Archive for January, 2012

Assisted Living: Does Size Matter?

January 24, 2012

Some assisted living facilities are really nice.  Others, not so much.  Assisted living facilities can be ideal for people who can no longer remain in their own homes, but do not need the more intense level of care provided by a skilled nursing facility (commonly called a “nursing home”).  Assisted living facilities provide a room or small apartment, communal meals, help with the activities of daily living (bathing, dressing, etc.) and perhaps help with transportation and administering medications.  They offer more personal freedom and flexibility than a nursing home, but less than at the individual’s own home.

Metro Denver assisted living facilities range in size from 2 – 275 residents with most having capacity for either 5-12 or between 50 – 120.  What is the difference?  Are smaller or larger facilities better?  The answer, as for most things in life, is it depends (no pun intended).

Three things determine the quality of care actually received.  Most important is the owners’/managers’ level of committment.  Is each resident respected as an individual with his or her unique life story?  Are staff members truly caring, well-trained, experienced and carefully screened?  Taking into account cognitive and physical limitations, are the residents engaged in activities that are stimulating?  Or are they left alone without interaction for hours at a time?  Is there a choice of activities?  Does staff always talk to residents in a friendly, empowering manner…even on bad days?  How is the food?  

The second factor determining  quality of care is the facility itself.  Is it kept clean and odor-free?  Is  there plenty of  light?  Is the furniture comfortable and in good condition?  Is it safe?  Is it a nice place? 

The third factor (Some would say the most important) is the frequency of resident visits by family and friends.  In some facilities, there seems to be a correlation between how often a resident has visitors and the attention paid to that resident by staff. 

Until now, I have generally discussed assisted living facilities of all sizes.  Now let’s talk about the differences that number of residents bring to the equation.

Smaller assisted living facilities (12 or fewer residents) are usually in individual homes that are located in residential areas.  Some have had high-quality, extensive renovations.  Some are newly constructed homes in good neighborhoods.  Some are well maintained.  Some are dumps.  The advantages of smaller assisted living facilities are generally: 1) A more personal resident-caregiver relationship with greater caregiver continuity.  2) More likely accommodation of individual food preferences.  3) A much less institutional feeling.  4) Facility owners are more likely live nearby and be involved in the day-to-day operation. 

Larger (50 or more residents) assisted living facilities:  Like their smaller cousins, large facilities can range all the way from wonderful to awful.  Larger assisted living facilities generally offer: 1)  A more extensive selection of resident activities, including off-site excursions.  2) More depth in the staff that is on duty at any given time.  3) Simply because of greater numbers, a higher likelihood of ongoing social interaction (friendships developing).  4) The potential for economies of scale, and hence lower costs.  5) more actual oversight by regulators.  6) more on-site ancillary services such as banks, physicians and pharmacies. 

Smaller and larger assisted living facilities each have their advantages and corresponding disadvantages.  Size alone is not the determinant.  Here are a few of both that I have visited and especially like:

Abundant Blessings & Care Assisted Living: A fully remodeled home for up to 8 residents near I25 and Yale Ave. in Denver.  Contact: Carol Eiber, 303-478-8174. 

Assured Assisted Living: A number of individual memory care homes in Castle Rock and Parker, CO.  Each with capacity for 8 or 9 residents.  Contact: Sheryl Thompson, 303-814-2688.

Heritage Club Mountain View: Near where Mississippi Ave., Leetsdale Dr. and Parker Rd. all meet in Denver. 120 apartments.  Contact: 303-803-1170.  Contact: Christy Still, 303-803-1177.

Porter Place: 175 apartments near Yale Ave.  and Downing St. in Denver.  Contact: Margie Gilliland, 303-765-6802.

I counted 272 assisted living facilities with space for 8,809 residents in Metro-Denver.  There are probably even more.  Finding the right place for yourself or a loved one is a daunting task.  Joan Therese Seivert at Connections Unlimited (303-232-3359) is the best long term care placement person in the Denver area.  If I thought I may need to find an assisted living facility for myself, I would call Joan Therese to help me.

Disclaimer: Actual policy language, rather than the contents of this eNewsletter always takes precedence.  Long term insurance policies vary from company to company & within the same company.  Raymond Smith, The Long Term Care Specialist, does not give legal or tax advice.  Consult your tax advisor or attorney for these matters.


© Raymond Smith, The Long Term Care Specialist, 2012

The Gap In Employee Benefits

January 23, 2012

Most employers offer health insurance as an important employee benefit.  Companies do this for a variety of reasons: 1) To stay competitive in attracting good people.  2) Retaining good people.  3) Because the owners/managers want health insurance for themselves.  4) Because it is the right thing to do.  What is not usually understood is that health insurance does not cover the cost of long term care services.  Health insurance also does not protect a company against the loss of productivity that invariably occurs when a key employee is forced to help care for a loved one.

The answer: Offer group* long term care insurance as an employee benefit at little or no cost to the company. 

How can a valuable new benefit be offered at little or no cost?  No cost: Group long term care insurance can be offered on a voluntary basis.  The employer distributes informational materials and hosts educational workshops, but each employee pays the full cost of the selected individual policy if he/she chooses to take part.  Little cost: The employer can decide to cover the cost of a base plan and allow employees to pay for any desired policy upgrades.  This approach can be surprisingly inexpensive for both the employer and the participating employees.

Why is offering long term care insurance as a benefit (voluntary, partly employer-paid, or fully employer-paid) better than simply encouraging employees to buy this protection on their own?

1. Discounts: As part of a company-endorsed group, employees and their extended family members (to include domestic partners) can buy the very same policies, but at a discount.

2. Education: Solid information about risks, benefits, and costs is provided.  Medicare, Medicaid and veterans programs as they relate to long term care are explained.  Educational workshops are provided at which employees can ask and receive answers to their questions.

3.  Easier underwriting: With as few as 10 participating employees, far less medical history information is required.  Thirty percent of people who apply for long term care insurance outside of company-sponsored plans are turned down.  That percentage is typically reduced to five percent or less within employee groups.  The normal long term care insurance application questions about height, weight, and medications are not even asked.  Enrollment can often be done on-line.

Contact me if you are an employer or employee and would like to learn more.  Group long term care insurance is an important part of what I do and I would be happy to help start the discussion.

*Technically, a long term care insurance plan for up to about 250 employees is known as “multi-life”.  True group begins at about 250 employees.  Multi-life differs from true group long term care insurance in that: 1) With multi-life, employees own real individual policies that they can take with them when they leave their employer.  Group plans typically have a single policy certificate that covers all participants and coverage may or not be portable.  2) Employees have far more choice in selecting the policy benefits and cost that best meets their needs.

Disclaimer: Actual policy language, rather than the contents of this eNewsletter always takes precedence.  Long term insurance policies vary from company to company & within the same company.  Raymond Smith, The Long Term Care Specialist, does not give legal or tax advice.  Consult your tax advisor or attorney for these matters.


© Raymond Smith, The Long Term Care Specialist, 2012