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assisted living

By Joan Koczor

Assisted living is defined as a type of long-term care facility for elderly or disabled people who are able to get around on their own but may need help with some activities of daily living, or simply prefer the convenience of having their meals in a central cafeteria and having nursing staff on call.

How active are you? How active do you want to be?

A few things to consider before making a life-changing decision:

  • Is the residence in a convenient location?
  • How about the outward appearance – is it clean and are the grounds well maintained?
  • Were you greeted by staff? Did they provide a warm welcome? Were they personable?
  • Are the doorways, hallways, common rooms easily accessible? Can they accommodate a walker, wheelchair or scooter?
  • Were the residents friendly? Anyone you would consider as a possible roommate?
  • Are the facilities secure? Doors monitored with an alarm? Security available?
  • Is there a written agreement or contract listing services and accommodations provided?
  • Is renter’s insurance required? Do monthly fees vary according to levels of service?
  • Number of meals provided daily? Snacks?
  • Are rooms equipped with TV and/or a telephone? Computer?
  • Medication administrated by staff? Is self-medication allowed?
  • Nurse or doctor on 24-hour call?
  • Organized activities? Socialization encouraged?
  • Pets allowed?
  • Is the facility state licensed?
  • What is the staff-to-resident ratio?

Not all assisted living facilities are state licensed and registered.

Each state has a different rule for resident-to-staff ratios. Look for one that is as low as possible. Make sure there’s never less than a 1 to 15 ratio. If you’re looking for memory or Alzheimer’s care, the ratio should be 1 to 8 or better.

Monthly costs are another consideration.

Assisted-living facilities average $2,500 to $4,000 per month, with additional costs for memory care. Nursing homes are $4,000 to $8,000 per month. Residential care homes are $1,500 to $3,000 per month. Respite care is $75 to $150 per day; home-care aids $20 to $40 per hour.

A number of public programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, may help pay for some long-term care services. Keep in mind Medicaid rules vary by state. There are many different eligibility groups in the Medicaid program, and each one has its own set of requirements. States have the option to cover or not cover specific groups.

To qualify for Medicaid, general and financial requirements must be met. Tax reform may also bring about changes to Medicare, Medicaid and other government programs. Please be aware of these changes and how they will affect you.

Information is out there. Don’t hesitate to ask questions.

LongTermCare.gov, Assisted-Living.Caring.com

Joan Koczor is a senior advocate and a member of the Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Committee.


This column appears in the May issue of InMaricopa.