Senior Housing and Care Costs Are Not Spinning Out Of Control
Ben Hanowell, researcher and data scientist for A Place for Mom
A Place for Mom, the nation’s largest senior living referral service, recently released its 2017 National Senior Living Cost Index. This study shows which metropolitan areas and care types have the fastest growing senior housing costs, and which cities are the most and least affordable. While the data on which cities are the most and least affordable is not surprising, what is surprising is that the cost growth for assisted living and memory care is increasing at a much slower speed than expected by the public.
Currently, there is widespread belief that health care costs are spiraling out of control and that senior housing and care costs are spiraling right along with it. However, the data paints a different picture. With the notable exception of prescription drugs, health care cost growth has actually slowed in recent years, and housing costs are growing even slower. Presently, senior living cost growth is comparable to the growth in housing rents, both of which are substantially slower than home prices, but senior housing cost is slowly starting to pick up momentum and we could see it reach the growth rate of other health care costs one day. So, while you don’t need to rush to your closest nursing home to guarantee the best prices, it is a good idea to keep an eye on the industry and not put off moving for too long.
If you are new to the idea of senior living, it is important to know that there are three main types: Independent Living, Assisted Living and Memory Care. Each one provides a different level of care for the senior. Independent Living is a community of seniors living in individual apartments with limited in-home assistance as needed and different amenities, like a meal plan or housekeeping. Assisted Living is a little more hands-on and designed for seniors who need daily assistance from a caregiver, usually including 24-hour caregiver access with medication management and a full meal and housekeeping plan. Memory Care is the most intensive and requires a specially trained staff and secure environment for seniors with moderate to advanced cognitive impairments. For each of these different living situations, the average growth in cost has been 1.8 percent, but in 2016 it jumped to 2.9 percent, which is around $100. Even with senior living cost growth accelerating across the U.S., there have been certain regions, especially in the South, that have seen growth slow.
Independent Living is the senior living type that is seeing the largest increase in growth. This is because all of the costs go to rent and not senior care, making it the most similar to the housing market which has seen a growth spike in recent years. According to Zillow Rent Index, annual rent growth hovered nationally from 2 to 5 percent between 2013 and 2016, similar to growth in senior living costs. The largest contributor to rising care costs, therefore, is actually the economic recovery the U.S. has experienced over the last few years. Assisted Living and Memory Care tend to be more resilient to large economic changes because there is a greater urgency for the consumer’s care needs and a greater portion of rent goes toward care instead of the living facility. Therefore their growth rates may be slower because of the slower growth rate of health care compared to that of the housing market.
In terms of which metros are going to be the most and least affordable, there are no surprises. Large coastal metros have much higher costs than metros in the South, Southwest and Midwest states. Within those metros there are also certain cities that are going to be more expensive than the average of the metro area. You can find more information about the most and least expensive metros and cities for each type of assisted living in the Senior Living Cost Index 2017 on A Place for Mom’s website, as well as other helpful tools to make the transition easier including an interactive map of housing costs in thousands of cities. As you start to look for the right senior living solution for yourself or your aging loved one, keep these resources in mind to help guide you through the complicated process.
Hearing Loss and Earlier Death
About one-third of U.S. adults aged 65 to 74 have at least mild hearing loss, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Almost half of people aged 75 and older have hearing loss. A new study suggest that hearing loss may be associated with earlier death. In a nationally representative sample of adults 70 years or older, moderate or more severe hearing impairment was associated with an increased risk of death, with greater impairment increasing the risk, compared to older adults without hearing impairment, according to a study published online by JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery. Kevin J. Contrera, M.P.H., of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, and colleagues studied 1,666 adults 70 years or older who had undergone audiometric testing. Compared with individuals without hearing loss, individuals with hearing loss were more likely to be older, male, white, former smokers, less educated, and have a history of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Moderate or more severe loss was associated with a 54 percent increased risk of death, and mild loss with a 27 percent increased risk of death, compared with individuals without hearing loss. ÛÏFuture studies are required to explore the basis of the association of HI with mortality and to determine whether therapies to rehabilitate hearing can reduce mortality,Û researchers noted.
Face to Face Communication
More Powerful Than Phone, Email, Social Networks
I have been saying for a while that as a society we are losing touch with each other because we do not communicate face to face. Many have joked that we have to teach our kids how to have a conversation. Well now there’s proof that face-to-face communication is good for your mental health.
