Senior Housing Solution: Plan Ahead

9/21/15 by Catherine Engstrom

​​For many people, moving to a new home is a fairly simple process. You sell your house or give notice to a landlord, find a new place, and move. But when you’re looking for a place that will also provide care, supervision, meals or other services, it gets much more complicated. As a Caregiver Consultant in Wilder’s Caregiving Services, I often help families as they make these decisions, and I have learned that the earlier families start planning, the happier they are with their options. I’d like to share two reasons in particular to plan early.

1. To make sure you can afford the housing you want.

Most people are shocked by how expensive senior housing is. The median rate for a one bedroom, single occupancy assisted living unit is $3,845/month in the twin cities area. The median nursing home rate is over $7,500 (Genworth Cost of Care Survey, 2015). That’s quite a bit more than most of us are used to paying for our housing.

Fortunately, there are options to help pay – but again, it’s important to plan ahead. The Elderly Waiver and Medical Assistance are public programs through Medicaid that help seniors pay for the care they need where they live. For more information, check out the Minnesota Board on Aging’s website.

  • Medical Assistance will usually pay for nursing homes when the person no longer has the funds to pay.
  • The Elderly Waiver can pay for the care received in an assisted living facility.

There are differences in how these programs pay. Some facilities will only accept payment through the Elderly Waiver after you have lived in the building, paying privately, for a certain amount of time (often 12-18 months). When nursing homes are paid through Medical Assistance, on the other hand, they usually will accept the payment whenever it begins.  It’s also good to know that not all facilities will take payment from Medical Assistance or Elderly Waiver, another reason to plan ahead.

2. To make sure you get on the waiting list.

Tour lots of places, ask a professional to help you think through all the options, ask the facility lots of questions. Then put your name on a waiting list. Some places will allow you to keep your name on the waiting list even if you’re not ready to move. And at many facilities, if a unit becomes available you can decline it without losing your spot on the list. Having your name on a list will give you some security for when the time comes and will save you from doing a mad-dash if you ever find yourself quickly in need of alternative housing.

Of course there is no way to be prepared for everything. You never know when the time will come to move to a place with more care, if you ever need to move at all. But planning ahead gives you more choice and more security in your housing situation.

For more help navigating the world of senior housing options, I suggest using the Care Options Network website to see a comprehensive list of housing in the twin cities or calling Wilder’s help line at 651-280-CARE(2273).

Catherine Engstrom, LGSW, is a Social Worker for the Wilder Foundation Caregiver Services Program at the Community Center for Aging. She works with caregivers individually and in groups to support them on their caregiving journey.