What to Consider When Matching a Senior to a Senior Living Community


What to Consider When Matching a Senior to a Senior Living Community

Each year, Assisted Living Locators supports thousands of families by matching their seniors with the ideal independent living, assisted living, or memory care community. Frequently, we've been asked, "What is the ideal community?" As eldercare advisors, we check for fundamental compatibilities, such as ensuring that the quality of care meets the prospective resident's needs. However, in most cities, there are numerous independent living, assisted living, or memory care communities that provide the required level of care. When there are such choices, we have to expand our search to include other essential factors, such as the ones listed and discussed below.

Immediate and Projected Care Levels

Assisted living communities are non-medical residential settings that provide or coordinate personal and health care services, 24-hour supervision, and assistance for the care of four or more adults who are aged, infirm, or disabled. This care may be provided in one or more locations. Virginia’s assisted living communities are licensed by the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS). Assisted living communities are not considered nursing homes. According to the Compendium of Residential Care and Assisted Living Regulations and Policy2015 Edition, the VDSS licenses two levels of care for assisted living: residential living care (minimal assistance) or assisted living care (at least moderate assistance). Communities licensed to provide assisted living care may also provide residential care. In Virginia, communities that offer memory care services fall under the umbrella of assisted living care.

Therefore, when matching a senior to the care provided by a particular senior living community, we evaluate the care necessary today and the level of care expected to be required in 18 to 24 months. While it is impossible to predict what level of care will be required in the future, our experience with thousands of seniors, combined with our knowledge of typical disease progression and cognitive decline, allows us to at least plan for the most likely level of care required within the next 18 to 24 months. We can assist families in selecting a community that is both appropriate today and likely to provide the necessary level of care in the near future.


Most families begin their senior living search near the senior's present residence. They anticipate that the seniors will continue to be involved in the neighborhood, frequenting the same stores and physicians. However, after a few months in an assisted living or memory care community, many seniors' visits to nearby, familiar establishments begin to decrease. At least for day-to-day care, most seniors choose the on-community physicians in assisted living or memory care communities. Prepared meals minimize the need for grocery shopping, while activities inside the senior living community supplant at least a portion of local activities. Add to that the fact that seniors frequently begin to establish friendships in their community, which means that they spend more time with friends at home and less time on errands. Lastly, most seniors who move into a community are becoming less mobile, making journeys outside rather difficult for them. In light of these considerations, most families chose communities near the family members most likely to visit rather than the senior's previous home.


A few assisted living communities in Northern Virginia charge as little as $3,000 per month, but the average monthly cost starts at around $4,500. Medicare does not cover assisted living community services. Medicare doesn't cover memory care in an assisted living community or residency in an independent community. However, it may cover costs associated with inpatient care in a hospital, inpatient care in a skilled nursing facility, home health care, hospice care, and inpatient care in a religious non-medical health care institution.

Seniors and their families usually use resources, such as the sale of the senior's home or apartment, retirement savings, individual retirement accounts, and long-term care insurance policies, to finance residency in one of Northern Virginia's many "fee-for-service" independent living assisted living, and memory care communities. In addition, monthly pension and social security contributions are used to subsidize assisted living and memory care services.

Most senior living communities have two or three key expense components: rent, care, and medication management.

Rent covers all of the community's physical resources, including the room or apartment, meals, snacks, activities, cleaning, and laundry.

Care pays for the senior's personal care, such as assistance with showering and transporting an unstable senior from room to room during the day.

Medication management enables the staff of a senior living community to store all prescriptions and deliver them to each resident at the correct time each day. Some communities have implemented an innovative "all-inclusive" care pricing approach. Some assisted living and memory care communities in Northern Virginia adhere to this pricing model. The majority of communities that comply with this pricing model are memory care communities. Northern Virginia assisted living costs typically vary between $4,500 and $9,500 per month. The monthly cost of memory care in Northern Virginia typically ranges between $7,000 and $11,500.

Payment Sources

Independent living, assisted living, and memory care communities send a monthly invoice to the resident or family. It is the responsibility of the resident or their family to make the monthly payments and manage the resident’s finances. The community will not seek direct costs from third-party sources, such as long-term care insurance or social security. It is the responsibility of the resident or their family to collect the necessary funds to pay the community each month.

The payment methods most often used by residents or their families to cover senior living costs include:

  • Veteran’s compensation benefits
  • Veteran’s aid and attendance benefits
  • Long-term care insurance
  • Pensions or retirement accounts
  • Trusts or savings
  • Money from the sale of a primary residence
  • Life settlement and other sources of income

In Virginia, there are currently no Medicaid programs that help cover the cost of assisted living care in an institutional setting. However, Virginia residents can receive direct financial assistance for certain institutional long-term care services under the Auxiliary Grant ProgramVirginia’s Adult Protective Services Division administers the Auxiliary Grant Program, and it provides supplemental income to individuals who receive Supplemental Security Income and meet all of the following criteria:

  • 65 years or older, blind, or disabled.
  • Virginia resident or meet the residency exception requirement.
  • Reside in a licensed assisted living community, an approved adult foster care home, or an approved supportive housing setting.
  • Citizen of the United States or an alien who meets specified criteria.
  • Have a non-exempted (countable) income of less than the total of the Auxiliary Grant rate approved for the assisted living community plus the personal needs allowance.
  • Have non-exempted resources of less than $2,000 for one person or $3,000 for a couple.
  • Have been assessed and determined to need the appropriate level of care.

Auxiliary Grant benefits are paid by the local department of social services branch where the grant recipient has established residency. Checks are mailed directly to the grant recipient or a payee, who in turn provides payment to the assisted living or memory care community.

Auxiliary Grant payments are issued to individuals monthly, to be used with a designated amount of the recipient’s monthly income to pay the maximum monthly Auxiliary Grant rate. This rate is determined by the Virginia General Assembly and is adjusted regularly. In Northern Virginia, about 32 assisted living/memory care communities are approved to receive Auxiliary Grant funding. Not all assisted living/memory care communities are approved to accept Auxiliary Grant payments, and likewise, not all approved communities will accept Auxiliary Grant residents.

Several factors determine which senior living community is the best match for a senior. For more information or no-cost assistance with independent living, assisted living, memory care, in-home care, or other senior living options in Northern Virginia’s Prince William County, Fairfax County, Loudoun County, Arlington County, or Alexandria, please call our local elder care experts today at (703) 878-7870 or contact us via e-mail.