In a slight knock on digital and telephone communications, a new study points to the unsurpassed mental health benefits of regular face-to-face social interactions among older adults. Study participants who regularly met in person with family and friends were less likely to report symptoms of depression, compared with participants who emailed or spoke on the phone. The gains people derived from face-to-face socializing endured even years later. The findings were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
“Research has long supported the idea that strong social bonds strengthen people’s mental health. But this is the first look at the role that the type of communication with loved ones and friends plays in safeguarding people from depression. We found that all forms of socialization aren’t equal. Phone calls and digital communication, with friends or family members, do not have the same power as face-to-face social interactions in helping to stave off depression,” says Alan Teo, M.D., M.S., lead author, assistant professor of psychiatry at Oregon Health & Science University, and researcher at the VA Portland Health Care System.
Teo and colleagues assessed more than 11,000 adults aged 50 and older in the United States who participated in the longitudinal Health and Retirement Study at the University of Michigan.
Researchers examined the frequency of in-person, telephone and written social contact, including email. Then they looked at the risk of depression symptoms two years later, adjusting for potential confounding factors including health status, how close people lived from family and preexisting depression.
The researchers found that having little face-to-face social contact nearly doubles your risk of having depression two years later. They also reported that having more or fewer phone conversations, or written or email contact, had no effect on depression.
Study participants who met up with family and friends at least three times a week had the lowest level of depressive symptoms two years later – 6.5 percent – than those who had less frequent contact. Individuals who met up just once every few months or less frequently had an 11.5 percent chance of depressive symptoms.
The study also detected significant differences between the types of individuals – family member versus friend – that participants should socialize with in order to have the most impact on their depression levels. The researchers found that among adults aged 50 to 69, frequent in-person contact with friends reduced subsequent depression. In contrast, adults 70 and older benefited from in-person contact with children and other family members.
3 Elder Care Secrets Every Caregiver Needs to Know
In each state, there is a wide array of long term care facilities that elderly individuals can choose from—each one specializing in different types of care services. However, more and more older adults are looking into growing older in their own homes and communities.
However, aging in place, a trend that is rapidly becoming popular among older adults, requires more than just deciding to grow old at home. In many cases, an elderly individual would require the assistance of a family member—often an adult child—to be able to age in place successfully. As their health conditions or disabilities progress, their adult children—the family caregivers—begin to dedicate so much more than their time and effort, shouldering some if not all of the expenses.
The truth is that it can be taxing, and if you are caregiver reading this, then you should know that there are ways around this potentially disastrous situation. You can care for your loved one and yourself. To do so, we have compiled a few tidbits and secrets that are useful to the family caregivers:
Secret #1: You need to plan for your long term care.
As we all know, long term care services in the country could be financially crippling. The costs have reached the point where most elderly Americans can no longer afford the care that they need.
As family caregivers, you may be familiar with how difficult it can be to say no to a loved one need. However, this puts you in a jeopardizing position that could impact your own future. Caregiving can take a toll on a person physically, financially, emotionally, and mentally. In fact, studies show that dementia caregivers reported that their health has become worse because of their care responsibilities. So many then end up resorting to other unreliable means to support their care.
In order to avoid this situation from being your reality, you must start by planning for your own long term care needs even before the health issues begin. Consult with an insurance specialist first to do so effectively.
Secret #2: Caregiving is exhausting, stressful, and it can lead to abusive behavior.
Elder abuse comes in all shapes and forms. It can come from anyone, and without realizing or intending it, abuse may even come from you. Yes, elder care is not a walk in the park. It is exhausting, stressful, and absolutely frustrating. On some occasions, it can be too much for any caregiver. It may be in the form of a few harsh words or small acts of retaliation after a particularly nasty episode. It can come from you, whether you know it or not.
At the end of the day, it is still vital to do what you need to do to keep your well-being in place. Take breaks or ask for assistance if it gets too much. After all, no one should be subjected to elder abuse and family caregivers ensure that it never happens.
Secret #3: Youcan save a lot of money on tax deductions.
Did you know that family caregivers can qualify for tax deductions? However, there is a list of requirements that family caregivers must meet. For an in-depth discussion about the matter, refer to Long Term Care Tax Deductions.
Samantha Stein is an online content manager for ALTCP.org. Her works focus on key information on long term care insurance, financial planning, elder care, and retirement. In line with the organization’s goal, Samantha creates content that helps raise awareness on the importance of having comprehensive coverage, in the form of long term care insurance for elderly parents and younger individuals, for the good of the entire family.
What Are You Learning
The interesting thing about caregiving is that every day is different. And every day teaches us a new lesson that we can apply to our lives. They can teach us how to prepare for our own aging and even how to talk to our kids about the issues. Bottom line you can pick up valuable information if you pay attention. So what are you learning in your caregiving journey? I’d be interested to know so please do share.