You know your loved one has an uphill battle ahead. It could be Alzheimer’s moving beyond the occasional memory slip or misplaced keys, or maybe it’s chronic back pain that’s turned their simple tasks into your daily chores. Whatever the case, they’re going to need help. But what kind of help, how much, and what will that mean for your family and your finances? This guide looks at all types and aspects of senior care, from identifying the kind of care you need to breaking down the financial options to make it all happen. Senior care may seem like a big scary step for you and your loved one, but it doesn’t have to be.
Quiz: What Care Do You (or Your Loved One) Need?
Not sure which care option makes sense for you or your loved one? Take our quiz to find your top matches, and then get details on those matches in the senior care profiles below.
Question 1 / 10
Do you have an illness, disability, or special needs that require long-term medical treatment?
ANo, I am perfectly healthy for my age
BI have a mild to moderate illness but it’s manageable with medication and semi-regular care
CI have a major illness or disability that requires constant monitoring and care
DYes, I have a terminal illness and need help through my final days
Do you currently have trouble performing daily tasks?
ANo trouble at all
BI need help from time to time
CI can do simple things, but need help with complex or strenuous tasks
DI need regular help with daily tasks
EI am completely dependent on another person
Do you want to live around other seniors?
ANo, I’d rather live near a much wider range of people
BI have no preference
CYes, I would like to live near and interact with people near my age
Do you prefer to have your own living space away from others?
AYes, I would like my own space with clear boundaries from others
BYes, but I’m ok sharing spaces such as a kitchen or yard
CI’d like to share a room and most amenities with others
Do you have a loved one with different care needs?
ANo, I do not have a significant other
BNo, we both have minimal health needs
CYes, but the differences are minimal
DYes, one of us needs more regular medical care
Do you have long-term care insurance?
Do you have life insurance?
Do you own a home or have significant equity in one?
Would you rather stay in your current home?
AYes, if possible
BYes, but I would be ok traveling to treatment or activities elsewhere
CYes, but I don’t think in-home help or care accommodates my needs
DNo, I’m ready to move to a medically focused senior care facility
Are you comfortable having someone providing care within your current home?
AYes, but only if it’s occasionally
BYes, a regular care provider in my home would be preferred
Senior Care Match Results
- Senior Co-opGood
- Independent LivingGood
- Continuous Care Retirement CommunityFair
About this quiz
Your senior care matches are based on questions, answers, and values drafted in conjunction with senior care specialists and actual senior citizens. All senior care matches are for informational purposes only, and do not, in any way, represent concrete recommendations for care. If you have any further questions about the quiz, or about this page in general, please reach out to us via our Contact Us page.
Profiling Types of Senior Care
Many people need the services of a caregiver as they age, but how much care a person needs can vary tremendously. For some, an occasional in-home visit is plenty. For others, round-the-clock care might be a requirement. Some need care only for themselves; others need care for a couple aging together. Given the wide ranges of elderly experiences, there are numerous senior care options available, all with their own list of services and corresponding price tags. Here are the 12 most common options, ordered by level of care needed.
How to Pay for Senior Care
Senior care is a significant financial investment. Luckily, today’s seniors have numerous assisted care funding sources available to them. Some of these methods require careful planning, so start thinking about how to pay for senior care now, even when you’re perfectly healthy. Waiting until the last minute can result in paying more out-of-pocket than necessary. In some cases, it might mean foregoing necessary care because it exceeds your budget. Let’s take a detailed look at the payment options.
Paying out-of-pocket means using your personal funds to cover the costs of care. Without knowing what kind of long-term care will be needed, or how long one will live, predicting these out-of-pocket costs can be almost impossible. With some senior care options costing almost six figures annually, paying for everything out of pocket will require a massive level of savings.
Medicare is a federal health insurance program for those aged 65 years and older or for individuals with specific diseases or disabilities. Within the senior living context, it will only cover an individual’s short-term care needs, such as rehabilitation or convalescent care. It will not cover long-term or skilled care services.
Medicaid is a program jointly funded by the federal and state governments. While states operate Medicaid, they must do so in a way that complies with federal rules in order to receive federal funding. Medicaid helps individuals pay for medical costs, including long-term senior care. However, it’s only available to those with limited income or wealth.
Also known as Medicare Supplement Insurance, Medigap helps pay for medical expenses that Medicare won’t cover, such as deductibles, copayments and coinsurance. Medigap insurance policies are sold by private insurance companies and will almost never cover long-term care costs.
