As our parents age, the way they live likely changes in order to meet their evolving needs. Sometimes, that means taking on new or additional costs, whether it's related to housing, making home updates or otherwise. To learn more about some potential costs associated with aging parents, we tapped the expertise of Elizabeth Eardley, Founder of Crossroads Eldercare Options.
According to Eardley, misconceptions surrounding senior care options and what they cost abound, causing stress and a feeling of hopelessness in the possibility of finding care. Thankfully, finding accurate and relevant information is possible.
"Luckily in West Michigan there are so many resources to help people either stay home or move where they can get help," Eardley said, noting the many senior care professionals like herself who can share accurate information. Eardley also shared that much of the information people hear about the cost of long-term care is focusing on nursing care—not assisted living.
"Assisted living is around 30% less expensive than nursing care and most people will not require more care than what assisted living can offer," she said, making note of some important considerations you can make before the time for making these decisions arrives.
"One very important consideration for people as they age is that they shouldn't be gifting large amounts of money if they plan on applying for Medicaid in the future," Eardley explained. "Having an estate plan is also important. Without one, your estate may go into probate, removing your ability to choose how your belongings and finances are handled. In addition, having a power of attorney, so someone can help handle your finances on your behalf if you're incapacitated, is vital."
Should a parent want to receive care in their own home rather than in a senior living community, Eardley suggests folks complete a side-by-side checklist comparing the costs.
"Staying home and all the maintenance and bills such as home and car insurance, mortgage payments, utilities, groceries—with the added cost of home care—can make staying home just as expensive as moving," Eardley said. "Home care is often one of the best options for people, just as long as they understand the cost and how it compares to that of moving to a senior care community."
Eardley explains that often costs for home care, assisted living and memory care are generally paid for with private funds (savings, investments, pensions, home sale proceeds, social security, etc.).
"Some people also have long-term care insurance that can help. There's also a form of Medicaid called Medicaid waiver that can be applied for that sometimes will help pay the care cost at certain assisted living communities," Eardley said, noting specific options for veterans. "If the person needing care or their spouse are a veteran, there's a Veterans Aid and Attendance Pension that can be used for home care and assisted living."
Though none of these options will cover the entire cost of assisted living, Eardley emphasizes that there are creative ways to put different financing solutions together to help alleviate financial burdens.
"At Crossroads Eldercare Options, we have a team of advisors that can talk with people at no cost to help them understand their unique circumstances financially, clinically and legally so they know what their options are in either a crisis situation or when planning for the future," Eardley said.
While the costs associated with senior care can be overwhelming, talking to the experts can help alleviate some of that stress.
"It's a pretty confusing topic with a lot of things to consider," Eardley said. "Double check and make sure the information you have is correct and complete so you don't make decisions you wish you hadn't!"
Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for West Michigan Woman.
This article originally appeared in the Aug/Sep '23 issue of West Michigan Woman.