Affordable Assisted Living Options

Seniors and their families often experience sticker shock associated with the costs of an assisted living community.

The 2012 national average cost for a private one-bedroom apartment in an assisted living residence is $3,300 per month, according to research compiled by several nonprofit senior living organizations, including the Assisted Living Federation of America.  In the greater Tampa Bay Region costs for a single assisted living room run between $1,700 to $7,800 a month.

Seniors who have few assets and very low income can apply for Medicaid, but because its eligibility requirements are so strict, many families are caught in an awkward position where their older loved one is financially overqualified for Medicaid, but also can’t afford private pay care.  Seniors caught in this position can create what’s called a “Miller Trust,” whereby they sign most of their income and assets over to the state to become qualified for Medicaid. But this tends to be a last resort option.  An alternative is to look for very affordable private pay options.

Quality Assisted Living on a Budget

The trick is to make sure that you’re not compromising quality of care for a lower price. Here are some tips to help you find affordable assisted living facilities that can be trusted to care for your older loved one:

  1. Expand the Geographic Location
    Assisted living communities are in accordance with the old real estate mantra that cost is all about, “location, location, and location.” Communities in areas with lower land value are less expensive. If you live in a big city, explore communities in the suburbs or in more affordable neighborhoods.
  2. Ask About Move-in Incentives
    Assisted living communities may have an official price, still they work hard to keep their census high and may offer significant discounts to encourage families to choose their community.  Incentives can take many forms, including discounting rent, waiving or reducing the entry fee.  Ask about these incentives and even to negotiate the price.
  3. Consider a Smaller Living Space such as a Studio or Semi-Private Apartment
    Larger apartments are more expensive and limited in number so if you have a low-budget, look at smaller living spaces rather than one-bedroom apartments. Nursing home and assisted living residents whose care is paid for by Medicaid usually have to share rooms in any event, so whether you’re looking for affordable private pay options, or using Medicaid, it may not be possible to leave this option off the table.
  4. Look at Inspection Reports
    You can’t judge the quality of care by superficial appearances.  Don’t be distracted by eye candy – fancy chandeliers and drapes, granite countertops and stainless steel appliances.  A smaller or older-looking community may in fact offer better care than the more upscale luxury community.  Viewing inspections reports can help you compare between communities with very different look and feel.  AHCA maintains a searchable databases of Florida’s licensed assisted living communities and their inspections reports.
  5. Talk to a Senior Living Placement Advisor
    We work with senior communities of all types and sizes across Greater Tampa Bay (Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando, and Polk Counties) ranging from independent retirement homes to small assisted living facilities to large campuses which provide a continuum of care (continuing care retirement community= CCRC).  We only refer communities that we hare personally visited and evaluated and that closely match your budget.  We simply your search and guide you the entire placement process from research to site tours to follow up after move in.

To discuss local housing options with an experienced senior placement advisor call (813) 422-1561 or (813) 422-0750.

If you have advice about finding affordable senior housing on a budget, or any other thoughts, please share. We welcome your comments below. 


PBS Frontline on Assisted Living Facilities Offers Cautionary Tale

[excerpts from Dorian Martin, Health Guide (7/31/13)

In her blog article Dorian Martin shares a conversation with an adult daughter who’s mom lives in an assisted living facility- one that is not owned or operated by the company featured in the recent Frontline PBS documentary. The daughter shares how she isn’t 100% satisfifed with the community where mom resides, but that “it is not horrible“.   After watching the Frontline show she states, “I’m going to start visiting more often & get to know the managers.”  

The PBS Frontline story highlights the dangers for families of picking the wrong assisted living community for their loved ones.  Whether you viewed the news story as less an indictment of the assisted living industry then a profile of one company who is the nation’s largest assisted living provider – it emphasizes the need to do your research and make informed decisions based on the value of the care that will be received.

The story underscores the benefits of working with a placement company such as Always Best Care Senior Services that knows the local senior housing landscape.  Our placement advisors only recommend senior living facilties that we have visited, evaluated and determined to meet our quality standards.  And we monitor the status of an assisted living facility’s licensing and inspection reports by the regulating state agency for good standing.

It is a wise move and necessary action for anyone with a loved one living in any residential care setting (retirement home, assisted living, memory care, nursing home) to be an assertive consumer and hold facility management accountable for delivering quality care.    Stay vigilant and monitor your loved one’s healthcare state with regular visits and/or check-ins.  Enlist  a support network of family, friends, neighbors to help with this if you live out of the area.  Be alert to noticeable changes in your loved one’s physical, emotional, or mental well-being and take action to address your concerns.

ABC sees families through the entire placement process from research to personally-guided tours to ensure the important questions are asked and answered. We follow up with residents in their new homes and help with any transition issues.  And, ABC placement services are free of charge to seniors and their families.

To learn about FREE guidance for seniors and their families on senior housing options, visit us at

Frontline PBS story available at:

Cost of Assisted Living

Few people plan for long-term care – that being continuous care over an extended period of time that involves help with everyday tasks or constant supervision for a person who has dementia.  Perhaps they don’t think they’ll need it or they believe that government subsidies will cover any care they need.

senior-community-outsideStudies indicate that 70% of persons over 65 will need long-term care services at some point in their lives (US Department of Health & Human Services, 2008).  And it’s a common misconception that Medicaid and Medicare will pay for long-term care.  Beyond the limited benefits provided by Medicaid and/or Medicare (assuming you meet eligibility requirements for one or both) you are responsible for your long-term care costs.

