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Alaska Residential Alzheimer’s Care (Memory Care): Laws, Costs & Financial Help

Last Updated: September 15, 2020

 

Assisted living homes in Alaska provide room and board for people who are elderly or need help with activities of daily living (ADLs) like eating and bathing. Personal, healthcare, or nursing services including medical treatments may also be provided.

Unlike most other states, Alaska does not have additional rules for assisted living homes with Alzheimer’s units, except that a special alarm system should be installed that alerts staff if someone with dementia wanders out of the building. Training is required for all staff to care for assisted-living residents, but there is no additional training required in homes that serve people with dementia (most states do require additional training).

There are about 20 memory care communities in Alaska, regulated by the state’s Department of Health and Social Services. There are also almost 500 board-and-care homes, many of which offer services for people with Alzheimer’s disease (or related dementias including vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, Lewy body dementia, and Parkinson’s disease dementia). For free help finding a living option for your loved one with one of these illnesses, click here.

 Did You Know? Alaska has a very small population of people with Alzheimer’s disease, but its rates are increasing quickly. In 2020, only about 10 percent of Alaskans over 65 years old have Alzheimer’s disease, which is one of the lowest rates in the country. Experts predict, however, that the state will see a 30 percent increase in new cases over the next five years.

 

How Much Does Memory Care Cost in Alaska?

The average cost of assisted living with memory care in Alaska is $7,160 per month, which is about $85,920 annually. This is considerably more expensive, on average, than communities located in the lower 48.

In the state’s largest city, Anchorage, the average cost of memory care exactly matches the state average ($7,160 monthly and $85,920 per year). Memory care is most expensive in Fairbanks, where it costs about $8,280 per month and $99,360 annually.

Memory care is much more affordable in “the bush” and Alaska’s rural areas (see chart below), so residents in Anchorage and Fairbanks might want to consider going outside the city for long-term care options. This will obviously depend on where your loved one is comfortable and accessible.

These are the costs of memory care in Alaska:

Alaska Memory Care / Assisted Living Costs (updated Sep. 2020)
Region / City Monthly Cost Annual Cost
Statewide $7,160 $85,920
Anchorage $7,160 $85,920
Fairbanks $8,280 $99,360
Rest of the state $6,970 $83,640

  In Alaska, free assistance is available to help families locate a memory care home to meet their needs and budgets, even if that home is located in the considerably less expensive lower 48. Get help here.

 

Alaska Assisted Living Laws & Regulations

Admissions Requirements & Process

Every person in Alaskan assisted living must have a services contract in place before moving in. Moving into assisted living in Alaska on short notice is going to be difficult, therefore, because you’ll need to agree to a contract that includes the following:

– Which activities of daily living (ADLs) the person can and cannot do themselves
– Physical disabilities and ailments
– Living preferences (How does the person like their environment?)

You should begin this process by making an appointment with your loved one’s doctor for a professional evaluation; don’t just answer the assessment questions yourself. The state of Alaska does not provide a standard form for these assessments. Paying for the medical portion of this assessment (the doctor’s appointment) is typically the responsibility of the person moving in, but Medicare recipients will have some of the costs covered. Medicare offers an annual free “wellness visit” (also called a “cognitive assessment”) that screens for dementia symptoms, which can begin the process of getting information you need to move into memory care.

Everyone considering moving into assisted living in the state is entitled to the following information from a specific residence:

– Rules for phone, visitors, and use of personal property
– Residents’ rights
– Procedure for filing a grievance

Unlike most states, Alaska does not require assisted living communities to provide a breakdown of all costs and fees. Ask for this as a written list, because you want to be very clear on exactly how much a residence charges, including for optional services, before moving in.

No one who needs 24-hour skilled nursing care for more than 45 days may move into an Alaskan assisted living community.

 Covid-19-related Admittance Changes
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Alaskan assisted living and memory care residences may continue to accept new residents unless people living there have shown symptoms of the illness. Anyone with symptoms must be separated from others, and new admissions are then closed. More.

 

Facility

Assisted living homes with residents who have Alzheimer’s disease, or a related dementia, must have state-approved alarms on doors with outside access, to prevent a person from wandering away. Bedrooms for one person must be at least 80 square feet, and 140 square feet for two people. Two people is the maximum number allowed in one room. One toilet, sink, and shower or bath is required for every six residents.

Alaska does not require the building itself to be designed as dementia-friendly. In many other states, rooms and hallways in memory care residences must have dementia-friendly features like layouts that are easily navigated by someone who frequently becomes confused and lost. For this reason, you’ll want to closely inspect any residence before moving your loved one in.

 Covid-19-Related Updates for Facilities
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the state’s Department of Health and Human Services has recommended that all group activities be cancelled. Communal dining is also discouraged. Residents can still eat together, but in smaller groups and with at least six feet of space between them.

