Balancing the Costs of Assisted Living

If you’ve just recently began your search for assisted living then you’ve likely found yourself trying to make sense of the wide range of prices in the market. The truth is that there are many factors that can affect the price of assisted living. Here are a few of the major contributors to pricing.

1) Quality of Care. As your loved one’s advocate, this is the fundamental essential cost you’ll never want to skimp on. Quality care givers demand to be compensated fairly. The last thing you want is to place your loved one in a facility with poorly compensated caregivers who are there only for the paycheck and do the minimum they can get away with. But how do you really know the difference between a great caregiver and a marginal one? There are a handful of ways that are cumbersome but let us offer a great but simple litmus test. The difference is in the heart. At Transitions Assisted Living we have toured hundreds of facilities and we’ve discovered that one of the most important questions to ask yourself is: Do the caregivers smile? – not just smile – But do they smile with their eyes so to speak? This will give you excellent insight into knowing their hearts and the contentment level of the staff. More importantly, it’s indicative of the quality of care you can expect when nobody is looking. A great price cannot be at the expense of quality care.

2) Care Level. The greatest single factor that will affect your price for assisted living is your loved one’s care requirements. Unfortunately, it is also the cost you will have the least control over as well. The care level needs to be determined accurately by way of a doctor’s assessment. When considering any assisted living location, you can expect one of the first questions you’ll be asked is, “Has an assessment been completed?”. Simply put, the assessment is meant to indicate how much daily attention your loved one will require. An independently mobile resident in need of meals, laundry services and the like will cost less than those who require help out of bed, assistance eating, etc. The highest jumps in assisted living costs are associated with those in need of memory care, heavy residents, night wanderers,  and combative residents. Residents in need of memory care relate to those suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia. These residents require significant safety precautions and attention. Heavy residents are difficult to care for as well because they require multiple caregivers and/or a hoist in order to transfer them. Residents who sleep during the day and wanderer during the night are also problematic and require a greater deal of attention. And lastly, combative residents pose a threat to their surroundings and require the highest of attention levels.

3) Accommodations. There are 2,000+ assisted living facilities in the greater Phoenix, AZ area. Their competition has produced seemingly endless accommodation options to choose from. If your loved one has a special interest, there’s likely a facility that can accommodate.  Was your loved one a golfer? There are locations with putting greens. Do they enjoy activities? There are locations with activity directors who plan them daily. The thing to remember when balancing costs is that the facilities who offer the most accommodations under one roof will charge accordingly. An excellent way to curb costs is to determine your loved one’s top couple of interests and locate a facility that offers those things but does not offer an exhaustive list of accommodations. For instance, your loved one may like movie nights and board games but has no interest in sight-seeing on a bus. In that case, you will likely save costs by locating a facility that does not incur the costs of owning and operating a bus.

4) Amenities. Amenities relates to the quality of the facility. For instance, a particular facility may be able to get away with charging more because they have vaulted ceilings, large shaded patios, or remodeled rooms. At Transitions, our experience has been that this is an amazing opportunity in terms of cost savings and really offers a “sweet spot” in the endeavor to balance costs. An older facility, for instance, that may be in need of some updates but has well-compensated/happy caregivers, smiling residents and offers a moderate list of accommodations is where you will get the best bang for your buck.

5) Private vs Semi-Private Rooms. Another way to curb costs dramatically is to be open to a shared or “semi-private” room. The thing to remember here though is that everyone prefers a private room. If you ask your loved one at the beginning of your search if they want a private or semi-private room, they will always choose private and now your costs just became less manageable. In reality, semi-private rooms can be great deals. In group homes for example, the master bedroom is often designated for semi-private use. The two residents actually have more space in the master than the smaller private rooms have – and they pay less as well. By not closing your mind to the idea of a shared room, you may find a gem and balance costs as well.

6) Private vs Shared Bathroom. A great way to save costs is to be open to a shared bathroom. Obviously a private room with a private bath is the most luxurious option and thus costs the most. But, if your projected costs are higher than you would like because your loved one is insistent on a private room, then consider a private room with a common bathroom area. In this way, your loved one will be comfortable with privacy while still curbing costs.

7) Location. “Location, location, location” is a common theme in the real estate market and the same applies to the costs of assisted living. As with any location, there are higher and lower rent districts. As a result, owners who operate facilities in higher rent districts have higher overhead and require more from their residents in monthly fees. In order to balance costs, you’ll want to consider the importance of location. Most people would like their loved one to be close to their home. However, if you are making an effort to curb costs, you may want to consider keeping them close to an area you frequent instead.   For instance, if you live in Scottsdale, AZ which happens to be a higher rent district, but you work in Tempe, AZ, perhaps you could consider a location for your loved one in Tempe in order to reduce costs. Resist closing the door early on locations. You may be glad you did!

8) “Not Included”. When balancing assisted living costs, don’t forget to consider the needs that are NOT included in the monthly price. For example, pharmaceutical products and toiletries such as adult diapers and colostomy bags are often required to be supplied by the family above and beyond the agreed monthly price. Also, does your loved one currently enjoy getting manicures or having their hair done? If so, there are facilities who set hairdressing and manicure appointments but the prices are not included in the monthly payment for care. So before agreeing to move your loved one in, make sure you are aware of what additional costs will be necessary.

Balancing the costs of assisted living is not easy. Adding the additional difficulties of finding an excellent overall fit for your loved one has proven to make the search even harder. It’s a tough spot adult children find themselves in trying to balance costs, location, interests, etc. Transitions Assisted Living offers their industry expertise to anyone who may like some help in their search. Since Transitions is compensated by their participating partners, they are able to offer their services to you free of charge. We hope these major contributors to cost will help you balance costs effectively. Happy hunting!


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