The two types of residences in Georgia that can provide memory care for your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia are called “assisted living communities” and “personal care homes.” Regulations are stricter for assisted living, and personal care homes tend to be much smaller, but either can serve the full-time needs of people with dementia. Broadly, both types of residences provide housing, food, and care services 24 hours per day. Personal care homes can have as few as two unrelated residents, however, while assisted living communities must serve at least 25 people. Assisted living also provides more specialized services such as help taking medications.
Residents of either type of home must be capable of moving from place to place and not require continuous nursing care or physical or chemical restraints. Assisted living and personal care residences are also not allowed to admit anyone who needs to be isolated or confined because of behavioral problems. The regulatory body overseeing these residences is the Georgia Department of Community Health’s Healthcare Facility Regulation Division.
The average cost of memory care per month in Georgia is $4,387, which breaks down to about $144 per day and $52,644 annually. Assisted living, without the additional services required for memory care, costs Georgia residents about and $3,353 per month and $40,236 annually. The most expensive place for memory care in Georgia is Brunswick, running $7,857 per month and $94,284 annually. The cheapest is Warner Robins, for $3,031 per month and $36,372 annually. In Atlanta, by far Georgia’s most populated city, memory care costs about $6,063 per month and $72,756 annually.
To be admitted to either type of memory care residence, a person must be able to move from place to place and not require full-time nursing care. The capabilities of your loved one must be fully assessed by a physical examination within 30 days of moving in, and for memory care this examination must determine that the person indeed exhibits symptoms of Alzheimer’s or another dementia. A post-admission assessment is also required, to determine familial support, ability to perform activities of daily living (ADLs), physical care needs, and any behavior impairments. In assisted living communities, an assessment must happen within 14 days of admission and an individual care plan must be created. This plan is to be updated annually, or whenever the resident has a dramatic health change.
Memory care residences in Georgia must counteract wandering by installing safety devices on doors (and must also have an updated photograph of every resident in case of escape). In both types of residences, bedrooms must be at least 80 square feet for every one resident. Two residents per bedroom is the maximum allowed. Assisted living communities are also required to have handrails, doorways, and corridors that accommodate mobility devices.
Staff in memory care residences must be trained on policies and procedures to deal with behaviors particular to dementia, like wandering. Memory care residences must have a stated philosophy on care for residents that incorporates how to handle behavioral problems, management techniques, communication skills, therapeutic activities, the family’s role, understanding and adhering to service plans, recognizing changes in behavior that require medical attention, and keeping people with dementia safe. Staff must be trained on this philosophy, and must also be up-to-date on new developments in diagnosis and therapy. Eight hours of specifically dementia-care continuing education is required annually.
More broadly, these residences must have at least one administrator or manager on-site 24 hours per day. That person must be at least 21 years old. Georgia staffing ratio in both assisted living communities and personal care homes: one employee for every 15 residents during the day, one for every 25 at night (during sleeping hours). There is also a general rule in regulations that staffing be adequate to meet all residents’ needs at all times. Assisted living communities must maintain written staffing plans that include the specific needs of residents.
Anyone working in either type of home must have Department of Community Health-approved work-related training within 60 days of beginning the job. Training must include:
– First aid
– Emergency procedures
– Medical and social needs of the residents
– Residents’ rights
– Reporting abuse
– Infection control
– Fire safety
Staff who work directly with residents must complete a total of 24 hours of continuing education within the first year of employment, and 16 hours each year after.
Operated under the Elderly and Disabled Waiver, Georgia Medicaid’s Community Care Services Program (CCSP) is designed to help frail older adults remain in their own homes or state-licensed personal care homes instead of transferring into nursing homes. The program pays for services (rather than room and board) for people who qualify for Georgia Medicaid. This means that, among other criteria, an individual’s monthly income must be less than $2,313 in 2019 and they must have limited assets. A Medicaid eligibility test is available here. The services covered under CCSP include assisted living services. More information is available on this downloadable fact sheet.
This Medicaid waiver is also for people who need nursing-home-level care but want to remain in their own houses or personal care homes. For very low-income Georgians, the SOURCE waiver provides funding for both medical and non-medical care services, except for room and board costs. (SOURCE stands for Service Options Using Resources in a Community Environment.) Recipients must qualify for Georgian Medicaid and require nursing-home-level care. For a fact sheet on SOURCE, click here. To apply, call the Home and Community Based Services toll-free number: 1866-552-4464, or the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services. A waiting list may exist, and the typical enrollment time is two months. Determine if your loved one is eligible for Medicaid.
Veterans are statistically more likely to develop dementia. Relevant in all states including Georgia is the VA’s Aid & Attendance pension program for veterans and surviving spouses, which is an amount of money added to veterans’ and survivors’ basic pension. 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 one’s 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 as much as $14,761. Learn more here.
There are also veterans homes in Georgia, which are residential care facilities that provide long-term 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. State veterans homes are typically reserved for veterans whose need for care stems at least 70 percent from their military service. Because there is often a waiting list, contact a home before visiting to see if your loved one is eligible to live there.
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 can claim your elderly loved one as a dependent). Remember also that medical and dental expenses can be deducted, and that may include some assisted living / memory care 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 their spouse move from their home, the reverse mortgage would become due.
Elder care loans are for families to cover initial 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.