What is an assisted living community? Many of our aging seniors think that assisted living is a nursing home. Assisted living is far from a nursing home. It allows for much more independence as possible. Assisted living communities are that, a community within a building that provide some assistance with activities of daily living. Assisted living is much more cost effective than privately paying for a nursing home. They will offer a broader support of activities, dining, and entertainment; offer a social life other than that of nursing homes.There are many types and styles of Assisted Living communities from the largest of buildings to residential care homes. Some assisted living communities housing as many as 300 residents to 6 residents.

There are different levels of assisted living. Level I for those who are self ambulatory, able to get out of bed on their own and to the dining hall. Level II for those who require assistance with getting out of bed, dressed, to the toilet and showering assistance. Medication reminders and some incontinence care are also provided. Usually not offered are a two person assists to get out of bed and extensive incontinence which means they may have to go to a nursing facility for additional care.

When looking at assisted living communities there are certain things you need to be asking. Is there a deposit required? Is the deposit refundable? Are there move-in fees? What does the base rent charge cover? Is transportation covered to doctor’s appointments? How often to they offer transportation? Do they allow pets, smoking? Do they charge for personal laundry? What levels of care are offered and how much is each level of care? Some communities have levels 1-5 or A, B and C or some offer ala carte where you can pick and choose what services you need and just pay for those.

When touring communities, go unannounced. Look at the residents, are they happy and attended to? Are the employees cheery and working hard? What kind of smells? Go at lunch time and have lunch on them and see how the food measures up. Check the apartments for cleanliness. Are they short staffed? Can you bring in your own furniture? Are family and friends allowed to visit?

Make sure and take into account the costs. Are you able to afford this? How long will my savings or monies hold out. Many people are living longer and out living their monies. If you are not able to pay the rent will I be evicted? Some communities will accept Medicaid or state programs. Ask your Area Agency on Aging what programs are available.

The national average of assisted living costs for a one bedroom apartment is about $2,900 which equals $35,000 a year. You will need to also take into consideration that most assisted living communities will up their costs each year anywhere from 1-5%.

Nursing homes are an option but are much more expensive when private paying; nearly double that of assisted living.

For Veteran’s and their spouses and surviving spouses there is the VA Aid and Attendance pension which will pay for ones care. For a Veteran $1,703, a Veteran and his spouse $2,019 and a surviving spouse $1,094 and a Veterans wife who is in need of care at #1,258 a month tax free. This will assist with the cost of assisted living if approved.