Why Florida Seniors are Choosing Assisted Living
Assisted Living can be the best path forward for you or your senior loved one. Some Florida seniors choose to age in place at home when possible. But more and more Florida seniors are choosing assisted living communities to live a better, safer, and more stress-free lifestyle.
With assisted living, you can spend more time enjoying life and less time maintaining the house, mowing the lawn, doing laundry, fixing meals, and managing other chores. At assisted living communities in Florida, there are always activities to join, meals to attend, and friends to visit. And there is always trained staff on duty to help you with your needs as they arise.
More and more Florida seniors are choosing assisted living communities and comparing amenities, benefits, location, safety, and more. But a primary concern for most seniors is knowing how much assisted living costs and determining the best way to pay for it. Below are some guidelines to help you with those important questions.
How Much Does Assisted Living Cost in Florida?
Throughout your life, you may have lived in a variety of houses, apartments, townhomes, condos, and vacation homes. Prices on those residences varied depending on size, location, amenities, community, and more. Luxury, average, and modest homes exist within different price ranges.
Assisted living communities are priced the same way. There are luxury assisted living communities that make you feel like you are staying at a five-star resort with highly-rated dining and amenities. There are normal, upscale communities and communities for the cost-conscious resident, as well.
In addition to the residence, varying levels of services are available to help with seniors’ needs, like assisting with ADLs (activities of daily living), medication management, doctors’ appointments, and more.
The average national cost of assisted living is about $4,500 per month, according to Genworth Financial. This care cost varies in Florida depending upon the county, location, and the community itself. Luxury assisted living communities have monthly investments of $10,000 to $15,000 and more. And, modest accommodations exist that cost less than the average price per month.
Knowing how to choose the best financial option and community for you or your senior loved one can seem overwhelming. At Florida Senior Consulting, this is all we do. We are passionate about helping you choose the community that is best for you now and in the future.
Who Pays for Assisted Living?
Private Pay Has Many Options
In most families, the senior or their family pays for assisted living with funds from savings, pensions, Social Security benefits, or other financial assets. Sometimes the senior has a long-term care policy that helps pay some of the cost. Families can also use options that include real estate, life insurance, and other assets. Occasionally, family members get together and split the obligation among the family.
Many private pay options and strategies are available to help you access the best assisted living community for your needs.
Medicare Does Not Pay For Assisted Living Residences
Seniors are often surprised to find that Medicare is almost no help with assisted living costs. Medicare does not pay for assisted living, although there are some limited benefits for short-term stays in Medicare-certified skilled nursing facilities.
Medicaid Is Extremely Limited and Can Take Years
For seniors over 65, Florida Medicaid is an extremely limited program. The senior must be in need of nursing-facility-level care and must not have more assets or income than the State’s low threshold. And, there is a waitlist that can take years to access the program, designed to help the frailest and neediest first. Expecting Medicaid to help with assisted living needs may not be the best option because of the complexity, uncertainty, and length of time required for accessing any benefits at all.
Veterans Benefits for Long-Term Care and Assisted Living
Unfortunately, many veterans are unaware of the benefits that may be available to help pay for long-term care or how to apply for these benefits. The veteran benefits program is run through the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
To access these financial assistance benefits, there are service and other requirements, as well as an application process. But if your senior loved one qualifies, the additional revenue from the program can be a continuing benefit toward their assisted living and long-term care needs.
The basic service requirements are as follows:
Veteran senior care benefits are available for qualifying veterans and their surviving spouses as long as the veteran served at least 90 days of active duty, which includes at least 1 day during a wartime period. The veteran did not have to be in actual combat. For example, veterans with a desk job during qualifying periods may also be eligible for benefits.
To qualify, the senior must have received an honorable or general discharge and meet 1 of the following service requirements:
- Started on active duty before September 8, 1980, and served at least 90 days on active duty with at least 1 day during wartime, or
- Started on active duty as an enlisted person after September 7, 1980, and served at least 24 months or the full period for which the veteran was called or ordered to active duty (with some exceptions) with at least 1 day during wartime, or
- Was an officer and started on active duty after October 16, 1981, and had not previously served on active duty for at least 24 months.
For more information on how this program might help you, contact Florida Senior Consulting.
Long-Term Care Insurance
Suppose you are fortunate enough to have an active, long-term care insurance policy. In that case, you certainly want to apply those benefits to help with the cost of your assisted living. About 7 million US residents have some type of long-term care insurance in place. Different policies and programs specify what they will and will not pay for and for how long. Many policies do not cover the cost of assisted living at all.
Newer policy programs have more options, including hybrid policies with some life insurance features. But the best time to buy a long-term care policy is when you are younger because the older you are, the more expensive the premiums will be. Also, you need to read your policy well to understand the specific benefits and exclusions, such as pre-existing conditions.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
One method some seniors can use for financial assistance is the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. The SSI program provides monthly payments to adults and children with a disability who meet certain financial requirements. The Supplemental Security Income program also provides monthly payments to adults age 65 and older who do not have disabilities, but do meet specific financial qualifications.
To see if you qualify for this Florida financial assistance program, click here.
Florida Department of Elder Affairs
Another resource Florida seniors can explore is the Florida Department of Elder Affairs.
The Florida Department of Elder Affairs provides programming and other services for Florida seniors. For all For all Floridians seeking long-term care resources, they offer a system for information and access to services. The Florida Department of Elder Affairs also provides information and assistance with local programs, services, state benefits, and federal benefits.
To contact the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, you can call the Elder Hotline at 1-800-963-5337, or find your county’s phone number by clicking here.
Private Pay Strategies for Assisted Living
Most assisted living costs are paid directly by the senior or their family.
