Memory Care and Assisted Living Costs
Finding an affordable memory care or assisted living community can be a daunting task. Even this senior housing guru had to plan strategic questions before touring four memory care communities for my mother-in-law. See the questions HERE.
My husband and I flew 1000 miles to Seattle. We only had two days to tour memory care communities in the Seattle area. This required researching the Internet, calling former senior housing colleagues for recommendations and scheduling tours before we left. The timing was tricky because our limited time included visiting with my husband’s mom.
My husband created a spreadsheet to compare costs between these four memory care communities. The pricing is so complex that even someone working in the senior living field (like me) had trouble figuring out the monthly cost for my mother-in-law.
Care points, care levels or all inclusive costs?
Most assisted living and memory care communities seem to have a charge for room and board, then additional costs for care. Pricing can be very gray and feels like an illusion of smoke and mirrors. Care costs can be priced on a point system or a level system.
My mother-in-law, Amy, was assessed at 223 points at her current memory care community. Care costs varied dramaticly. Some of our tour guides were actually guessing what level of care or point total she might be, before a nurse could assess her. This is what makes pricing difficult to compare. The community recommends that you to move her in and then they will figure out the monthly price. Sigh…
Here were the room and board costs of four memory care communities in the Seattle area (these prices do not reflect care costs):
Community A Private Room: $2,330
Community B Private Room: $5,095
Community C Private Room: $4,050
Community D Private Room: $4,137
Room and board costs for a shared room in memory care are less:
Community A Shared Room: $1,050
Community B Shared Room: $4,895
Community C Shared Room: $2,850
Community D Shared Room: $3,837
So let’s try to figure out care costs:
Community A has four care levels: Amy’s current care level two (estimate) – $3,860
Community B has five care levels: Amy’s current care level three (estimate) – $2,595
Community C uses care points: Daily charge .54 a point x 223 = $3,613
Community D uses care points: Daily charge .73 a point x 223 = $4,884
So the price is so high, we decide to consider a shared room. So let’s add the shared room with the care costs to see what Amy would be charged each month:
Community A – Amy’s monthly total: $4,910
Community B – Amy’s monthly total: $7,490
Community C – Amy’s monthly total: $6,463
Community D – Amy’s monthly total: $8,721
Each place said it would reassess Amy in two weeks. They implied the price would bump down, but it might bump up in price. Right?!!? So that led us to ask what could be the maximum cost for Amy’s care in a shared room?
Community A – Amy’s maximum cost: $6,820
Community B – Amy’s maximum cost: $9,045
Community C – Amy’s maximum cost: $9,006
Community D – Amy’s maximum cost: $12,159
Community D was priced the highest, but it also had the highest staff ratio and was a drop-dead gorgeous new building. We had to eliminate it due to Amy’s finances. Community A was priced the lowest and had a wait list. It was cheaper, but gross and we saw a low staff ratio. So that left us Community B or C. Community B had a care level pricing and was brand new. Community C was based on care points and was a dated older community. This is where our spreadsheet came in handy.
The bottom line for the family: Amy’s care was more important than a new community that looked great walking in the lobby. We felt Community C had outstanding personnel! Every single person greeted us on our tour. They painted the picture of Amy’s reality, but explained how they would provide the best care in a homey environment. We felt they were experienced enough to correct Amy’s medications that had been over prescribed at the hospital (You can read about drugging and diapering seniors HERE.).
So Community C will initially cost the family around $6,000 a month, plus the one time community fee. They assessed Amy the same day we toured (another example of excellent service) and determined that 223 points was too high. Her new assessment is less than 200 points.
One-Time Community Fee
Assisted living and memory care communities typically have a community fee (one time) when someone moves in. Here were the memory care community fees for the four places we toured:
Community A: $2,500
Community B: $4,895
Community C: $6,500
Community D: $10,433
It’s complicated to compare senor-housing options; I hope this information can help you. Some other assisted living and memory care communities are all inclusive and only charge extra for incontinence care. Do your own research. Cheaper does not always mean better. Look beyond the superficial newness to the quality of the nursing and caregiver staff. Don’t forget to ask about turnover of staff. Community C has two key staff that have worked over 10 years for the company.
What have you encountered?
I haven’t even discussed who can afford these expensive prices? What about poverty level seniors? What happens when a senior runs out of money? Why is Medicaid almost impossible to find at licensed assisted living communities? These questions are addressed in my new book, “Your Senior Housing Options.” It is available on Amazon.com with a 5-star rating.
