costs are covered by medical insurance)
- A private or semi-private room taking the form of a studio, 1 bedroom w/sitting area, or shared suite. Bathrooms can be private or shared.
- Three meals per day with healthy snacks and hydration available throughout the facility
- Activities and clubs that encourage socialization, sometimes as events outside the facility
- Transportation to and from schedule appointments.
- Secure outdoor areas for gatherings, gardening, bird watching, or just relaxing.
One way to think about retirement living and long-term care is as a continuum of services. As a senior moves through the continuum, care requirements increase as will the costs. Independent living offers the simplicity of an independent lifestyle without the burdens of home ownership and maintenance. Assistance with ADLs or medical services are not included in independent living pricing. As care needs arise or increase, assisted living then becomes a viable option, and the senior’s costs will increase accordingly. Long-term nursing care, also known as a nursing home, is the end of the continuum, where the resulting costs are the highest because the care needs are the greatest.
Memory care is included under the umbrella of assisted living, where special services are required. Since residents with significant memory impairment will require more and specialized care staff, and a secured facility, the cost for memory care will be higher than for assisted living without specialized care. Services and amenities for memory care are similar to those for assisted living but will differ to ensure the unique safety needs are met for memory care residents.
A senior living specialist will ask a lot of questions to get to know the senior and their family as much as is possible. To ensure decisions can be made in a timely fashion on behalf of the senior, the specialist will inquire about the senior’s Powers of Attorney (medical and financial), and if there are advance care plans in place. While these may not be needed immediately, they are mentioned as important planning devices. The senior living specialist should also recommend at least one trusted elder law attorney to the family or senior if they do not have one.
About Lori Farris
Born in 1960 in Highland Park, Illinois, Lori Farris graduated from Cornell University with a degree in Agricultural Economics. After owning and operating her own Chicago Style Restaurant in Dallas, Texas and working as a tour operator in New York, Lori met and married Efisio Farris, native of Sardinia. For the next 26 years she would work with her husband and open five Italian restaurants in Dallas and Houston.
In 2018, after going on the journey with her parents and their aging health problems Lori founded Senior Living Specialists Houston. She helps seniors and their families navigate the maze of Senior Living Communities. It is a complimentary service that she puts all her heart into it and travels along the pathway with her clients. She is also the host of The Boomer Connection, a TV talk show that celebrates Boomers who are making a difference and helping others. She sits on the board of Jewish Federation Business Professionals Women’s Networking Group, the leadership team of the JCC book and arts festival, Programming Director of the Senior Estate Concierge.