A Place for Mom’s Senior Living Advisors spend a lot of their time with families discussing finances. How are they able to work through such personal and touchy conversations? We talked to two SLAs to find out what they do to set families on the right track and prepare them for the senior living search.
According to a new report by the Conversation Research Institute, 44% of negative conversations online about assisted living were about finances, and 68% of those negative finance conversations were about the sheer cost of assisted living. Advisors are often giving families their first look at senior housing prices. They remind families that things like meals, insurance, bills and maintenance are often included with their rent and care and to keep that in mind as they discuss cost.
Advisors will work through ballpark costs with the family using average prices in their area, plus some additional living expenses. Melissa Pratt is a Senior Living Advisor in Boise, ID. Melissa says, “We work hard to educate our families here at APFM. I want them to know that care needs and financial situations really matter. They can waste a lot of time looking at something that they can’t afford.”
In parallel, families can also use the Senior Living Cost Index to get familiar with costs in the areas they are looking.
How to Finance Senior Living
Advisors walk through many different financing options, depending on the family.
Selling a Home
Many seniors either own a home outright, or have equity in a home. SLAs always ask about this important asset as it can often pay for several years of senior living. They can also help the family understand some of the nuances of a reverse mortgage.
“If they have a reverse mortgage in place, I will advise them to at least call two Realtors to get a current value estimate. Many families think it is a done deal that it goes back to the bank, but there is often equity left in the home. Even $30,000 can make a huge difference on what choices are available to their loved one.” says Melissa.
For those SLAs who work in areas with a strong rental market like New England, they may also talk with the family about renting the home instead of selling.
VA Aid & Attendance Benefit
For seniors who are veterans or a spouse of a veteran, we always want to let them know about the VA Aid and Attendance Benefit, and make sure we get them great resources to understand whether they are eligible.
Melissa always asks about Veteran status “I find out if there is potential for the senior to qualify for VA benefits. Most families I talk to are not aware the VA Aid and Attendance benefit exists. If I know good VA Services officers in their area I will connect them.”
Income & Savings
SLAs also find out about savings and income that can be used. “To determine what a family can afford, I get real about asking for the financial situation. Most families are very open with me when I ask with respect. There are some families who don’t want to disclose this information, but I only find this about 5% of the time. Most are looking for a win and looking for a community that will be their loved one’s permanent home.”
Because most Senior Living Advisors have worked with thousands of families, they are able to offer personalized advice for each situation, and ease family stress. They have even been known to get multiple family members on the phone for a conference when family relationships are making it difficult to move forward. By the time a family is referred to a community, the SLA has helped the family prepare for the costs they will see, and determine a budget based on their financial situation.
Often, they help families understand how Medicare and Medicaid work. “Many families think when we start the call that their Medicare benefits will pay for assisted living. I feel like a bubble-buster on that one!” says Melissa.
Sometimes, after adding up assets, income, savings and benefits, a senior might not have very long before finances begin to run low. Kathy Baggs, an SLA in Jacksonville, FL says “If finances are really a challenge, I always suggest they speak with the community and ask them to keep an eye out for the perfect shared roommate in the future. It is usually easier to move into a private room and then transition to a shared room with a friend!”
Financial discussions can be tough for many families, but providing sincere and unbiased advice helps make them easier. As an industry, we can work together to demystify the cost of senior living, and make sure no family misses out on financial help available to them.