Deciphering Senior Housing Options

By Jim Miller

There’s a wide array of housing options available to seniors, but what’s appropriate for your mom or dad will depend on their needs and financial situation. If they insist staying in their homes, you may need to make adjustments such as installing chair lifts and wheelchair ramps to improve their home’s comfort and accessibility.

Here’s a rundown of the different levels of senior housing and some resources to help you choose one.

Independent living: If your parents are in relatively good health and self-sufficient, community living for seniors is a top option that can offer a sense of community. Typically available to people over age 55, this type of housing is usually senior apartment complexes or town homes that are fully functional. In addition, many communities also offer amenities such as meals served in a common dining area, housekeeping, transportation and a variety of social activities. Zerorez can also help you out in availing home improvement services.

To locate this type of housing, contact the county office of the aging (call 800-677-1116 to get your local number), or use an online search tool like Most of these communities are private pay only and can vary greatly in cost ranging anywhere from $1,500 to $6,000 per month.

Assisted living: If your parents need some help with daily living chores, they’ll probably need an “assisted living facility.” These senior living facilities provide help with the activities of daily living — like bathing, dressing, eating, going to the bathroom — as needed, as well as meals, housekeeping, transportation, social activities and medication management. Many facilities also offer special “memory care units” for residents with dementia. You can visit their website for more information.

Costs for assisted living usually run between $3,000 and $6,000 per month depending on location and services needed. Most residents pay for assisted living from personal funds, while some have long-term care insurance policies. And many state Medicaid programs today also cover some assisted living costs for financially eligible residents. For additional senior living options this Assisted Living in Los Angeles, CA can help you.

Another similar, but less expensive option to look into is “board and care homes.” These offer many of the same services as assisted living facilities but in a much smaller home setting.

Your county office of the aging is again a good resource for finding board care homes and assisted living in Sacramento, CA.

Nursing homes: If your parents need ongoing medical and personal care or have very limited mobility, a nursing home, which provides 24-hour skilled nursing care is the next option. To find a good one, use Medicare’s nursing home compare tool at This tool will not only help you locate nursing homes in your area, it also provides a five-star rating system on recent health inspections, staffing, quality of care, and overall rating.

But be aware that nursing home care is very expensive, costing anywhere between $4,500 and $13,000 per month for a semi-private room depending on where you live. Most residents pay from either personal funds, a long-term care insurance policy or through Medicaid after their savings are depleted.

Continuing-care retirement communities (CCRC’s): If your parents have the financial resources, a “CCRC” is another option that provides all levels of housing (independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing home care) in one convenient location. But these communities typically require a hefty entrance fee that can range from $20,000 to $500,000 or more, plus ongoing monthly service fees that vary from around $2,000 to over $4,000. To search for CCRC’s visit

Need Help?

If you’re not sure what your or your parents need, consider hiring an aging life care expert ( who can assess your mom and find her appropriate housing for a fee — usually between $300 and $800. Or you can use a senior care advising service like A Place for Mom ( for free. They get paid from the senior living facilities in their network.

Jim Miller is the author of Savvy Senior, a column that runs monthly in In Good Health.