 

Staff & Training

There are no staffing-ratio requirements in Alaskan assisted living homes, except to say that there must be adequate staff on-hand at all times to serve the needs of every resident. There must always be someone working who has CPR and first-aid training, and criminal background checks are required for all employees. Administrators must be at least 21, with adequate education and experience, to be licensed by the state. The state determines what education and experience are adequate based on the population at the specific residence. Administrators must also have 18 hours of continuing education annually.
New staff members must have an orientation within 14 days of hiring that includes the following:
– Residence’s policies and procedures
– Recognizing abuse or neglect
– Interacting with residents
– Reporting requirements

 Covid-19-Related Staff Changes
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the following changes to staffing regulations have been recommended by the state:
– Employees should train to put on and remove personal protective equipment (PPE)
– Anyone who works in assisted living should be screened at the start of their shift for symptoms

 

Evictions

An Alaskan assisted living home is not allowed to admit or house residents whose needs are greater than what can be provided there. In other words, if the home cannot care for someone with middle- or later-stage dementia, then someone with that level of illness may not live there. This sounds obvious, but it’s possible that a person’s dementia would advance until the place they’re living becomes inappropriate. In this case, the residence would need to evict, and you’ll have to find a new place for your loved one to live.

There are not rules that say a person can be evicted for nonpayment or disruptive behavior, but residences may have their own policies concerning what to do when someone cannot pay their bill or acts aggressively toward staff and other residents. When moving into an assisted living home, you should ask for the specific reasons a person can be evicted, and get the answer in writing.

At least 30 days’ notice is required before someone has to move out, however. Regulations do not require the residence to find a new place for your loved one to live if eviction becomes necessary, but management may still be able to help. For more information on evictions, including what steps to take if you receive an eviction notice, click here.

 

Financial Assistance for Residential Alzheimer’s Memory Care

Alaskans Living Independently Medicaid Waiver

This Medicaid program is a Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) waiver primarily for people who need nursing-home-level care but want to remain in their houses, though residents in assisted living may also be eligible for some of the benefits. Recipients must be Medicaid-eligible (see Alaska Medicaid eligibility criteria here). The costs of care in assisted living (including assisted living with memory care) are among the benefits, but Medicaid will not cover room and board. The number of people who can receive services under this waiver is limited, so there may be a waiting list. For more information, click here or take a eligibility test for Alaska Medicaid here.

 

Senior Benefits

Alaska’s Senior Benefits Program is a non-Medicaid program for state residents with low or moderate income who need help covering the costs of personal and medical care. People participating in this program may use the funds for anything, including assisted living. The amount of money provided under the program is $76, $175, or $250 per month, depending on the recipient’s income. The application and additional information are available on the Division of Public Assistance website here.

 

Pioneer Homes

Alaska Pioneer Homes are state-run assisted living residences that serve elderly people including those with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia. These homes are less expensive than privately owned assisted living residences, and financial assistance is available for those who need it. Applicants to live in Pioneer Homes must be at least 65, Medicare-eligible, and require assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) like dressing and bathing. Applicants are assessed for need and placed in a home that can best take care of them. There are only six Pioneer Homes in Alaska, with a limited number of beds, so expect a waiting list. (The homes are in Fairbanks, Palmer, Anchorage, Sitka, Juneau, and Ketchikan.) For an application, click here.

 

Veterans Affairs (VA)

Veterans are statistically more likely to develop dementia. Relevant in all states including Alaska is the VA’s Aid & Attendance pension program for veterans and surviving spouses, which is money added to veterans’ and survivors’ basic pensions. Applicants must be at least 65 years old (or disabled) and require assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) like eating, bathing, and mobility. The cash assistance from these pensions can be used as the recipient wishes, meaning it can go toward the cost of memory care. In addition, the cost of residential care can be deducted from income, effectively reducing the amount of calculable income used to determine the benefit amount. The latest (2020) maximum amount a veteran can receive through A&A is $27,194 per year, and surviving spouses can receive $14,761. Learn more here.

  Did You Know? As few as one out of seven veterans eligible for Aid & Attendance money have applied to receive it. Apply soon if you’re eligible, because it takes about nine months to be approved.

Alaska has one veterans’ home located in downtown Palmer, just north of Anchorage. Veterans’ homes provide long-term residential care for veterans. In addition to nursing home care, assisted living and memory care may be provided. Payment is made directly from the VA to the facility. The home in Palmer has space to accommodate 79 individuals. For more information, and to contact the VA home, click here. You’ll want to talk with staff there about your loved one’s specific needs.

 

Other Options

Other ways to help pay for memory care include tax credits and deductions like the Credit for the Elderly and the Disabled, or the Child and Dependent Care Credit (if you claim your elderly loved one as a dependent). Remember also that medical and dental expenses can be deducted, and that might include some assisted living costs.

A reverse mortgage may be a good option for a married person moving into memory care, if their spouse continues to live in the home. Should the spouse move, the reverse mortgage would become due.

Elder care loans are for families to cover costs of moving into memory care, if you need a little help at first but can afford costs after the initial payments. For example, if one is waiting for a VA pension to be approved or waiting to sell a home.