Diane and Chris Flying 1000 Miles to Look for Affordable Memory Care for my Mother-in-law
My mother-in-law is currently in a secured memory care community. The price is very high – $6750 for 30 days of respite care. If we don’t move her within two weeks, the community fee for a permanent stay will be $10,000 and her monthly fee will be $9,000 a month. Are you kidding me? Who can afford this?
She was living in her own home six weeks ago, but a crisis you can read about HERE has left her adult children scrambling to find a permanent solution for my mother-in-law.
My husband, Chris, and I work in the senior housing profession, so who is better than us to evaluate the choices. We flew 1000 miles yesterday to be the experts on the ground in Seattle. We are going to visit three memory care communities today and one or two tomorrow. The best way to evaluate and compare retirement communities is in a short span of time. The crème always rises to the top.
We can’t base our decision on what the community looks like, the size of the rooms or the wonderful sales person. We are going to dig deeper and ask the following questions of each memory care community:
- What is the staff turnover? We want to see longevity of staff – particularly in the administrator, nurse, caregivers and possibly the chef.
- Do the staff and residents look happy? We will talk to some of each.
- What will be my mother-in-laws quality of life? What programming is offered? How often does live entertainment come in the building? How will they minimize her anxiety?
- How many hours does the nurse work per day? Twenty-four hours will always be the best answer, but you get what you pay for.
- What is the procedure if my mother-in-law falls? When my mom was in an assisted living community with dementia, every fall led to a terrifying emergency room (ER) visit that was stressful for her. If a nurse is on shift around the clock, it may save my mother-in-law from this stress. If the fall happens at 2:00 am and only a caregiver is on staff, the call to 911 will almost always lead to the terrifying ER visit.
- Do doctors come and visit my mother-in-law here or does she have to be driven to her doctor? Who will do that? Will someone accompany her? What are the costs?
- We will discuss my mother-in-law’s dietary needs and meet the chef. When my mother-in-law was in the hospital, she became incontinent. We hope it is not permanent and assume the diarrhea was from feeding her too many raw vegetables and fruit. She has not eaten those in years because of too much radiation after colon cancer. So it is important that we advocate for her in this regard. Just incontinence can cost an additional $1,000 a month.
- What is the initial community fee? What is the current monthly cost for room, board and care? What is the maximum cost it could potentially be? What are the additional costs? What have we not asked that could cost extra? What happens when someone is broke and can’t pay these hefty fees? We need to find out if the memory care community charges for my mother-in-law’s care by points, levels of care, or is all-inclusive. Pricing can be very grey and it is easy to be confused. Even us experts will have to see beyond the sales “smoke and mirror” answers.
- What is the history of their year over year monthly increases? We can’t just look at affordable costs today, but what if my mother-in-law lives for years?
- Is the room furnished? Do we just bring personal affects? Do we need to go buy a twin bed, TV or special chair?
- How do they handle hearing aids and glasses? My mother-in-law has two hearing aids that she has not used in six weeks.
- What is their procedure in contacting the family to give updates or let us know of a change in our loved one’s health?
- Is there anything that we should have asked but did not?
We will look at the entire memory care community space, her possible room and the outside walking area. I will keep you posted on our family evaluation and pricing for these communities. Hopefully, sharing my experiences and tips can help you too.
Diane Masson’s new guide book for seniors, “Your Senior Housing Options,” will be available next week on Amazon.com. If you sign up for my weekly newsletter on the right side of this blog, you will be notified when this valuable resource can be purchased. Check out my new website: Tips2Seniors.com or please follow me on Facebook.
Diane Twohy Masson is the author of “Senior Housing Marketing – How to Increase Your Occupancy and Stay Full,” available at Amazon.com with a 5-star rating. The book is required reading at George Mason University as a part of its marketing curriculum. Within this book, the author developed a sales & marketing method with 12 keys to help senior living providers increase their occupancy. Masson developed this expertise as a marketing consultant, sought-after blogger for senior housing and a regional marketing director of continuing care retirement communities in several markets. She has also been a corporate director of sales and a mystery shopper for independent living, assisted living, memory care and skilled care nursing communities in multiple states. Currently, Masson is setting move-in records as the regional marketing director of two debt-free Continuing Care Retirement Communities in Southern California – Freedom Village in Lake Forest and The Village in Hemet, California. Interestingly, this career started when she was looking for a place for her own mom and helped her loved one transition through three levels of care.
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