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A closer look at community care retirement and memory care communities

Assisted Living Options

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Making the best choice often involves making the most informed choice. That’s especially true when you are planning for your senior living lifestyle.

For more information or to talk with a senior care advisor at no cost, call Aging Tree at 1-866-320-8803.
For more information or to talk with a senior care advisor at no cost, call Aging Tree at 1-866-320-8803.

In Part 2 of our three-part series on senior living options, we provide basic information on both Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) and memory care facilities and how they compare.

For information about assisted living, check out Aging Tree magazine’s January issue, and stay tuned for the March issue when we take a closer look at nursing home options.

It Takes a Village–Continuing Care Retirement Communities
As mentioned in last month’s feature focusing on assisted living, Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) are large communities with a neighborhood feel composed of single-family homes, villas, apartments, and other facilities that provide a variety of senior care options in one setting.

According to Aging Tree’s CEO Corey Shenk, the major benefit of a CCRC is the opportunity for residents to advance in treatment and care as their needs grow throughout the aging process. This smooths the transition for a resident who needs to move from one type of senior living facility to another as his care index increases.

Costs for CCRC Living
Considered a premier option, CCRCs can offer peace of mind but also come with higher costs.

Shenk explains that typically, CCRCs are set up as “buy-ins” requiring a down payment, or entrance fee, with dues paid monthly. A contract or agreement between the resident and the CCRC guarantees assistance and care for an extended period of time.

Entrance fees can range widely, from $35,000 to $1 million, with monthly charges ranging from $3,000 to $5,000 or more. (These costs can increase as needs change.) Fees depend on the type of housing, the option of renting or purchasing, and the type of service contract. Housekeeping, meals, activities, and transportation may involve additional costs.

Different types of contracts may be available. For instance, one type of contract may require a high entrance fee but limit the increase in costs for future care. Conversely, the second type of contract could require a lower entrance fee while the resident would later incur higher fees as their need for care increases.

With this option, prospective residents may be able to negotiate fees and contract provisions. Either way, it is imperative to request a breakdown of costs and what is included, as well as a history of fee increases.

Memory Care–Attending to a Special Need
Memory loss is a common occurrence as we age. It can also be a disconcerting one, both for the person experiencing it and for loved ones.

It helps to understand what memory loss may entail and how this factors into your choice of senior living options.

Dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, is a “general term for loss of memory and other mental abilities severe enough to interfere with daily life.” Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, is a progressive disease that accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. People who deal with various types and stages of dementia also require different levels of attention, care, and security as part of their living environment.

While some CCRC communities provide care for all stages of a resident’s memory care, even if it progresses over time, the level of care offered at assisted living and nursing homes varies.

In general, features to be aware of when considering memory care options include the expertise and training of staff, building and grounds security, care offered during the night (as Alzheimer’s and dementia can interfere with sleep patterns), activities that encourage sensory stimulation, the availability of care for those exhibiting disruptive or aggressive behavior, and cost.

Assisted Living
Assisted Living facilities support the autonomy of residents through help with daily tasks such as housekeeping, meals, laundry, transportation, and other services. This option may be sufficient for those in the early stages of Alzheimer’s who still function independently. Unless designated as an “assisted living memory care”, however, such facilities may not accommodate residents who are considered “exit-seeking,” need a secured environment, or require higher levels of monitoring and medical care. When choosing an assisted living facility, it’s important to understand the level of memory care a resident needs and what each assisted living community provides.

Assisted living memory care facilities combine the amenities of an assisted living environment with the higher levels of monitoring and medical care residents with dementia require. These may include: specially-trained, licensed nurses on-site 24/7, a safe and secure building and outdoor area, an environment that encourages interaction and socialization, and a choice of private or companion apartments.

Secure Memory Care
Also referred to as Alzheimer Special Care Units (SCUs), these facilities offer “secure memory care.” Similar to assisted living memory care, this living option also provides 24-hour nursing, guaranteed secure grounds, staff who have received dementia training, and activities that help residents exercise their skills and interests. Although brand new “Memory Care Only” communities are being built as stand-alones, these units are generally set up as a group or floor within a larger residential facility.

Nursing Home Memory Care
Nursing homes, also called Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs), provide for the basic needs of residents, including housekeeping, meals, showering, and using the bathroom. In addition, many SNFs provide 24-hour medical care from Registered Nurses and on-call physicians and custodial care for residents with late-stage Alzheimer’s or other debilitating conditions. Typically, Skilled

Nursing Facility Secured Memory Care units are designated for the end stages of dementia and provide the highest level of care available. Prior to this “highest level of care” in a Nursing Facility, most individuals afflicted with memory loss will have received memory care either through Assisted Living Memory Care or Home Care first.

Costs for Memory Care Facilities
Costs for senior living vary as widely as the level of care and services needed. Nationwide, the average cost of assisted living in 2016 was approximately $3,600 per month with the average cost of Alzheimer’s assisted living in Florida at about $4,300 per month.

Paying for an Alzheimer’s or memory care facility involves many of the same funding sources we outlined in last month’s issue about assisted living. These include personal resources such as savings accounts, reverse mortgages, life insurance conversions, and loans. For more information on funding sources, visit AgingTree.com and search for “how to pay for senior care” at the top of page.

Are you a veteran or survivor covered under a VA pension? Then you may be eligible for the Aid and Attendance Benefit. This program works better for those choosing assisted living, while Medicaid is preferred for nursing home care. Be aware that receiving a VA pension may disqualify a veteran for Medicaid or VA disability compensation.

In general, Medicare does not cover the costs of assisted living or other forms of long-term care and services. However, a person with a severe or disabling chronic condition, such as dementia, can join a Medicare Special Needs Plan (SNP) if they have Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B and meet other eligibility requirements. SNPs are approved by Medicare and run by private companies. Most of the costs of joining a Medicare SNP will be covered if the person has Medicare and Medicaid. Visit www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) for more information. To find out what long-term care services are covered by Medicare and Medicaid, visit www.longtermcare.gov.

For more information or to talk with a senior care advisor at no cost, call Aging Tree at 1-866-320-8803. We can help you and your family navigate the many aspects of planning for your senior living lifestyle.


Amanda Eastep

Amanda Cleary Eastep is a freelance marketing writer for businesses and universities at Word Ninja. She believes words should not only inform, but also offer encouragement and hope. She blogs about faith, family and life change at “Living Between the Lines.”

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