One of the objections that families encounter when broaching the subject of senior living is: It’s too expensive. But is it really? While you need to give ample consideration to the cost of senior living before making a decision, the surprising fact is that it may not be much more than your parent’s current living expenses. And in some cases, it can even be less.
Do a Cost Comparison
Let’s look at some of the expenses you and your family will be giving up if your parent makes the move from a private home to a senior living community.
Mortgage/Rent, Utilities, and Upkeep of the Home: While many seniors own their home outright, that’s not the case for everyone. In addition, there are also various expenses such as homeowners’ insurance, property tax, utility costs, cable/satellite TV, lawn care, home repairs, newspaper delivery, and security fees. If your parent no longer can keep up the home, perhaps one option you’re considering is a move to an apartment outside of the senior living sector—in which case you could easily be looking at rents upwards of $1,000 and without all the amenities that senior living communities offer such as three meals a day, enhanced security, social activities, free transportation as well as assistance with the activities of everyday living.
Transportation Costs: Owning a car can be a major expense for your parent when you add in the costs of the monthly payment, auto insurance, gas, annual licensing fees, maintenance, and repairs. If your parent has given up driving, then all the expenses of transporting your parent fall on you, the caregiver, and that can get extremely costly if you’re regularly taking your parent to doctor’s appointments, the grocery store, the pharmacy, adult day services, and various family gatherings.
Caregiver Costs: Studies in recent years indicate that the value provided by the 40 million family caregivers who donate their time to adult loved ones is approaching $500 billion. However, if you want to look at more concrete expenditures, a recent AARP study found that more than three-quarters of family caregivers incur substantial out-of-pocket expenses. On average, they’re spending nearly $7,000 annually in a variety of categories such as household expenses, personal care items, medical/dental/vision expenses, legal costs, travel expenses, and respite services (such as in-home health aides, adult day services and other paid help). That’s thousands of dollars that caregivers could be spending on discretionary expenses such as vacations, home improvements, and saving for their own eventual retirement.
Alternate Care Options: Care options for your parent outside of family caregiving may include adult day services, in-home home case, and physical therapy. The national average for non-medical home care is $20 per hour—or $160 for an eight-hour day. If your parent needs round-the-clock home care, the costs are triple that figure. An assisted living alternative is the economically more prudent choice in a case where those in-home care costs add up to thousands of dollars each month.
A Place For Mom offers a senior care calculator, which enables families to do a cost comparison between assisted living and home care. You may be surprised to find out that the difference between the two is minimal—or in some cases that assisted living is your more affordable option. Factoring in the savings in time and money for family caregivers may tip the balance in favor of your parent’s move to assisted living or another form of senior living.
Finding Affordable Senior Living
Finding senior living your parent can afford often takes considerable time and research. Plan ahead so that you can weigh all your options without being rushed and making a choice that ultimately will not make the best financial sense for your parent.
In its recent blog post on ways to beat the high cost of assisted living, A Place for Mom offered several other cost-saving recommendations, including:
- Ask about price flexibility. In some cases, assisted living providers may be willing to negotiate on such costs as move-in fees and monthly fees. It certainly doesn’t hurt to ask.
- Weigh the “a la carte” versus inclusive pricing options. If your parent doesn’t need various amenities included in the set fee, it may be more economical to pick and choose from the menu of services the assisted living provider offers.
- Expand your search geographically. Often the options in metro areas are more expensive that those in the suburbs or outlying areas. The few extra minutes you spend in driving to see your parent may be offset—and then some—by the time you save over your previous caregiving obligations.
- Share a room or apartment. This is a cost-efficient way to move into assisted living—and if your parent is a social person, having a roommate may be a more enjoyable way to experience the senior living environment.
- Get it right the first time. Make sure the location you choose is a good fit for your parent—not only for today but for what their subsequent needs may be. Finding the right match from the outset will save you money and provide the best transition for your parent.
CHIME IN: What are your thoughts about making the move to senior/assisted living more affordable?