Visiting an Assisted Living Facility

Today I dropped by to visit my friend John DeCecca and see The Herrick House – an assisted living community that is  on the campus of Beverly (MA) Hospital and now part of Lahey Health.

view from front lot of Herrick House
view from front lot of Herrick House

Herrick House is relatively new construction (1994) and offers the typical amenities found in assisted living communities (they also have a few independent residents and a separate memory care unit). They have reading rooms, a pub, private dining hall, community kitchen, small gym, and other amenities. Rates are slightly higher and it is a private pay only community (no Medicaid or other assistance programs). It appears to be a very desirable community as its constant nearly full occupancy attests. Some of the attractive features of Herrick are:

  • proximity to Beverly Hospital
  • full time presence of an RN or LPN (potentially reduces trips to the hospital for residents)
  • 3 meals/day with a good variety (daily specials and routine offerings)
  • friendly staff (Louise our server at lunch was a gem)

John is a seasoned veteran of the industry and I value his wisdom and insight on the business of aging. The demographics are there in most western nations – people are living longer. And unlike Okinawa where nutrition and lifestyle lead to long age, they’re living longer due to medicine and surgeries. This has created some interesting trends in the field of care for the aging.

Let me share some of the things John and I discussed:

  • More people coming to his community in “an emergency” not by planned choice
  • Possibly less future demand for the large scale retirement communities that have popped up over the country in the past 20 years
  • More home care followed by assisted living
  • Increasing number of his residents leaving to nursing homes as medicine keeps them around longer (before, a larger percentage of people passed away, now more leave living – but to nursing homes – very interesting and not good for costs)

John and I discussed many other things but I found that last bullet most interesting. This points to increased costs for healthcare. Since his residents’ average stay is roughly 2 years, which is usually preceded by some time of home care, it means that it’s likely that from his experience the average duration of need for higher care services is 4-5 years.

I like to estimate these times from current information as they can shed further light on national statistics which may not easily display this nuanced view of care needs. It also helps because I often plan 3-4 years of long term care insurance when factoring client plans. [On a side note, some companies offer a “shared care” rider which is a nice feature that creates a “shared” bucket of benefits that either spouse can use, and can save a couple money on overall long term care insurance costs. So I can plan 3 years for each spouse and 2 years shared and help keep the costs lower and average 4 years each.]

I will share more on the cost of care in my next article when I discuss my meeting with SeniorBridge’s outreach director Steve Kiley.