Tennessee Assisted Living

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Tennessee Assisted Living: How to pay, Licensing and Questions to ask…

The low cost of living in Tennessee helps make it a desirable location for seniors and retirees. The mild climate and beautiful scenery also appeal to aging adults. The state ranks high for senior care and housing, and in addition the cost of assisted living is $400 less than the national average. If people want a slowed-down lifestyle, a favorable tax structure and quality, affordable healthcare, then Tennessee may be a prime location for aging adults and our senior population. When the time comes to move into a new housing situation, Assisted living in Tennessee offers your loved one the benefit of security and peace of mind. These communities are a specific level of care in a community setting. Assisted living is not a nursing home.

Tennessee has 345 assisted living facilities and communities throughout the state. There are several cities of note which are popular destinations for seniors, including Tellico Lake, Franklin, Chattanooga, Nashville and Germantown, among others.

Assisted Living in Tennessee

Typically, Assisted Living Communities will provide a bedroom, restroom, meals, and some assistance with care. Additionally, the size and amenities of each community can vary greatly and affect cost. Residents may experience increased socialization, classes for health and fitness, and quality nutrition plans.

Assisted living is one type of senior housing offering a specific level of care. Aside from assisted living, there are a variety of senior living and housing and care options which suit the different care requirements and desires of seniors.

Senior Living, What are the common terms used?

Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) are communities that include a continuum of care from independent living, assisted living, and skilled nursing services all on one campus. This allows individuals to live within the same community as their needs progress through the spectrum of care. They typically offer the full selection of amenities associated with retirement and senior living. An endowment fee in addition to a monthly maintenance fee can be expected.

Independent Living Communities provide residents an independent living setting without the burden of home ownership. Typically, residency is established on a monthly rental basis. Residents live in fully equipped private apartments or cottages from studios to large two-bedroom units that may be rental-assisted or market-rate depending on the community. Amenities and hospitality services such as housekeeping, linen service, transportation and social and recreational activities may be included, provided for an additional charge, or may not be available at all. Independent Living communities do not provide assistance with activities of daily living or personal care.

Assisted Living Communities are State-regulated rental properties where 10 or more residents may reside (however this # may vary a bit between states). Care assistance is available, including: medication management, bathing, dressing, toileting and eating. Apartments must be fully self contained private living units with a lockable door, private bathroom, and kitchenette facilities. The fee schedule is regular monthly rent along with additional fees for specific services and amenities. Assisted living communities are best suited for individuals who want to remain as independent as possible and who are able to direct their own care.

Memory Care or Dementia Communities offer or provide care for residents with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia in a home like environment. These senior living communities, must receive an endorsement and is governed by additional regulations that are specifically intended to support individuals with dementia, including: a secure building that alerts staff if a resident has exited, a secure outdoor area that provides outdoor freedom safely, interior finishes that are non-glare and well lit, and visual contrasts between floors, walls and doorways. Alzheimer’s units must also have programs, which include: gross motor, self care, social, craft, sensory enhancement and outdoor activities. 

Adult Care Home or Family Care Home are private residences that provides a home-like setting, and serves 5 or less residents. The caregiver may perform several functions, such as personal care, housekeeping and activities and group meals. There are three levels of Adult Foster Care Home licenses. The classification system is based on level of care the Adult Foster Home may provide to residents who live in the home as well as the experience and training of the providers and their ability to assist residents with: personal hygiene, mobility, eating, dressing, toileting, and behavior management. Residents may require very light assistance or may be dependent with several care needs; it is best to ask individual locations for their specific policies and license.

Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) – these are sometimes referred to as a Nursing Home is a State-licensed facility that provides a safe, therapeutic environment for individuals who require rehabilitative care. Skilled Nursing Facilities offer 24 hour skilled nursing care and medical services by licensed nurses and support professionals. This is the highest level of care that can be provided that is not a hospitalization. Additionally, nursing facilities offer residents planned social, recreational and spiritual activities. (The term Nursing Home is considered a bit outdated.) This is a higher level of care for senior living, compared to that of assisted living or independent living.

Rehabilitation & Therapy is treatment for an injury, illness, or pain with the goal of restoring function, including nursing and therapy services. Rehab is ordered by a physician and services are provided by nurses and physical, occupational, and speech therapists. Examples include working with a physical therapist to help you walk and with an occupational therapist to help you get dressed.

Intermediate Care Facilities (ICF) are nursing facilities that are most appropriate for people who need 24 hour medical oversight in a structured setting. Most residents must share their room, but residents are allowed to bring personal items to encourage a more home-like atmosphere.

More about assisted living

These communities may go by several names. The most common universal term is assisted living. Some other common terms include: care home, residential care, convalescent home, rest home, or retirement home. The lay person sometimes groups all senior housing into the term of “nursing home.”

Assisted living communities are NOT nursing homes.

Help as you need it

How much does assisted living in Tennessee cost?

Assisted living in Tennessee ($4,125 per month) is less expensive than the national average ($4,500). While costing less than the national average, Tennessee is still slightly more expensive than some of the neighboring states.

  • National average for assisted living per month: $4,500
  • Tennessee: $4,125
  • North Carolina: $4015
  • Georgia: $3,550
  • Alabama: $3,525

Costs of assisted living vary within the state of Tennessee as well, depending on the city or county you choose.

  • Tennessee state average for assisted living per month: $4,125
  • Chattanooga: $4,250
  • Memphis: $4,225
  • Nashville: $4,100
  • Knoxville: $3,850

How to pay for assisted living in Tennessee

You want to consider your payment options for assisted living, memory care, and care homes. For these services, Medicare is NOT an option for payment.

