Most veterans will want to remain at home as they grow older, also referred to as aging in place. As care requirements increase, other housing options may need to be explored, including transitioning to an assisted living facility (ALF). Residents at an assisted living facility receive around-the-clock personal care along with many other types of support services. With assisted living, veterans can continue to live independently in a safe environment.
Aging and Personal Care
The aging process can bring about unexpected physical and mental changes such as hearing loss, memory loss, vision problems and muscle weakness. Aging can also make a person more susceptible to injury, illness and disease.
When a senior’s health starts declining, performing daily living activities (ADLs) like bathing, dressing, eating, toileting and transferring can become more difficult.
One of the primary purposes of an assisted living facility is to help residents with daily living tasks. According to a recent study, at least 41% of current residential care community users need assistance with at least 1 ADL (CDC: National Study of Long-Term Care Providers, 2013-2014).
What is an Assisted Living Facility
Assisted living facilities are long-term care residential communities for seniors who can live independently with some assistance. Facilities can vary in size from a small number of residents and staff to communities with hundreds of residents and dozens of employees.
Before someone is admitted to an ALF, medical and care needs will be assessed. Medical assessments are used to determine if the facility can provide a potential resident with the appropriate level of care. Care assessments are conducted in order to create a tailored service plan.
ALF living accommodations can range from single and shared rooms to full one, two or even three bedroom apartments. Larger units will have a general living area and small kitchen. Most assisted living facility residents live in either a room, studio or one-bedroom apartment.
Staffing at an ALF will usually depend on the type of care provided, as well as the facility’s size. Some staff will help residents with personal care, while others perform housekeeping duties, prepare meals and keep the facility neat and clean. Larger facilities will often have several administrative staff that oversee daily activities and operations.
In addition to housing, most assisted living facilities will provide three meals a day in a central dining room as part of their basic service. Other services include help with bathing, dressing, grooming, toileting, transferring, medication management, social activities and transportation.
Depending on the facility, educational and recreational activities may also be offered, along with various types of social services.
Almost all facilities will have 24 hour security.
The purpose of an assisted living facility is to provide a safe and comfortable living environment for seniors who can no longer live alone, but do not need 24 hour medical or nursing care.
Sometimes larger facilities will employ registered nurses (RN) and certified nursing assistants (CNA), but ALFs are not legally required to have licensed medical professionals on-site unless the facility provides specialized care. Smaller facilities may contract with outside agencies to provide skilled nursing care as needed.
ALFs will usually have transportation services for residents who need to visit a doctor or dentist, and may also arrange their medical appointments.
Assisted Living with Memory Care
Dementia and Alzheimer’s are diseases that can develop as a person ages, but are not considered a normal part of the aging process. Some assisted living facilities have memory care units where residents with cognitive impairments can receive the specialized care they need. These are usually secure living spaces with door alarms, keypad door locks and other types of security measures.
Each state has its own assisted living facility regulations. These rules generally cover the type of care and services that can be provided. Most states require 24-hour staffing, but will allow the facility to establish their own staff-to-resident ratio guidelines. Laws pertaining to staff qualifications (education, work experience, passing a security background check) are also common.
Assisted Living Facility Costs
There are many factors that determine the cost of an ALF, including the facility’s location and the services that are provided. The national average for a private one-bedroom unit is $3,628 per month ($43,536 per year).
Most seniors are unprepared for the high cost of an assisted living facility, and will require some type of financial assistance to offset the expense.
Veterans Benefits for Assisted Living
Veterans enrolled in the VA health care system who need skilled nursing and medical care (not personal care in an assisted living facility), may be eligible to enter a VA nursing home if they meet various requirements related to their service-connected disability, type of disability and income. Eligibility is also based on setting availability.
VA health care benefits will not cover the cost of an assisted living facility. There is however, a special non-service connected veterans benefit for assisted living called Aid & Attendance.
VA Aid & Attendance Benefit for Assisted Living
Aid & Attendance is a VA pension for qualified veterans, spouses and surviving spouses who need help paying for long-term care, including an assisted living facility.
Benefit requirements include the veteran having served at least 90 days of active duty with at least one day during an eligible period of war, with an “other than Dishonorable” discharge. Veterans applying for the benefit must also be at least 65 years of age.
A surviving spouse must have been married to the veteran at the time of his passing and never re-married. Surviving spouses can apply for the benefit at any age.
Claimants must also need help with two out of the five types of daily living activities, and meet specific income and net worth criteria.
Aid & Attendance benefit amounts can range from $1,153 per month to $2,846 per month. The benefit is tax-free and does not need to be paid back.
The Aid & Attendance benefit makes it easier for veterans and their spouses to pay for services at an assisted living facility. If you would like more information about this helpful benefit, contact us today for a free consultation.