Should You Live In An Assisted Living Facility (ALF)?
Assisted living is a good housing option if you are usually able to manage your own care but need occasional help.
Assisted living facilities (ALF) have doctors and nurses on staff at all times in case of emergency, and also help with activities of daily living, such as cooking, cleaning, and managing medications.
Though assisted living facilities differ from place to place, most assisted living facilities offer a large degree of independence. This means that residents often live in either a small apartment with a kitchen or a bedroom with a bathroom, though some assisted living facilities offer shared bedrooms. Rooms or apartments may be furnished or unfurnished. All rooms should come equipped with emergency call systems in the room. Most assisted living facilities also have a dining room and at least one common room for socializing, while some also have features like game rooms, libraries, computer rooms, gyms, and other recreational facilities.
Most assisted living facilities will create a care plan that meets your particular needs, even if those needs should change over time. The basic services that an assisted living facility will provide are:
- Housekeeping assistance, including laundry
- Transportation assistance
- Help with bathing, going to the bathroom, dressing, and grooming
- Help managing medications
- 24-hour staff
- 24-hour emergency medical services
- Facility security
In addition, some facilities may offer:
- Scheduled entertainment and recreational activities
- Physical therapy
- On-staff medical specialists
Assisted Living Costs
The costs of assisted living will vary from facility to facility based on the location and amenities of the facility, the size and style of the room, and services provided by the facility. In general, though, costs can range from $1000 to $5000 per month. Though Medicare will not cover the cost of assisted living, some facilities will accept Medicaid. (Medicare is a health insurance program available to U.S. residents over the age of 65 who have paid the standard Medicare tax for no less than 10 years. Nearly all Americans qualify for Medicare.) In addition, some facilities will accept long-term care insurance, HMO and Managed Care plans, and other forms of insurance. For the most part, however, you will likely have to pay the bulk of the cost yourself.
When talking with an assisted living facility, make sure you understand all the costs involved. Some good questions to ask are:
- Are all costs included in the monthly rate, or are some costs billed separately? For example, while meals may be included in the monthly rate, is there an additional cost for taking meals in your room instead of eating in the dining room?
- Are there different costs for different levels of services?
- Is the amount you’re agreeing to pay per month a fixed rate for the entire time you’ll stay at the facility, or will rates increase?
- If there have been rate increases at the facility in the past, when did those increases occur and by how much?
- What are the cost implications if over time you begin to need a higher level of care?
- Are there financial penalties for cancelling your contract with the facility?
For a more complete list of issues to look out for when evaluating an assisted living facility, use our resource Checklist: Questions to Consider When Choosing an Assisted Living Facility.
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