The most common payment for these services would be out of pocket Private Pay and assessing a combination of retirement funds, personal savings, and pension payments.

Medicaid can also be an option, be sure to see if you or a loved one qualifies.

Long-Term Care insurance is also a possible option in cases of chronic conditions, be sure to see if you or a loved one qualifies.

For our Veterans and spouses of veterans, be sure to assess Veteran Aid and your eligibility for these benefits.

Medicare – NO:

  • Medicare does NOT pay for Assisted Living.
  • People 65 years and older and individuals with end stage renal disease are eligible for Medicare benefits, no matter their income.
  • Coverage is meant for people in need of short-term care.

Private pay – YES:

  • Many families pay for assisted living with private funds.
  • Private pay can be a combination of retirement funds, personal savings, and pension payments.
  • Family members may contribute funds to pay for assisted living or other senior housing and care.

Medicaid – MAYBE:

  • Medicaid provides health coverage to millions of Americans. Eligible participants include: low-income adults, elderly adults and people with disabilities.
  • Medicaid is administered by state, according to federal requirements. The program is funded jointly by each state and the federal government.
  • Every state has their own individual Medicaid assistance program.
  • National guidelines are in place do decipher how states must spend Medicaid money, but with allowances toward the guidelines.
  • The state determines what levels of care will be covered by Medicaid, who is eligible, and how much the state will reimburse the care community.
  • If you are unsure whether you qualify for Medicaid, you should apply. You may be eligible depending on your household income, family size, age, disability and other factors.

Long-term Care Insurance – MAYBE:

Long term care insurance is a great way to pay for assisted living, and planning ahead is important when considering how to pay for senior housing and care. Nearly 75% of people over the age of 65 will require long-term care and services at some point. Buying into long-term care insurance when a person is in their 50s and 60s is the most common time to do so.

  • Long-term care insurance helps cover the costs of chronic medical conditions.
  • Individuals and couples with the ability to pay into long-term care insurance have the advantage of a head start in allocating funds for senior care.

Veteran Aid and Assistance – MAYBE:

This benefit is available to some military veterans and surviving spouses who live in an assisted living community and those who have in-home care.

  • There are specific guidelines, but a veteran may qualify for as much as $2,050 each month.
  • A veteran with a sick spouse may be eligible for $1,600 per month.
  • If a veteran has passed, their surviving spouse can qualify for $1,300 per month.

Laws and regulations for assisted living in Tennessee

Community requirements

Communities and facilities must provide each resident with 80 square feet of usable space, with storage space for personal belongings. Each room may contain a maximum of two beds, separated by a privacy screen. A living are must be provided with a television, radio and clock. There must be a kitchen stocked with cooking equipment, and a dining area that accommodates all residents. Toilets and showers must be available and serve up to a maximum of six residents.

Definition of services in Tennessee

The Tennessee Health Care Association licensed assisted living communities and assisted living facilities. All assisted living is required to crate a plan of care for all residents outlining all the care services the resident needs, as well as the extent to which caregivers must be involved; all dietary needs and preferences of residents and what social and recreational activities are desired by the resident.

Tennessee assisted living provide services like limited medical services to personal care for residents. Laws in Tennessee require facilities have a nurse to provide certain medical services when needed. In addition, there are some assisted living facilities will provide special care for residents in the first stages of Alzheimer’s and require dementia care.

Staffing

All Tennessee assisted living facilities must employ an administrator who is licensed to be a nursing home administrator, as well as a licensed nurse. There must always be an alert attendant awake at all times to attend to any personal and medical needs of residents, and a dietician who is qualified to manage all dietary needs of residents and train the staff in dietary services.

Questions to Ask

Finding an assisted living community can be overwhelming. Here are some tips on things to be observant of:

  • Make sure the facility is clean and well maintained. You can tell a lot about the operation by noting what is clean and maintained. Are doorknobs loose or damaged? Do you see any frayed carpet or trip hazards?
  • Visit during lunch hour to observe what the residents are eating. Ask questions about the nutrition program. Is there diversity in meals, healthy fruits and vegetables served at all meals, drink options?
  • Speak to residents and/or family members to learn their perspective.
  • Ask about staff and resident engagement. Get a feel for how staff interact with residents.
  • Ask about the life enrichment programs. Activities are crucial when it comes to quality of life and play a key role in care for older adults.
  • And finally (along with a plethora of more things to consider), get to know the leadership in the building. If you feel good around the Executive Director, Head Nurse, Lead Activities Director and even the Chef or Janitor, it is a good sign you can trust them with the care of your loved one.

Eldercare Locator is a nationwide service that connects older Americans and their caregivers with trustworthy local support resources. Connect with services such as meals, home care or transportation, or a caregiver education or respite from caregiving responsibilities. The Eldercare Locator is a public service of the Administration on Aging (AoA), an agency of the U.S. Administration for Community Living.

Medicare provides a search feature to find & compare providers near you, most senior housing and care providers are included on CareAvailability.com. Find & compare plans in your area. Determine if you qualify for premium savings

Medicaid offers information on how to apply for Medicaid, eligibility criteria, links to local state offices, and additional resources.

The Alzheimer’s Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Whether you are living with Alzheimer’s or caring for someone with the disease, information and resources are available. 

How to apply in Tennessee for long-term services and support

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Care Availability

Written by The Care Availability Team
Experts in the senior care & retirement living industries

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