Choices for suitable care under Medicaid funding can be limited.  Fortunately, senior living residences are available at a variety of price points.

Costs vary with the residence, apartment size, and types of services needed. The basic rate may cover all services or there may be additional charges for special services. Most assisted living residences charge on a month-to-month lease arrangement, but a few require long-term arrangements. The 2009 national average cost for an apartment in an assisted living residence is $3,100 per month, according to research compiled by the National Clearinghouse for Long-term Care Information.


Base rates may fluctuate depending on unit size: for example, studio, one, or two-bedroom apartment. Note also that base rates typically only cover room and board and two to three meals. Additional charges may include entrance fees up to one month’s rent, deposits, and fees for other services such as transportation and personal laundry, though many providers include those services as well.

More than half of assisted living communities use a tiered pricing model with bundled services, according to research. For instance, a resident needing very little assistance would be at the lowest tier. Other pricing models include all-inclusive, a la carte, or fee-for-service basis. Providers regularly review service and care plans to ensure residents’ needs are being met. Billing is typically done monthly. More information is available at

To discuss senior living options in the Tampa Bay region with an experienced Always Best Care senior placement advisor please call (813) 422-1561 or (813) 422-0750.

Please share your thoughts on senior living costs, or any other thoughts on senior care. We welcome your comments below. 

A Community for Me

Caregiver_and_Man_with_caneSenior housing comes in all shapes and sizes offering different lifestyles and amenities from high-rise towers to historic homes to life care campuses – no one size fits all.  With many options to choose from how do I find the right one?

Here are some things to consider to identify which lifestyle is right for you.

Living in an Assisted Living Community may be right for you if:

  • You struggle to structure your daily activities
  • You feel isolated and desire companionship
  • You don’t feel safe when alone at home
  • You live with someone who works outside the home or who is frequently away from home

Living in an Independent Living Community may be right for you if:

  • You don’t want the hassles of maintaining the interior or exterior of your home.
  • You want convenient access to social events such as dinners, movies, special interest clubs, church services and exercise facilities.
  • You want the peace of mind that additional support is right next door if and when you need it.

To learn about FREE guidance for seniors and their families on senior housing options, visit us at

Starting the Conversation with your Parents

Excerpts from Ready to talk with your parents?

It can be tough to talk with your aging parents about senior living options.  Most parents fear giving up their independence and  do not want to consider the options available.

Making a point to sit down with your parents and openly discuss the situation can be uncomfortable.  No one likes to discuss their financial, legal or health care issues with anyone, especially their children. However, waiting until you are forced to have this conversation as a result of an urgent health crisis can result in quick decisions and your parents desires going unmet.

Make things easier on yourself and your other family members by having an open and honest discussion with your parents about their future, and in turn you will help ensure that their preferences are honored.  A few pointers to help you have a meaningful conversation include:

  • Talk to your parents while they’re still in good health, when they don’t need any extra assistance.
  • Do they have a plan? If not, offer to help with researching what options exist and what things they should consider in their plan.
  • Treat your parent as an adult and reinforce that they are the decision maker, and that you want to respect and honor their wishes. Openly share your concerns, but really listen to their concerns and point of view.
  • Include other family members, siblings or other relatives that might need to be involved in this planning.
  • Get the process started – don’t worry about trying to make all the decisions in one conversation. Encourage small changes.
  • Don’t be afraid of silence. It means that people are thinking.
  • It’s OK to disagree. You likely won’t agree on everything.  Your parents’ wishes are what is important, unless their health or safety is in question.
  • Know where to find important documents like insurance policies, living wills, health care proxies, trust documents, tax returns, wills, health insurance information, investment and banking records. Have a list of important contact information readily available.

The first conversation might be a little awkward; after all, you are asking your parent to confront their aging life. However it can be rewarding to be able to help your parent maintain their independence they want, along with the care and support they need.  What you really want is to spend your time celebrating life with them!

Assisted Living Checklist

client_and_family_revieiwing_facility_info1Understanding what senior living community is right for your loved one can be a daunting task. Senior living communities can range in size from high-rise buildings to old Victorians. Rooms vary from studios to 1 and 2-bedroom apartments with kitchenettes.

Did you know there are 500+ assisted living and residential care facilities operating in the Tampa Bay area – each takes different levels of care and charges varying rates.

An assisted living community for seniors provides care for persons who need some help with activities of daily living, yet who wish to remain as independent as possible. These communities bridge the gap between independent living and nursing homes. Residents in assisted living communities aren’t able to live by themselves, but they don’t require constant care. Medical care is limited in an assisted living community and each state sets its own limits. Residents are assessed when they move into the community so the community can develop an individualized service plan to ensure that the senior get the best care possible.

Here’s a checklist of what to look for when visiting assisted living communities:

  1. Is there an individual care plan created for your loved one?
  2. Is there outdoor seating in shaded areas?
  3. Is the community clean?
  4. Is the staff friendly and attentive?
  5. Do Podiatrists, Hair Dressers, and entertainers make regular visits?
  6. Are the rooms large enough for your loved one’s needs?
  7. Is transportation to and from appointments included?
  8. How far are dining and recreation areas from the available rooms?
  9. Are there a variety of activities available?

At Always Best Care we believe in matching your loved one with the right community. Visit us at to learn more our free guidance for families.  Fees for the services we provide are paid by the community selected.