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.