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

Last Updated: April 05, 2021

 

Utah regulations define assisted living homes as providing 24-hour personal and healthcare services to help maintain independence, choice, dignity, and privacy in a home-like environment. Meals, housekeeping, an activities program, and assistance with medication management are provided in Utah assisted living. Intermittent nursing care is also available, but anyone who needs full-time nursing care cannot live in assisted living.

Memory care units for people with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia must be certified as viable and safe by the state’s Department of Health. The features that make a home safe and viable are listed under Laws & Regulations below, but generally concern specialized dementia-specific training for staff and programs based on what’s best for residents with Alzheimer’s or related diseases including vascular, frontotemporal, and Lewy body dementias. All residents, even those with dementia, must be able to evacuate in an emergency with limited help.

There are 65 memory care residences in Utah. There are also 94 board and care homes, which offer the same services as assisted living, sometimes including memory care, for fewer than 12 people in a more house-like environment. For free help finding memory care of any size to meet your family’s needs and budget, click here.

 COVID-19 Vaccines in Utah Memory Care
Residents and staff at Utah assisted living homes were in the first wave of vaccinations. Everyone eligible should be immunized against the coronavirus by the end of March 2021, according to the Department of Health. If your loved one lives in memory care in Utah, they should have received the shot by now. For more, click here.

 

How Much Does Memory Care Cost in Utah?

In 2021, the average cost of memory care per month in Utah is $4,018, which is about $48,216 annually. Utah is a relatively inexpensive state for memory care, as the national average for monthly costs runs roughly $5,000. Assisted living, without the additional services required for memory care, costs Utah residents about $1,000 less per month.

The state’s most expensive area for memory care is Salt Lake City where the average cost is $4,376 monthly and $52,512 annually. The least expensive is in rural areas outside the five largest cities, for about $3,659 monthly and $43,908 per year.

If you live near Utah’s border, keep in mind you may be able to find more affordable memory care in another state. Twin Falls, Idaho, for example, is only about an hour outside Utah, and the average monthly cost of memory care there is $3,731. Nevada’s monthly average ($4,233) is close to Utah’s average, so residents of western Utah may want to look at memory care homes there. To the south and east, Arizona ($4,592), Colorado ($5,381) and Wyoming ($4,914) all average higher memory care costs than Utah, but costs can vary so widely it is still a good idea to look there if the locations are convenient.

  In Utah, free assistance is available to help families locate a memory care home to meet their needs and budgets. Get help here.

 

Utah Assisted Living Laws & Regulations

Admissions Process & Requirements

A resident assessment, using a state-mandated form (click here https://health.utah.gov/hflcra/forms/ALASSESSMENT.pdf), must be conducted to assess personal and health needs before someone can be admitted into Utah assisted living, and then again every six months. Assessments are made by a medical professional who works for the residence. The cost of assessing is usually part of the base rate to live in a memory care home. Some homes, however, charge a one-time “community fee” (usually between $1,000 and $2,000) when a new resident moves in, to cover expenses like deep cleaning and painting their room. One of the items covered by the community fee may be the first assessment, which is used to create a personalized care plan that breaks down all your loved one’s personal and medical needs. For example, the plan would define your loved one’s stage of dementia and which therapies are effective to encourage exercise or socializing.

New residents must be provided with the following information in writing:
– Residents’ legal rights
– How the residence protects personal funds
– Procedure for filing a complaint

Someone with any of the following conditions may not be admitted into Utah assisted living:
– Cannot evacuate in an emergency with minimal assistance
– Is dangerous to self or others
– Requires inpatient hospital or nursing care

Assisted living / memory care residences can transfer or evict someone whose care needs cannot be met there, or who fails to pay for services in their admission agreement.

Regulations say that someone must be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or related dementia to move into memory care in Utah. Exceptions may be made, however, for people with all the symptoms of dementia who have not received an official diagnosis. Diagnosing Alzheimer’s and related diseases (like vascular, Lewy body, and frontotemporal dementias) is a difficult process that includes expensive tests like PET brain scans. The home will assess whether your loved one is a good fit based on interviews and an assessment more than a doctor’s diagnosis.
And while it is possible to find memory care on short notice in Utah, this is not a good idea. The process of finding a good home should take weeks or months of investigating options by taking tours and speaking with residents and staff.

 COVID-19 Rules for New Admissions
During the pandemic, new admissions may need to quarantine in an area separate from other residents for 14 days before joining the general population. Policies vary, so check with a specific residence about admission rules.