Knowing how to work with assisted living communities in structuring the best financial package can often save the family thousands and thousands of dollars. Below are just a few of the private pay methods and strategies that can be used.
1. Financial Assets and Income
Financial and existing income streams are the most common method of paying for assisted living. Seniors often have existing cash flow from pensions, Social Security payments, 401Ks, IRAs, and other sources. Seniors may also choose to use some of their savings, brokerage, or other financial accounts to pay the monthly fees.
Since there are financial planning and tax consequences, it is always helpful to have professional help with structuring the best payment plan for you.
2. Life Insurance Policy Options
Today’s life insurance policies often offer a variety of options to help toward assisted living costs. A few of them are as follows:
Set up a Living Benefit Plan with Your Current Life Insurance Policy
Sometimes you can use a portion of your life insurance policy for assisted living expenses and keep the rest in place for your beneficiaries.
Living benefit programs are lump sum payments available to seniors with life insurance that meet specific medical criteria. For example, suppose you have $400,000 in coverage. In that case, you might receive 50% or $200,000 as a living benefit, and your beneficiaries will receive the other $200,000 in the future.
You only use part of your life insurance to pay for your assisted living, and the remaining portion stays in place for your loved ones. There are no credit or income requirements. This is basically a loan against the policy.
Surrender the Policy for the Cash Value
You may decide to surrender one or more of your life insurance policies back to the insurance provider. You give up the future death benefit, but the insurance company will write you a check for the full amount of the cash value.
However, depending upon the cash value and the amount of premiums you paid over time, you may or may not have to pay taxes on the gain. Also, the “surrender value” and the “cash value” might be different because some companies penalize you if you surrender the policy in its early years.
Sell Your Policy
There are third-party companies that purchase life insurance policies. The amount of coverage, age, medical conditions, and other factors determine the market value. If you consider this option, check with your current company first. Most life insurance companies have departments expressly set up to purchase your policy from you. Often, the price from your insurance provider is higher than the market rate.
3. Real Estate Options for Assisted Living Payments
Suppose your senior loved one owns real estate. In that case, there are several options to help pay any assisted living expenses when they move to their new residence. The three main categories are selling, using the equity, or renting the property.
And since we live in Florida, there is always an active real estate market. About 1,000 people a day move to Florida. Nationally, Florida cities rank at the top of the most popular cities to move to, including #1 Tampa, #2 Orlando, #6 Jacksonville, and #13 Miami.
Selling Your Florida House for Assisted Living
Selling a senior’s house is one of the most common ways to pay for assisted living. During the senior’s lifetime, when they bought a new house, it was usually with the proceeds from the sale of the prior house. And the same thought pattern is regular here.
Some advantages to selling your home are:
- You get a lump sum payment to pay any current medical bills and the cost of moving to your new assisted living community.
- You no longer have to maintain the home or make any mortgage or insurance payments.
- Proceeds from most home sales are tax-free.
And with a strong Florida real estate market, quick closings and cash buyers are very common.
Renting Your House
Renting your house is another option. Your house becomes a monthly cash-generating asset to help pay assisted living expenses. The Florida rental market is traditionally strong, so this might be an option for you. You will have to enlist a property manager, or helpful relative, to manage the property, handle repairs and collect the rent. One nice benefit is that you can leave the property to your loved ones in your will.
On average, a 950 square foot apartment in Sarasota will rent for $2,160. Of course, this price is higher when renting a larger home, with the median home rental cost in Sarasota being $3,200. This cost is 52% higher than the median for home rentals in the US. These numbers show that there is a chance to make a significant amount of money by putting your house or apartment up for rent.
Overall, renting out your residence instead of putting it up for sale can be a smart choice for those who are willing and able to do so. It is an especially helpful strategy for those who are looking to earn extra monthly cash while keeping the asset in their family.
Real Estate Loans for Assisted Living
With a loan against your house, you can have the equity work for you. There are two common types of loan strategies used with assisted living funding:
Bridge Loan and a Sale
If the senior’s move to assisted living needs to be done quickly, there may not be enough time to sell the house first. However, it is simple to get a short-term bridge loan very quickly using the equity in the house. You can use this money for immediate needs. When the house sells, the bridge loan is paid off. And you can put the remainder of the sales proceeds into an account for future assisted living expenses.
A HELOC and a Rental
If you decide to keep the senior’s house for rental income, you can still get a lump sum of money with a home equity line of credit (HELOC). This gives you the advantage of:
- Getting a tax-free lump sum of cash.
- Using the rental income to pay back the HELOC and help with assisted living costs.
- Keeping the house in the family
- Receiving the benefits of appreciation when the house increases in value.
These decisions can be complicated, but they are also very important. It is always wise to meet with a certified financial advisor, specifically one who specializes in working with seniors. A financial advisor can holistically assess your financial situation and help you make the most cost-effective decisions for how to pay for senior living.
If you need help finding a trustworthy senior financial advisor, contact Florida Senior Consulting. We have a large network of professionals in the field whom we trust and recommend. Call us at (941) 661-6196 to get the process started.
Your Next Best Step
Deciding how to pay for assisted living can seem overwhelming. And comparing communities, amenities, financial obligations, and getting the best price and terms can be challenging.
Let us help.
We are a Florida-based company with expert knowledge of the Florida senior market. While senior options can seem confusing, this is all we do.
Florida Senior Consulting helps seniors decide their next best steps and the easiest way to afford the transition.
We have certified staff, licensed nurse advocates, and decades of experience in the field.
Senior living should be on your terms, and the choice should always be yours.
Call us, and we will answer all your questions and help you decide what is best for you or your senior loved one.
For peace of mind, call us at (941) 661-6196 or visit us at floridaseniorconsulting.com.