Assisted Living: The New Kid on the Block

Over the past several years, owners of nursing homes have seen a steady decline in the occupancy rates of their facilities. There are a number of reasons for this drop. One significant reason is that the number of “home care agencies” has increased, thus allowing the more active to remain in their homes. In addition, Medicare also began paying nursing homes more to admit hospital patients for rehabilitation. There is also another explanation for the decreased occupancy in today’s nursing homes—assisted living facilities (ALFs).

Assisted Living: The Future of Residential LTC

Assisted living facilities offer a variety of accommodations, such as apartments that may include kitchens, coupled with personal assistance at the level the client determines. Common services include: emergency response systems; meals; personal care and supervision; various activities; and transportation; as well as housekeeping and maintenance. While nursing homes may sometimes put two residents in a small, austere room, those in ALFs may be able to choose their type of residence and enjoy a more active lifestyle.

ALFs range in quality from those offering top-end accommodations and amenities to lower priced, but quality, operations.

Assisted living facilities must be distinguished from board and care homes. The latter tend to be “mom and pop” operations, often consisting of private residences managed either by the owner, or someone who lives on the premises, and who also provides care. The quality of care in ALFs is often considerably better due to greater privacy, freedom, and amenities than those offered in traditional nursing homes.

ALFs are Often Less Expensive than Nursing Homes

While prices for ALFs vary according to quality, services, and amenities offered, they tend to be less expensive than nursing homes. Some facilities’ fees cover personal care, others may not. If you are considering an ALF for yourself or a relative, be sure to review the contract carefully to find out what is covered—and what is not—before you sign. And remember, it could be a mistake to make a decision based purely on cost. Today’s long-term care (LTC) insurance policies generally cover assisted living. There may be some limitations involved, so it is important to fully understand all policy benefits and conditions.

A Word of Caution and Advice

ALFs may not be for everyone who needs long-term care. They are primarily designed only to care for the slightly to moderately impaired. If a person is seriously impaired, a nursing home is often the best choice. On the other hand, some people who need long-term care can receive assistance at home, from professional home care personnel. How do you know which type of care is best for you or a loved one? Most long-term care policies today provide a care coordinator to assist you in making the right decision regarding the type and place of care best suited to your needs. Again, check your policy or ask your agent if your policy pays for a care coordinator. Knowing what your policy provides can be the first step to determining what is the best course of action for you or a loved one.


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