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Beyond Cost: 4 Questions to Consider When Choosing Senior Care

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When creating an eldercare plan, many seniors and their families look first at the cost of various options. It’s a major deciding factor, and often a limiting one for families on tight budgets. But because every type of senior assistance provides a different level of care, it can be difficult to accurately compare them. How do you equate the average daily rate of a nursing home with the hourly rate of companion care? No wonder families become confused and frustrated when they try to weigh their options.

You can help families develop a care plan that meets their loved one’s budget by looking at needs first and the true cost of care second. The following questions can provide a starting point for decision-making.

1. What level of care does the senior need?

Some seniors truly require the high level of supervision and medical care provided by a skilled nursing facility. Others can live comfortably with an intermediate level of care, such as that provided by an assisted living facility or a visiting nurse. Still others don’t really need much medical care at all and would be happy to continue living at home with some non-medical assistance on a daily basis. You can help families understand these options so they pay only for the level of care their loved one needs.

2. How much care can the family provide?

If a senior can safely continue living at home with moderate assistance, assess how much help the family can provide. Larger families may be able to contribute more hours of care than smaller ones, for example. In cases where family members live distant from the elder relative, they may not be able to provide any care at all.

According to the 2010 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report published by the Alzheimer’s Association, families provide an average of about 22 hours per week of unpaid care. Every hour of care a family member provides can help save dollars. Considering the average hourly rate of an in-home caregiver runs about $20, the typical family contributes about $440 worth of care per week. These savings can be put toward the cost of care to bridge the gap between what the senior needs and what the family can provide.

3. Consider a combination of care services.

Often the best solution to a senior care need lies in putting together a package of services. Perhaps the family can contribute a set number of hours of care (or perform specific tasks on a routine basis), home health nurses can come in for wound care or other medical needs, and home health aides can assist with activities of daily living. When looked at in this way, the true cost of care significantly declines.

For example, instead of paying several thousands of dollars a month for an assisted living facility, a family might only need to invest a few hundred dollars a week for a part-time professional caregiver.

4. Review funding sources for care.

Many seniors and their families find it challenging to pay for needed care. They may be unaware of lesser-known strategies to cover the cost of assisted living or in-home caregiving. Home Instead Inc. recently published a handy PDF booklet titled “Home Care Funding Solutions: A Guide to Uncover the Various Funding Options Available to Fit Your Home Care Needs.

The guide provides an overview of several senior care funding sources, ranging from life settlements to little-known Veteran’s Administration benefits to Medicaid. The PDF covers five funding sources and includes other valuable information about various types of senior care and considerations for hiring a financial advisor. Please feel free to share it with your clients.

According to a study commissioned by Home Instead Inc., 86 percent of seniors say they prefer to stay at home as long as possible. By helping families look at the true cost of care, you can assist them in creating a plan that meets their needs and budget.

Last revised: March 31, 2015

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. July 14, 2020 at 2:20 pm | Posted by Romeo Raabe

    There are now home care coverages available regardless of health status, as long as you can currently function on your own for 30 days. This affordable coverage is available even if you use oxygen, had a stroke, use a walker, or have mild cognitive impairment. However if you wait until care is already needed, it's too late.


  2. April 17, 2015 at 11:50 am | Posted by Diane Leveton

    As an insurance and Financial Consultant, I work with families facing care. I really like the care funding guide, however two important featrues were left out. Using a Home equity line of credit (HELOC) is often preferable if a move to and ALC or other community setting is likely in the next few years. it cost little to set up and while you have payments, they are only the interest of the amount borrowed. It asls works as bridge financing while a house is being readied for sale. Second, the should be a discussion of legal document updates. While families made a will years ago, it needs to be revisited, and include next generation power of attorney and medical representative. As laws have changed alot on estates, it is important to review the situation with both a legal and financial tax professional such as a CPA.


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