When Searching For Assisted Living Beware of Hidden Fees

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In this article I thought to share with you some of my findings on the HIDDEN FEES that are lurking in some if not all Assisted Living Facilities' pricing structures. This came to mind after I was reviewing a checklist that AARP put out for people who are searching for an Assisted Living facility. What was it that was so surprising?

In my role as a caregiver both professionally and for my own mother, I have visited numerous facilities of all types from nursing homes, adult family homes, apartment type assisted living facilities and so on. On these visits I have had occasion to speak with a rep ( salesperson) who took me on tours, and provided information regarding the fees associated with living there. I must say in all facility types except the nursing homes, there were fees that a person would not think to ask about. I call them HIDDEN FEES because they do not come up unless you ask, until the time you are ready to make your decision and these fees can be quite large in some cases. I will give you some examples.

"Showers were $25.00 per shower that could be another $200.00 a month for twice a week showers. So you get the idea."

One Adult Family Home I visited, a very lovely home, set up for 6 residents and the family lived their and did the bulk of the caregiving for the residents. This is the type of setting my own mother lives in now. However at this particular house I was looking at I was shocked when the owner told me there was a $5000.00 move in fee. This fee was on top of the first months rent and it was not a security deposit. It was as she explained a non refundable fee residents pay so they can get them moved in and set up in the home. Well I don't know about you but $5000.00 is a bit much in my opinion when she is going to be paying rent from day one and, that house was not on the low end rent wise, it was $4500.00 a month. I do realize there is paperwork involved with a licensed home and getting medications set up takes time I understand all of that. I would have had no problem paying a few hundred dollars for that, but $5000.00 in my opinion is price gouging. Needless to say I never went back to that home.

Look Close for Hidden Fees
Look Close for Hidden Fees

Another facility I looked at for a client was the type where you have your own little apartment with a small kitchen, bedroom and private bath. You can eat in your apartment or at the central dining room ( two meals a day are included in the rent ). It was a nice enough place, clean and seemed well organized. My visit was unannounced by the way. I find if I just drop in I get a better feel for what the place is really like, however you may have to make a second visit if someone is not available to help you because of not having an appointment. On this visit I was able to speak with someone and go over all the fees. Here too as at the Adult Family Home there was a community fee as they called it. The fee was non refundable and was not part of the rent. It was due upon move in along with the first months rent and security deposit. Wow that's a lot of money to come up with right off the bat. Now I will tell you at this facility they were running a special for 3 months. Anyone moving in during Jan, Feb or March would receive 1/2 off the community fee. So if you find a facility with fees like this you may want to ask about any specials they have coming up. Could save you several thousand dollars.

Now on top of the "community fees" or "move in fees" that you may not be aware of there are other fees that can really add up in assisted living facilities that you should ask about up front or you may get sticker shock when you get your monthly bill. These fee have to do with the assistance you or your loved one needs, that is provided by the medical team at the facility. You see according to many states rules, the company providing the housing has to be separate from the company providing the "assistance". Let me give you an example. Included in your rent are things like activities, meals ( usually one or two a day) sometimes transportation to local supermarket on specific days, entertainment, housekeeping and laundry. If you need assistance with showering, medication management, getting to and from meals (escort),  dressing, these things are provided by a separate company FOR A FEE. The facility will provide you a fee schedule from the company that operates on site and you then have to determine what services are needed and how much they will add to your monthly rent. I tell you all this so that when you see a beautiful facility advertising luxury assisted living for $2000.00 a month you are not fooled into thinking that is the total all inclusive fee. You need to check and see how their facility is structured and how the fees add up. For someone needing a lot of assistance it can add up to a lot of money every month in addition to their rent. Just as an example at one facility the charge for medication management was $10.00 per day, that's an additional $300.00 a month. Showers were $25.00 per shower that could be another $200.00 a month for twice a week showers. So you get the idea.

We all have to face it, getting old isn't cheep. With people living well into their 90's and some beyond, many are outliving their money. They may have saved, been frugal, made a good living etc.. and still it's not enough. Making wise decisions about housing can make the difference between having enough money to last and having to apply for medicaid during those last years of your life. Many more people than ever before are having to turn to aid to make it. Thank goodness the aid is there, as the VA benefits are for my mom. And there is no shame in having to apply for assistance, but it does narrow your choices considerably. 

My hope is that by providing this information people will benefit when it comes their time to search for assisted living and they won't get caught by hidden fees. They will know to ask about these things up front so they can truly compare costs 

So I hope you have found this information helpful and keep it in mind when you are making your search for assisted senior living.

Ruth Anne Miller