Meet our writers


Advice & More June 2013

Dollar Sense

When Housing Needs Change, What are Your Options?

By Teresa Ambord

The choices are so much better than they once were. Creating safe, homey, pleasant residences for seniors is a strong industry in the United States these days. Instead of waiting till the need is immediate, think over the possibilities while there is time.

Whether you’re considering new housing for an elderly relative, or thinking ahead to your own needs, the task of choosing the right place can be overwhelming. On the other hand, the choices are so much better than they once were. Creating safe, homey, pleasant residences for seniors is a strong industry in the United States these days. Instead of waiting till the need is immediate, think over the possibilities while there is time.

Here are some of the most common options:

  • Independent Living Facilities
    People who are able to live on their own and don’t have specific medical care needs may be best served by an independent retirement community. For the most part these communities appear no different than another neighborhood, except they generally have age restrictions, such as 55 and up, and possibly enhanced security.

    A retirement community could consist of individual homes, mobile homes, townhouses or condos. Some such communities are set up for renters and others for home ownership. This type of arrangement brings resources together so seniors can live independently, but if they want or need additional services – such as help with housekeeping, laundry, group meals or prepared meals, transportation, security, and social and cultural activities – they are readily available.

  • Assisted Living Facilities
    You’ve probably seen assisted living facilities, which seem to be springing up everywhere. They provide some medical care for those who need a little more, but still allow residents to feel independent. These residences generally have the ability to help with managing prescriptions, and well as bathing, dressing, and grooming if needed. They may provide or arrange for transportation, and assist those who need help with personal mobility. Some assisted living arrangements are like small, private apartments, with health care personnel on the premises at all times, or at least on call.

    In most facilities you can opt for other services, for an additional fee, such as housekeeping help, personal laundry service, Alzheimer’s care, etc.

  • Nursing Homes
    Nursing homes are available for those who require round-the-clock care but don’t need to be in a hospital. In the recent past, many of these homes were known as rigid, rule bound, and driven by tight schedules. Over time they have become more focused on the needs of the residents, so residents can begin to feel at home. Some nursing homes are developed to be like small households, where a group of people live under one roof, share meals and engage in activities together. Some have dogs or cats living there, or allow residents to bring their own pets with them.


Is the Facility Stable for the Long Term?

When you are checking out an option, you’ll need to be armed with specific questions. The first area of concern should be the stability of the facility. You can start by contacting your state’s office on aging. You can find it in the phone book under Area Agency on Aging, or on the Internet by typing in your state name and “office on aging,” For example, “Oregon office on aging.” If you don’t see housing or long-term care facilities listed, try the search window, or look for contact information so you can e-mail or call and get information. Here are some questions to ask:

  • Is the facility experiencing legal or financial problems?
  • Are there pending lawsuits or state inspection issues against the facility?
  • Is it able to maintain an adequate and qualified staff?
  • Does it have current state and local licenses?
  • Does it have adequate liability and malpractice insurance?

Also ask your physician, nurses and other healthcare professionals, hospital discharge planners, and social workers. The reputation of a housing facility for seniors and the disabled gets around fast among those who deal with the elderly, so don’t hesitate to ask.

Once you know a facility is sound, get more personal. Visit the place at least twice, during different hours and days of the week to see for yourself what the quality of life is for residents. Talking to the staff can reveal a lot about how they feel about residents and can give insight into how you or your loved ones will be cared for.

When I visit my aunt in the rest home where she lives, they ask at the desk who I am there to see. I mention her name and although it is a large facility, they know who she is, where her room is, whether she had visitors recently, and anything unusual about her day. As I walk to her room I notice staff members interacting with the residents and I’m always impressed.


More Resources suggests when you visit a facility, have these questions in mind.

  • Is the staff respectful and friendly?
  • Is the nursing home clean?
  • Do they offer social, recreational, religious and cultural activities which interest you or your elderly relative?
  • Can you choose your waking, bed time, and bathing time?
  • Can you get food and drinks anytime? Is the food good? Ask to try it.
  • Can you have visitors anytime?
  • Can you have a pet?
  • Is transportation provided?
  • How much privacy is there?
  • Can you decorate your room how you like?
  • Is the temperature comfortable?
  • Is there good natural lighting?
  • Do you have a telephone and TV in the room?

In addition to these questions, you’ll find other good information about housing on the Seniorliving Website, at

Or for a helpful, free referral service by geography, type in “A Place for Mom.”


The Costs of Long-Term Care

Every year Genworth Financial does a survey of the average costs of various services around the country. It should be no surprise to learn costs have risen since last year. Here is the breakdown.

  • Homemaker Services (Licensed) $18 per hour
  • Home Health-Aide Services (Licensed) $19 per hour
  • Adult Day Health Care $65 per day
  • Assisted Living Facility (one bedroom $3,450 per month – single occupancy)
  • Nursing Home (semi-private room) $207 per day
  • Nursing Home (private room) $230 per day


Teresa Ambord is a former accountant and Enrolled Agent with the IRS. Now she writes full time from her home, mostly for business, and about family when the inspiration strikes.

Meet Teresa