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How to Find a Senior Citizens Home

How to Find a Senior Citizens Home

When it’s time to find a senior citizens home for yourself or a relative, the options can be overwhelming. It can also be overwhelming when you then have to figure out how to pay for it. While the options can be difficult to navigate, it is certainly a positive thing that there are so many choices for seniors in this day and age. 

The first thing that might come to mind when you think of a senior citizens home is a nursing home, but that is becoming a less and less popular option as more seniors want to remain independent longer. 

Finding an affordable senior citizens home can be very challenging, but there are a number of ways to cover the cost of assisted living that you may not have heard of yet. There are also some affordable options for seniors offered by the Office of Housing and Urban Development.  

What is assisted living?

Life expectancy in the United States has risen significantly in recent decades. In 1969, life expectancy was just 69 years. By 2014, life expectancy increased almost a decade to 79. As we know, many people even live much longer than that. 

Not only are we living longer, but we are remaining healthy and vital into our twilight years. Where in the past, a person in their late 70s might be in need of a nursing home with around the clock medical care, that’s no longer the case. Many seniors want to remain independent as long as possible, but still need a little help with activities of daily living, like shopping, cooking, dressing, and bathing. 

Assisted living facilities are also a great resource for seniors who want to keep up with an active social life and continue the activities they enjoy. Assisted living facilities come in many different forms, from high rise apartments to sprawling campuses. Either way, staff is there to help with what residents need, 24/7. 

How do you find an assisted living community?

With almost 29,000 assisted living facilities in the United States, it is very likely that there is an assisted living community near you. This locator tool is a great way to find assisted living communities near you. 

It is also important to know what your needs and wants are. Here are a few things to consider when comparing assisted living facilities in your area:

  • If you or your family member is experiencing memory loss due to dementia, make sure the assisted living facility you choose includes memory care. Not all assisted living facilities are designed to accommodate seniors with memory loss (i.e. dementia). Those that provide memory care will have staff who are specially trained to work with seniors who have dementia. Memory care facilities also offer very structured routines and activities that help seniors with dementia manage stress. 
  • Some seniors require assistance managing medication. Not all assisted living facilities have staff who are qualified to administer medication, so make sure to ask when researching assisted living facilities near you. 
  • If you or your family member uses a wheelchair or other assistive device, ask about accessibility, including the accessibility of showers and bathtubs in the residences. 
  • Ask what the visitor policy is. While restrictions will continue to change as the COVID-19 pandemic recedes, it is likely that assisted living communities will have new and changing guidelines regarding visitors from outside the community. 
  • Ask about the food. Can residents keep food in their rooms? Can the residence accommodate special dietary needs (i.e. religious observance, allergies, or vegetarian/vegan options)? 
  • Find out what the community of residents is like. Are most residents part of the same faith community? Are residents typically more independent and social, or more reclusive and requiring more intensive care from staff?  

These are just a few points to consider when you’re looking for an assisted living facility. 

How do you pay for assisted living?

The cost of assisted living varies significantly, depending on where you live, and what level of care is needed. However, the median cost of assisted living in the United States is $4,300 per month. 

That’s more than most of us can afford, and unfortunately, neither private insurance policies nor Medicare cover the cost. 

So, how do you pay for assisted living? While most families are forced to pay for assisted living accommodations using savings, proceeds from the sale of a home, and social security income, there are a few other options that can help when your personal funds aren’t enough:

  • Rules for Medicaid Coverage are set by each individual state, so any Medicaid coverage available will depend on where you live. It is unlikely that Medicaid will cover the full cost of assisted living no matter where you live, but it is possible that long-term care Medicaid beneficiaries will receive some assistance. Contact your state’s Medicaid office to request more information. 
  • If you or your spouse was a wartime veteran, you may be eligible for the VA’s Aid & Attendance Benefit. This is a payment that is available on top of the normal pension benefit paid by the VA, which can be used to help pay for long-term care. 
  • If you have a life insurance policy, you may be able to tap into a little-known program in which you can convert your policy to cash without increasing your assets so much that you no longer qualify for Medicaid. A detailed article on this process is available here

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Are there more affordable options?

There are also a few lesser-known affordable housing options for seniors. Some offer assisted living arrangements, while others simply provide housing at a lower cost. No matter which option you’re interested in, you will need to contact your local Housing and Urban Development Office for more information about programs in your area. 

  • Housing Choice Voucher Program: This program helps low-income seniors and families, and people with disabilities pay for housing. 
  • Supportive Housing for the Elderly Program: You may also hear this referred to as Section 202. Much like assisted living, these programs help seniors live independently while receiving help with some activities of daily living. 

You can also speak to an Office of Housing and Urban Development Counselor, or use the Eldercare Locator for additional help in finding a home that suits your needs. 

Everyone deserves to maintain their dignity as they age, no matter their income or location. While finding an affordable senior citizens home can be a challenge, options are out there for you and your family. 

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Catherine Hall, LMSW is a therapist at a small group practice in New York City. She earned her master of social work degree at New York University.