Assisted Living: Increased Levels of Care May Come at a Cost

Assisted living and other long-term care costs continue to rise – that much isn’t new.  Most assisted living residents pay for care on their own or with funds from family members.  Annual cost increases to cover rising expenses are expected, but some families are subject to more significant hikes periodically if their loved one is moved to a higher level of care due to a decreased ability to adequately perform activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, or toileting. Rising assisted living costs

The MetLife Mature Market Institute’s 2010 Survey of Long-Term Care Costs shows that the national average daily rate for a private room in a nursing home is $229, while a semi-private room is $205, up from $219 and $198 respectively in 2009. The national average monthly base rate among assisted living communities rose from $3,131 in 2009 to $3,293 in 2010.

“It’s important for people to remember that their loved one is entering assisted living because they need services,” David Kyllo, executive director for the National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL) , tells The New York Times in a December 7, 2010 article. He says a move to assisted living is typically needs-driven, and a decline in health status as time goes on is expected. While a loved one’s declining health often comes as a shock to family members, increased costs don’t have to.

Miriam Oliensis-Torres, who runs a geriatric care management firm based in Milwaukee, says the admissions process is typically a stressful time for families. She recommends consulting an attorney to review a contract, or even outright asking for the agreement to be explained in layman’s terms.

If assisted living costs rise due to increased levels of care, and the family disagrees, enlisting the help of a geriatric care manager can be useful. Case-in-point: Don Heape, who was overseeing the care for his eldest sibling, Marcella Festner (who was 80 at the time she was admitted to assisted living and died this summer), asked a geriatric care manager to review the facility’s decision to bump Ms. Festner up to a higher level of care after just a few months. The decision nearly doubled the family’s monthly fees – from $2,200 per month to $4,000 per month. The family was successful in appealing one price increase.

Not everyone can afford the services of a geriatric care manager, however. Hourly fees can range from $80 to $200, depending on geographic region. If geriatric care management fees are out of reach, Oliensis-Torres advises consulting your local or state long-term care ombudsman for help.

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