 

Facility / Residence

One-person apartments or living units must be at least 120 square feet, and a two-person room must be at least 200 square feet. Two is the maximum number of people allowed in one living unit, if they request to live together. There must be one toilet for every four residents, and a shower or bath per every 10.

Unlike many other states, Utah regulations do not require memory care communities to be built with dementia-friendly design features. Examples of this include easy-to-navigate layouts, secure outdoor areas so residents can spend time outdoors, and bright lighting and paint colors. For this reason, you’ll want to inspect any home you’re considering with an eye on whether your loved one with dementia will be comfortable within the spaces.

 COVID-19 Rules for Visits in Utah Memory Care
Assisted living homes have their own specific rules for visitations, usually based on CDC guidelines. This might mean outdoor visits only, or indoor visits with masks and social distancing. Check with a specific memory care home for its rules before visiting. For more, click here.

 

Staff & Training

There are no minimum staffing ratios in Utah. In memory care, at least one person with dementia-specific training must be on-duty at all times. Administrators must be at least 21 years old, have adequate education and training, and clear a background check. All staff must complete an orientation upon hiring that includes:
– Job descriptions
– Ethics and resident rights
– Reporting abuse, neglect and exploitation

Further, staff working with residents with dementia must have training that includes:
– Communicating techniques
– Types and stages of dementia
– Person-centered care principles
– Maintaining safety in memory care

 

Evictions & Discharges

In Utah memory care homes, a resident can be evicted for these reasons:
– Staff cannot meet the needs of the resident
– Resident fails to pay bills according to the agreed-upon contract
– Resident fails to follow community rules and policies

The first and last of those are pretty vague, and you’ll want to be very clear on specific policies about why and how someone can be evicted before agreeing to a move-in contract. Will your loved one’s needs continue to be met as the dementia advances into later stages? Which specific rules are so important that a violation will get your loved one evicted? You also need to know how much advance notice you’ll receive before the eviction is enforced (it’s usually 30 days), and whether there’s a process to appeal. Get the answers to these questions in writing and save them, because unfair evictions are a major problem in assisted living around the country.  If your loved one has received an eviction notice and you need to know next steps, click here.

 

Financial Assistance for Residential Alzheimer’s Memory Care

New Choices Waiver

Utah’s New Choices Waiver (NCW) is provided through the state’s Medicaid program to cover the costs of remaining in assisted living with memory care rather than moving into a more expensive nursing home. It can also cover the costs of moving out of a nursing home and into memory care. Additional benefits provided under the waiver include medical devices, meals, financial management services, and transportation. Recipients must be Medicaid-eligible in Utah and require nursing-home level care. For more information about NCW, including how to apply, click here. Note that there are specific times of year when applications are accepted:
– March 1 – March 14
– July 1 – July 14
– November 1 – November 14

 

Aging Waiver

This is a Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) waiver for people over 65 who need nursing home level care but wish to remain at home or in assisted living. Many of the benefits are similar to the New Choices Waiver above, including medical devices and meals. Help with activities of daily living is also covered. Recipients must be Medicaid-eligible. Only a limited number of people may be accepted into this program, so there could be a waiting list. For more information, click here. To apply, contact your local Area Agency on Aging. Prior to application, it is suggested persons take a Medicaid eligibility pre-screen to determine if they are eligible.

 

Veterans Affairs (VA)

Due to their increased rates of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), veterans are statistically more likely to develop dementia. Relevant in all states including Utah 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 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 income improvement 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 enhanced monthly benefit amount. The latest (2021) maximum amount a veteran can receive through A&A is $27,540 per year, and surviving spouses can receive as much as $14,928. Learn more here.

There are also veterans’ homes in Utah, which are residential care facilities that provide long-term care for veterans. In addition to nursing home care and assisted living, three of these residences offer memory care: the Mervyn Sharp Bennion Central Utah Veterans Home in Payson, the William E. Christoffersen Salt Lake Veterans Home, and the George E. Wahlen Ogden Veterans Home. 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. For contacts and more information, click here.

 

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 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 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 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.

 Did You Know? Only about 10 percent of Utah residents are over 65, the lowest rate of seniors in the country. Roughly 10 percent of them have Alzheimer’s disease, which is also in the Top 5 lowest rates in America. About 35,000 people in Utah have Alzheimer’s.