How to find the best as­sisted liv­ing home for a par­ent

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Hol­i­day sea­sons are a time for fam­ily get-to­geth­ers. Af­ter the par­ties, sib­lings of­ten start dis­cussing Mom’s and Dad’s health and liv­ing ar­range­ments. Usu­ally it goes some­thing like this: “I’m re­ally wor­ried about Dad liv­ing alone — did you see how frail he has got­ten? And his fridge was empty — I don’t think he is eat­ing. I think we should con­sider help­ing him move to an as­sisted liv­ing home.”

You’re not alone; more than 100,000 Amer­i­cans will ei­ther place or start the process of get­ting their aged par­ent placed or ar­ranged into a safe at­mos­phere dur­ing the first quar­ter of 2017.

With an aged pop­u­la­tion set to hit 72 mil­lion by 2020, the need for al­ter­nate hous­ing op­tions are the topic of dis­cus­sion this hol­i­day sea­son. But what’s the right fa­cil­ity and how do you get started? You may have no­ticed as­sisted liv­ing homes pop­ping up in your back­yard this last year. In Utah alone, 50 new as­sisted liv­ing homes were on the health de­part­ment’s plan re­view docket. That is more than 1,000 beds. This does not in­clude the hun­dreds of in­de­pen­dent se­nior hous­ing projects built in 2016.

How do you nav­i­gate through the nu­mer­ous op­tions? For many peo­ple, the lo­ca­tion is the first con­sid­er­a­tion. For oth­ers, it is the size or the ameni­ties. Here are a few tips to con­sider when choos­ing the last home your loved one will live in.

What is their cur­rent life­style like? Are they spend­ing most days watch­ing TV and read­ing the news? Do they oc­ca­sion­ally go out or have vis­i­tors? If that’s the case, then mov­ing them into a large com­mu­nity or a big-box-type as­sisted liv­ing home is not go­ing to be com­fort­able for them. Many times, fam­i­lies have high ex­pec­ta­tions that Mom and Dad need to be more so­cial and ex­pect they will be when they move into the big box home. How­ever, if they have been liv­ing the mel­low, easy-go­ing life­style for a long time, it won’t be chang­ing any time soon. They may strug­gle in their new liv­ing con­di­tions. There are many small com­mu­nity homes in your area, homes tucked into neigh­bor­hoods with only 12 to 20 res­i­dents. These are the places where easy-go­ing, fam­ily-ori­ented so­cial groups thrive.

The larger com­mu­ni­ties with big park­ing lots are won­der­ful places for that per­son that still has a lot of in­de­pen­dence and en­joys go­ing out. They will en­joy the busy ac­tiv­i­ties and con­stant move­ment within the com­mu­nity. They may make friends that en­joy ac­tiv­i­ties, and to­gether they will thrive and age in place. These com­mu­ni­ties range from 40 beds to 200 beds. They look and feel like four-star ho­tels and have some very nice ameni­ties. Many have dif­fer­ent sec­tions to care for vary­ing de­grees of need from mem­ory care to in­de­pen­dence care.

The smaller homes are fast be­com­ing the first best choice for many ag­ing adults. In most cases, these homes are bet­ter equipped for higher needs and res­i­dents with mi­nor de­men­tia. One of the rea­sons is be­cause of staffing ra­tios, which en­sure res­i­dents will not be over­looked. With such a tight-knit home and fewer res­i­dents, its nearly im­pos­si­ble to not rec­og­nize health changes and so­cial iso­la­tion. Many of the smaller type homes look and feel like home, which gives el­derly peo­ple a sense of fa­mil­iar­ity. Be­ing in a place that looks, feels and even smells like home has been proven to en­hance qual­ity of life. Of course, prices usu­ally vary due to size and lo­ca­tion. Most south­ern Utah County fa­cil­i­ties are much lower in pric­ing than north­ern and Salt Lake com­mu­ni­ties. You will see pric­ing range from $2,000 to 6,000 per month for a pri­vate room.

How to pay for it? The most fre­quently used op­tions are to pay pri­vately and/or uti­lize VA ben­e­fits. If you or your spouse served dur­ing wartime, you are en­ti­tled to ben­e­fits up to $2,000 per month to pay for an as­sisted liv­ing home. State-funded Med­i­caid is also an op­tion for pay­ing as­sisted liv­ing costs. This op­tion has some tricky re­quire­ments; how­ever, it is a great op­tion for peo­ple with low in­come and low as­sets. This State Med­i­caid pro­gram is called the New Choice Waiver. Longterm care insurance is also used by those who looked ahead many years ago.

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