Long-term care insurance
Long-term care insurance is exactly what it sounds like: special insurance to pay for the costs of long-term care that’s the result of a chronic condition or disability. Policyholders pay a premium and in return, their long-term care insurance will pay for personal or skilled care within the home, nursing home, assisted living, or other senior care setting. Like other insurance, you must purchase a policy before you actually need it.
A reverse mortgage allows those age 62 or older to turn the equity in their home into cash. This money does not need to be paid back until the borrower dies or leaves the home for any reason. No matter what happens in the real estate market, if the value of the home becomes less than the debt, the borrower or their heirs do not need to make up the difference.
Life insurance pays a benefit upon the death of the insured. The death benefit is intended to make up for the financial losses that result from the death of the insured. Certain life insurance policies have provisions that allow a covered person to take a percentage of the policy’s value to pay for senior care services.
Accelerated death benefits
Accelerated death benefits are a feature of some life insurance policies that allow you to receive an “advance” on the death benefit. However, certain conditions must be met, such as being terminally ill, permanently disabled, or needing long-term skilled or personal care.
Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) Buy-Ins are special “deposits” or entry fees that residents can pay to lower their monthly fees. These buy-ins are substantial in amount, often topping six figures. Not all CCRCs have buy-ins, but the ones that do allow this entry fee to reduce the monthly costs the residents would otherwise have to pay as their need for personal or skilled care increases. Depending on the CCRC, this buy-in may be partially refundable.
A life settlement is the sale of a life insurance policy to a third party. The buyer becomes the new beneficiary and assumes all the responsibilities of the seller, including payment of premiums. In return, the seller gets a lump sum cash payment (that’s usually tax-free) in excess of the cash surrender value of the policy, but less than the death benefit.
Having “the Conversation” with a Loved One
Making the decision to find care for a loved one is not easy. At the very least, it means changing how that person lives, but most of the time, it means changing where they live, too.
For expert insight into how to have that difficult conversation, we spoke to Dr. Regina Koepp, a board certified Clinical Psychologist, Professor of Gerontology, and Assistant Professor at Emory University School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. She has been a staff Psychologist at the Atlanta VA Health Care System (VAHCS) since 2010 where she provides direct patient care and consultation on the Gero-Psychiatry Outpatient Mental Health team.
Here’s a bit of her advice:
Don’t wait until there is a crisis!
Starting these conversations long before your loved one has a medical, mental health, or financial crisis is the best approach. In the midst of crises, people tend to be highly emotional and super stressed. As a result, they do not communicate effectively.
Start the conversation sooner than you think you need to.
Starting the conversation early helps you to have a conversation where you’re asking your loved one rather than telling your loved one how things are going to be in their own aging process.
Have the conversation during a neutral time
not in the midst of chaos, and not when you’re celebrating! Finding a neutral time will take some of the emotional heaviness or lightness out of what will naturally be a complicated talk.
Expect that this will be emotional.
Everyone is entitled to finding this conversation and transition upsetting. Starting this discussion with the understanding that this will indeed be an emotional conversation will set people up for success in managing emotions.
Choose the best messenger.
Consider who would be the best person to make this recommendation or start this conversation with the older adult. A trusted doctor (following an assessment), family members, friend, or pastor.
Ask your loved ones about their wishes!
Instead of telling your loved one what you plan to do, ask them about what they want related to their medical, mental health, financial, and living needs. Who knows? They may surprise you.
The first conversation should not be the last conversation.
When things get heated, take a break and offer to talk about this again at a later date. The second or third attempt may well be easier for everyone.
Work together as a team!
As you are starting out in these conversations, it can really help to imagine that you and your loved one are on the same team, tackling a challenge and going through the transition together.
Making the Transition
Moving can be tough at any age – it involves physically moving from one space to another, keeping track of all the logistical concerns, and the stress inherent in simply being in a new atmosphere. Now imagine all of this happening when you are much older, with declining health and reduced physical abilities. In addition, it might be a situation in which the move is not your choice – your health condition requires it. It’s easy to see how the transition can be a traumatic experience for some, but it doesn’t have to be a burden. Let’s review a few techniques that can make care transitions easier and more successful.
