Industry Pricing Models
It’s vital to understand how the costs of senior care are broken down at different communities. Otherwise, you may find yourself facing unexpected fees and unable to afford a community.
It’s also important to make sure that your comparisons are measuring the same thing when you go to compare assisted living costs. As an example: most providers offer a base level of care, but what is included in that base level can be very different. How an assessment is developed and utilized can also be very different.
Don’t be intimidated, however. These pricing models aren’t too different from apartment residency fees. In fact, just like standard apartments, the cost of senior living can be affected by the location of the community and wealth of the town or city in which the community is located.
1. A-La-Carte or Fee-for-Service
This type of cost model is pretty self-explanatory: you choose from a range of options and pay an adjusted fee based on that option. This pricing will depend primarily on what’s included in the cost of the senior living community, such as medical or residency services.
Typically, the residency fee (like rent) is based on unit and care type. As an example, you may be able to choose between a shared apartment, studio unit, one bedroom or two bedroom unit in assisted living — all with different price points.
Most providers also offer different price levels for care, ranging from moderate care to full assistance with dining, dressing, and medication management. Care needs should be determined by a nursing assessment.
As a resident ages in place, it may be determined that more care is required. Because you pay only for what you need with a-la-carte payment options, an increase in required care will likely mean an increase in cost. Be sure to understand what happens to cost when your care needs change and what the assessment process is within the communities.
2. A-La-Carte with Base Care
Certain providers include minimal care in their rent or residency fees. This can include reminders for dinner and community events. Increased need for care is addressed and managed the same way as a traditional a-la-carte option.
In an all-inclusive program, the majority of care and medication costs are included in the rental fee. It is important to understand exactly what is and what is not included under this pricing option. It is also important to ask what the annual increase has historically been for an all-inclusive program, as the cost of assisted living may rise during your stay.
4. Low-Income Subsidies
In certain assisted living communities, low-income subsidy programs are available through local, state or federal agencies (check out this glossary for a breakdown of programs). Be aware that there are usually financial conditions that must be met.
To find out more, ask your potential living community about these programs. Be sure to ask if care is included and, if so, how much is covered. Often communities have limits or waiting lists for these programs. Understanding both the criteria for participation and the projected waiting time before you could expect to benefit from a subsidy program is an important step in your decision-making process.