Long Term Care Blog Series: Housing Options

April 1st 2016, by Lyle E. Hershey

Deciding where to live can be a challenging process no matter what our age; however, as we reach the latter stages of life, the decision-making process about where to live becomes more complicated.  Much of the complexity is related to the rising concern of possibly needing long-term care at some point in the future.  This is the third article in our four-part blog series looking at issues related to long-term care.  We will consider several typical housing options and the related strategies for receiving long-term care.

Living in an independent environment is often the default option.  This environment is comfortable and familiar to us.  Without the motivation to pursue another option, many people simply stay in their own home.  If they need long-term care services, home care service organizations are readily available to provide personal healthcare and/or homemaker services in the home.  A recent cost of care survey done by Genworth determined that these services in the Lancaster area cost on average approximately $22 per hour.  In order to receive adequate care in your home, your home may need to be equipped with features that can accommodate your decreasing capabilities.  If your level of care becomes significant, the cost to deliver in-home care in addition to your standard housing expenses can become prohibitive.

Living with a child or other family member is another option.  An extended family living arrangement historically had been the primary option for care of the elderly.  This environment can provide a rich intergenerational experience for the entire family.  The family living arrangement is an ideal setting for a senior adult to receive informal care services from younger family members.  The family providing care can save significant money instead of paying for similar services through a home care organization.  There are several significant caveats with this option.  First, a willing and able family member needs to accept this living arrangement and responsibility.  In addition, it is important to have a house that can comfortably accommodate the senior adult’s living space and decreased capabilities.  Consider also that the level of care for the senior adult could become greater than the care capacity of the younger family members.

A retirement community is another option, provided you have the financial resources necessary to gain acceptance into one of these communities.  These communities offer a wide range of activities that can accommodate many interests and hobbies.  Many of these communities offer a continuum of living and care options.  You can progress from independent living, to assisted living, and finally to nursing care as your need for care increases.  The greatest challenge with these communities is generally the cost.  There is typically a large (six digits) up-front entrance fee as well as ongoing monthly fees (four digits) for independent living arrangements.  The monthly fee generally reflects the level of care a resident requires.  Many of the Lancaster-based retirement communities will continue to provide the necessary level of care even after you have depleted all your assets.

No matter which retirement living arrangement you choose, if your condition eventually requires you to be in a full nursing care facility, you will experience a significant financial drain.  The Genworth cost of care survey indicated that full nursing care in the Lancaster area on average was $353 a day.  Our final article in this four part blog series will address ways to fund long-term care.