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Nonprofit Innovators Try to Shift Senior Care Away From the Nursing Homes

Nursing homes are generally the most expensive senior care option. For many area residents they are also living spaces of last resort–most would elect an alternative if available. Unfortunately, nonprofit organizations and businesses that work in the senior care field are still playing catch-up when it comes to building and maintaining alternative living options for the elderly. Assisted-living centers are growing in popularity, but a majority of area residents who need extra care continue to live in traditional nursing homes. The difference-maker is often whether or not the local resident has conducted any New York elder care planning.

Recently, the Star Tribune interviewed an executive from a company that is trying to develop more nursing home alternatives. Steve Ordahl, the vice president for business for the nonprofit senior care company Ecumen explained the benefits of their assisted-living centers and the requirements for those seeking to live in one of these facilities. The executive reported that since 2003 traditional nursing homes have shifted from 80% of its revenue to 50%, with alternative living options making up the difference.

New York elder care experts have found time and again that seniors report the most satisfaction with living situations that provide them with the most independence. Assisted-living facilities take that reality to heart and work to create an actual community environment that avoids paternalistic oversight. Independence is a focal point of these centers, so community members can wake up at their own time and eat on their own schedule. The Ecumen executive explained that they are committed to maximizing physical, spiritual, and financial wellness. Programming at these facilities goes well beyond afternoon bingo. These assisted-living communities sponsor museum trips and each building has its own in-house theater. Residents are free to leave these homes at any time. However turnover rates are quite low, because resident satisfaction rates are high. That is why most of these facilities are at full capacity.

Many residents believe that senior community homes such as those run by Ecumen are only attainable for the wealthiest seniors. However, one need not have endless resources to be able to move into one of these assisted-living facilities. The costs are actually less than many nursing homes. The only thing that usually is required is planning. For example, Mr. Ordahl explains that they seek pricing similarity with market-rate housing. Each facility also has an allowance for those who will eventually spend down their assets and qualify for Medicaid, though all those who move in must prove that they can privately pay for at least 24 months of care. It is therefore vital for residents to plan ahead. Our New York elder law attorneys have helped many clients put plans into place to ensure that they will be in a position to move an assisted-living facility if they choose down the road.

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