Locating, comparing senior housing
Dear Savvy Senior,
Can you explain the different types of senior housing options, and recommend some good resources for locating and choosing one? My 84-year-old mother took a nasty fall last month in her home and thinks it may be time to check out some senior facilities.
Need Some Help
There’s a wide array of housing options available to seniors today, but what’s available to your mom will depend on her location, needs and finances. Here are some tips to help you get started.
Your first step is to assess your mom’s financial and physical situation: What can she afford? How is her health and memory? Does she need help with daily living chores? A resource that can help you with this is the Care Interpreter (see http://www.v2.tlchoices.com), a free online tool that asks a few questions and matches her with the most suitable living situation.
If you feel you need some additional help, consider hiring a geriatric care professional (see http://www.caremanager.org ) who can give your mom a thorough evaluation for around $300 to $800, and recommend some appropriate housing options in the area. Here are her options.
If your mom is in relatively good health and is self-sufficient, try “independent living communities.” Typically available to people over age 55, this type of senior housing is usually apartments or town homes that are fully functional. In addition, many of these communities also offer amenities.
To locate independent living or retirement communities, contact your area agency on aging. Call 1-800-677-1116, or visit http://www.eldercare.gov to get your local number. Most of these communities are private-pay only, and run anywhere from $1,000 to over $4,000 per month.
If that’s too steep, another option to check out is “senior apartments,” which are often subsidized by HUD for lower income seniors. You can also locate these through your local housing authority ( http://www.hud.gov/pihforseniors or call 1-800-955-2232) or search http://www.hud.gov/apps/section8 .
Needs Some Help
If your mom needs some help with daily living activities, you’ll need to look into “assisted living facilities.” These types of facilities provide personal care (bathing, dressing, eating, going to the bathroom) when needed, as well as meals, housekeeping, transportation, social activities and medication management. Some facilities also offer special care units for residents with dementia. Costs for this type of care is usually between $2,500 and $6,000 per month, and most facilities only accept private-pay or long-term care insurance.
Another similar, but less expensive option to inquire about is “board and care homes.” These offer many of the same services as assisted living facilities but in a much smaller home setting.
Your area aging agency is again your best resource for finding these facilities, or try online resources like snapforseniors.com. After you locate a few, check them out by calling your local ombudsman -- the government official who investigates long-term care facilities -- and ask whether there have been complaints. See ltcombudsman.org, or call 1-800-677-1116 for contact information.
Needs More Help
If your mom is in need of ongoing medical care, you may need to check out local “nursing homes” that provide skilled nursing care. To find one, Medicare offers a great Nursing Home Compare tool ( http://www.medicare.gov/nhcompare ) that lets you search and compare facilities in your area. If you want more information on a particular nursing home contact your local ombudsman, or for a fee you can purchase detailed reports through companies like http://www.healthgrades.com and http://www.carescout.com .
Another form of senior housing you should know about is “continuing-care retirement communities” (CCRCs). This is a nice option because it provides all levels of senior housing, services and care in one convenient location, but CCRCs are expensive typically requiring a hefty buy-in or entrance fee along with on-going monthly service fees. For more information see carf.org/aging .
Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC “Today” show and author of The Savvy Senior book. Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit http://SavvySenior.org .
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