How to Compare & Evaluate Senior Care Costs


As we’ve learned so far, assessing, preparing for, and financing the costs of senior care is a complicated process. But when you’re ready to compare different senior living communities, Christopher Golen, Benchmark’s Regional Director of Operations for CCRCs, offers these insights. 

Comparing Experiences, Not Just Price Tags

In your senior living search, be careful not to compare prices only: you should also compare experiences, Golen advises. 

Start with customer service, i.e. how you are greeted and treated. When you visit the top communities on your list, how are you greeted when you walk through the door? How are you greeted when you call on the phone? 

When you arrive at the communities, take note of how the property looks and how staff and residents present themselves. “The little things mean a lot. That’s what can set a community apart from the rest,” says Golen. 

Comparing price should come after comparing value. After all, a higher-priced community may have a higher value to you than one that costs a little less. “Some cars are priced higher than others, but you know you’re going to get a good car,” Golen explains. “You know it’s not going to break down, and you know it’s going to go over 100,000 miles.” 

What’s Included in the Price?

Make sure you fully understand what you’re getting for the price, so you can compare apples to apples in your senior living search. 

Ask these questions:

  1. If the community uses all-inclusive pricing, is there a limit to that all-inclusiveness, such as if you need extensive care on a daily basis? Are there exceptions to it?
  2. What’s involved with each level of care? How are care needs and levels of care determined? Is there an assessment process? Who does the assessment? How often do assessments occur?
  3. What happens if Mom needs more care?
  4. Will I ever have to pay more for more care and how much will it cost?
  5. To what level does that care go?
  6. What is the highest level of care available?
  7. What happens if my care needs exceed what can be provided?

For example: If the top care level at one assisted living provider costs $100 a day, and another costs $80 a day, what are the two providers doing differently? Care can be vastly different between assisted living providers. If the $80 a day community provides a lower level of care, it may actually end up being more expensive as you add on more services. 

Evaluating Short- & Long-Term Senior Care Solutions

Have an honest conversation with the senior living provider and be realistic about your financial situation. Sometimes the right solution is a short-term solution, or a hybrid solution. Perhaps you can only afford a certain community for a few years. If you plan for that, the transition can be much more palatable. Just be sure to work with the community to get a good alternative lined up months before you move out to avoid any crisis management.

Golen notes: “Sometimes assisted living is kind of a stopgap — it may not be the forever answer because it just can’t be. Sometimes you must decide what is the best possible quality of life for your loved one right now, and for her foreseeable financial future.”

Another alternative would be to consider a few years of home care first, then look at moving to a senior living community. Consider creative solutions that will extend your assets and give you flexibility.

Stay tuned for more tips and insights at Open Conversations. 
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Content for Open Conversations was developed in partnership with Caregiving Advice.

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