Who Helps Seniors? A Look at Careers in Care
Running a senior care facility or providing assisted living services is a team effort. Many different types of health care professionals give care to residents and patients. Some of this care involves help with daily living tasks, medication administration, regular treatments, or even emergency medical care. In addition to these professionals, there are the support staff and office personnel that keep things running smoothly. If you’re interested in working in the senior care field, there are many careers to choose from.
Sometimes called nursing aides, CNAs provide personal care for patients in places like hospitals, long term care facilities, assisted living, and even at-home care. Job duties include assisting patients with daily living tasks such as using the bathroom, moving around the senior care community, getting dressed, and eating. CNAs might also complete housekeeping duties. Depending on the state, CNAs may have the ability to dispense medication.
A dietician is someone who specializes in the field of food and nutrition. They use their expert knowledge to help individuals be as healthy as possible, as well as meet any other health-related goals, such as improving fitness levels or recovering from an illness or medical issue. Part of a dietician’s job is to evaluate patients to help them identify their nutritional needs and meet their nutritional goals.
Gerontologists are professionals who study aging. Using scientific principles, gerontologists will examine the aging process within various contexts, including biological, social, psychological, and medical. The role of the gerontologist can vary, but might include working with administrators to improve the care for aging individuals. In some cases, gerontologists will take part in providing direct care to seniors.
Healthcare administrators oversee the delivery of medical care and health services. This includes planning, managing, and coordinating among various medical and non-medical professionals to ensure the efficient operation of a healthcare facility, such as a nursing home or hospital. In addition to making sure residents and patients receive effective skilled nursing and personal care, healthcare administrators will also create strategic goals for the senior care organization, make budgeting decisions, and manage the organization’s finances.
LPNs provide medical care under the direction of physicians and registered nurses. The exact scope of this care will depend on the state in which the LPN works. But for most, the medical care they provide includes basic tasks such as changing bandages, maintaining patient records, providing personal care, and taking a patient’s vitals.
A gerontology nurse practitioner is a type of advanced practice registered nurse who focuses on providing health care to older patients. Due to their advanced training, a nurse practitioner will usually have some independence in how they treat patients. They will also have additional responsibilities compared to an RN, such as prescribing medication, ordering tests, and interpreting test results.
Medical assistants provide a wide range of support services within a medical setting. This includes basic clinical duties, such as taking patient vitals and helping other professionals render appropriate medical care. Medical assistants also work on the office side of a medical facility. Tasks include scheduling appointments, taking phone calls, updating medical records, and asking patients for basic medical information.
Medical billers provide administrative support in a healthcare setting. Specifically, they convert health services into bills that are then sent to the patient, or more likely, insurance companies. As their job title implies, medical billers send out medical bills so the professionals treating patients can get paid for their services. A medical biller may sometimes have job duties that overlap with a medical assistant or medical coder.
Medical coders are a type of health information technician tasked with assisting in the process of getting an insurance company to pay for medical services provided by a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional. They do this by examining a patient’s diagnosis and the medical care they received, then assigning it a standardized code. These codes are necessary for billing, statistical, and record keeping purposes.
Those who are disabled, sick, or injured may benefit from using the services of an occupational therapist to recover, learn, or improve daily living skills. An occupational therapist will evaluate a patient and their surroundings to determine their needs. The therapist will also create a treatment plan for patients that will utilize everyday tasks to meet these goals.
Working under the direction and supervision of an occupational therapist, occupational therapy assistants provide hands on help for patients engaged in occupational therapy activities. Other job tasks include keeping track of a patient’s progress as well as teaching them how to complete activities and exercises on their own.
The goal of a physical therapist is to help individuals manage pain and improve their physical movement. Most patients of a physical therapist will be those with disabilities, injuries, or serious illness. Physical therapists will not only employ the use of exercises, tools, and equipment to improve a patient’s pain or range of motion, but also assess patients, determine what their goals should be, and choose how to best meet those goals.
A PTA, or physical therapist assistant, will work under the direction of a physical therapist to help patients recover from an injury or illness. PTAs will also help patients who are trying to manage pain or improve their ability to move on their own. A PTA will not only work directly with patients to complete exercises and activities, but may also complete support tasks, such as maintaining equipment and fulfilling an administrative role.
In addition to providing direct patient care, RNs help coordinate patient care as a part of a health care team. RNs supervise CNAs and LPNs. Their other duties include assessment of a patient’s well-being, administering medical treatment, performing medical testing, and consulting with physicians regarding changes in patient status.