You've heard people say - and maybe you've said it yourself - "I don't want a nursing home getting all my money!" So they take measures to ensure that, when it's time for assisted care, they don't have any money left.
But if you don't have any money left, who is going to pay for the care you need?
Just like every other aspect of life, your options are limited if you have less money:
Want to buy a house? If you have more money, you can choose a $100,000 house or a $500,000 house.
Want to buy clothes? If you have money, you can choose Walmart or Macy's.
But you don't have those choices if you haven’t planned for it. You simply can't afford Macy's or a $500,000 house.
The same is true for assisted living. If you have money, you have options: you can choose a $3,000 per month assisted living home or a $9,000 per month assisted living home - or anything in between. However, if you take measures to ensure that you are out of money by the time you need assisted living, your only option is to find a place that will take government funding from day one.
And those places are few and far between.
Why? Because the market for space available for those who are government-funded is saturated. So there are very few places that have no requirement for how many years of self-pay funds you must have. Most assisted living communities require 2 or 3 years of self-pay funds.
However, even assisted living communities that accept government funds after you run out of money won’t necessarily have availability at the time that you need it. So if your financial situation changes and your community doesn't have space for another person using government funds, they'll let you know that you will have to find another community that does have space. You’ll have to move again.
Or if they are a continuing care community and have nursing home care available, they might move you into their skilled nursing facility even though your physical needs don't require that yet. What does that mean for you? A nursing home environment when all you need is a home-like environment with some assistance.
The good news is that some assisted living communities allow you to stay when you run out of money and need to start using government funds. The difference in the rate between what you pay out of pocket and what the government will pay is significant. There has to be a smart balance, and some companies are willing to serve those in need at less of a margin. These are the companies that work really hard to make sure that their caregivers are taken care of so that they don’t compromise quality of care even though there are fewer resources available.
So what should you do with this information?
- Make it your goal as you age not to spend down your money so that you qualify for government funding, but rather, that you save enough to be able to pay for care for at least one or two years so that you have choices when it’s time for assisted living.
- Find a community that allows you to stay after you run out of money and qualify for government funds. (Be sure to ask specifically whether your continued stay will be dependent upon availability.)
- Don't wait until you have a health crisis and have limited funds to start looking for care! You won't have options. Move into assisted living during the early days when you start to notice you're unsteady on your feet, your memory is deteriorating and putting you at risk, or any other number of signs that assisted living might be a good decision for you. Too many people wait until they are in a situation where they are unable to return home and need to be in a setting that provides care. Move when you still have a choice.
If you'd like to know more about when to look for assisted living, how to find what you want, and where to find answers to the myriad of questions that arise when you start thinking about assisted living, go to our Ultimate Guide To Assisted Living or contact us - we love helping people on this journey!