Best Ways to Save: April 2017

Best Ways to Save: April 2017

Four Things To Avoid When Shopping For Retirement Housing

More than 50% of older households surveyed by the National Institute on Aging say that they have at least one adult child living within 10 miles.  But retirement housing and care plans can go awry when an adult child needs to relocate — most often because of a job.

Recently we learned of a woman, now in her 80's, who has moved twice in the past decade to be close to her daughter.  Her first move was from the family home in Connecticut to an up-scale retirement community in Virginia, and more recently following her daughter to Arizona after her son-in-law’s job changed.  Her former Virginia home has been sitting on the market for months.  That’s posing a drain on her resources, adding unanticipated costs for new housing at a time when her need for caregiving services is growing.  Her daughter worried that the former facility wasn’t handling things well.

Moving between retirement communities and facilities can be burdensome and costly.  Here are four things to avoid when looking into retirement living:

  1. Shopping for housing after an emergency.  Your retirement housing is one of the most important investments you will ever make.  It’s important to start your search of retirement living options while you or the family member you are helping can optimally participate.  Be realistic about care needs.  Often families discover that a facility does not offer the level of services that may later be required and need to move again.
  2.  Basing a decision on amenities and features.  Just because the facility markets itself like a five - star hotel or is located near a great golf course does not equate to five - star standards of care.  Look around and get a feel for the number of staff to residents.  Try to meet a few residents.  Are they happy?  Does the staff look like they get satisfaction from their work?  The office of your local Long Term Care Ombudsman can tell you about documented issues and problems that facilities have had in the past.
  3. Failure to balance between price and services.  Assisted living and continuing care communities can be very expensive and more people are living longer in these facilities.  It’s important to make finances last while maintaining access to the best care.  When exploring options, don’t be afraid to look into facilities in areas that have lower costs of living, even if you won’t be able to visit with your family every single day.  What you give up in fancy features, you may trade off with more affordable rents, and service fees, more personal attention, while still getting high standards of care.
  4. Not thoroughly reviewing the contracts.  Make sure you understand what your fees cover and understand built - in price “escalators.”  For example, cost-of-living adjustments have only increased Social Security benefits by an average of 1.1% over the past 8 years, but rental units may come with automatic price escalators of 5% per year.  Facilities often have charges for room and board and separate fees for care.  In addition to care fees, there may be medical supplies, medication delivery, laundry and other fees.  It’s a good idea to have an attorney review the contracts with you.