There are more resources available than you think to help you afford assisted living.
If you’re helping a parent or family member prepare to move into a senior living community, you know there’s a lot to think about. From quality of care to location and personality, every community is different. And once you do find the right fit, figuring out how to afford assisted living can be overwhelming.
With careful planning and help, assisted living is attainable. Brian Fricke, CFP, founder of Financial Management Concepts, and Amy O’Rourke, founder and president of The Cameron Group, share five pieces of advice that will help you get a handle on how to finance the move.
1. Plan ahead to finance senior living
Start before you need to. “Start planning sooner rather than later and don’t wait until it’s an emergency situation,” says Fricke. You can’t know that an accident or health crisis is coming, so before your aging family member reaches the point where she’s ready to move into a senior living community, begin planning. Look at options, visit some possible communities, talk about needs and wants and get finances set in place so that the transition is as seamless as possible.
While it can be emotional to think about the future or talk with your loved one about aging, avoiding the issue leaves no time to create a realistic payment plan or identify financial assistance. “It’s better to have a plan in place that everyone is aware of,” says Fricke.
2. Be transparent about the financial reality
“Open the books, share the finances and get the family involved in the situation,” says Fricke. It can be uncomfortable for some people—parents and adult children especially—to talk openly about money, but understanding the numbers can make all the difference. Having everyone on the same page, both with finances and with your family member’s wishes, will help you avoid conflict during an emotional time.
“Listening really well to how the parents envision their future… [and] approaching [the discussion] with interdependent goals” will help make the planning process easier and ensure the best decisions are made, says O’Rourke.
3. Understand the real costs of senior living
Deciding how to finance senior living starts with the current budget. Consider what your family member is currently spending on housing and related expenses and compare that to the price of the communities you are considering. Remember that meals and transportation might be included in the overall price—be sure to get a very clear rundown of what is and isn’t covered by the monthly fee. “Oftentimes what people leave out is that the community is providing other services. So when you sit down and look at the total expense, it’s probably not that much different than staying in [a private] home,” says Fricke.
4. Afford assisted living: Where to get help
Consider all revenue sources including savings, income and what public benefits are available, says O’Rourke. For example, many seniors may qualify for Veterans benefits or private means such as an Elderlife Line of Credit and do not even realize it. There are other options available as well, such as tax-exempt family gifting, long-term care insurance, selling a life insurance policy or tapping into home equity.
5. Talk to a professional
Advice from a financial advisor, a geriatric care manager or an elder law attorney can help give your family peace of mind and save money. A care manager may be able to help create a plan, assist in finding public benefits and help select an elder law attorney you can trust. If you have financial questions, especially before making a big decision like tapping into home equity or selling a life insurance policy, take the time to speak with your team of advisers, such as your lawyer, financial advisor and care manager. “A little bit of investment in the front end helps in the back end,” says O’Rourke.
As you take stock of your aging loved one’s finances and talk about what she wants for the future, you can start to build a solid plan and find the right senior living community.