Tuesday, January 13, 2015

How to Negotiate With Assisted Living Communities for Better Rates

Singingly Happy with Your Assisted Living Rate
Photo by Abbeyfield Kent
If I were to tell you how I negotiated on the price for the purchase of a used car, you would not be surprise. In fact, you might think me a fool if I did not at least try to negotiate the price. Yet, the same thinking does not arise when we purchase long term care for an elderly loved one. A wide range of rates that residents pay for the same level of care in the very same assisted living communities strongly suggest that the prices are more flexible and negotiable than they at first seem. Indeed, negotiating may help families save as much as $300 - $500 per month ($3600 - $6000 per year). In this post, we discuss how to tactfully and skillfully negotiate for a better rate with the assisted living community of your choice to make sure that the long term care your loved one needs is affordable.

Negotiate Without Compromising Relationships

Many people are embarrassed or uncomfortable negotiating for long term care. This might arise because it is the first time that many are in fact considering purchasing this type of service and are feeling unsure of the proper etiquette. However, negotiating is not uncommon.

Because a provider will never accept a price that is not in their interest, one should not be concerned about damaging relationships. By following these insider tips, you will be sure to get what your love one needs while also being fair and direct with the community sales representative.

Know What You Want


Besides the rate that your loved one can afford, there are many other aspects of assisted living that might be important and have an impact on their quality of life. Many of these features have different cost implications for the community, so might allow you more points on which to discuss the final rate.

Besides the obvious variations in the apartment size and location, many senior living facilities allow residents to share an apartment with one or two other residents. While not for everyone, some residents might appreciate the increased social interaction that a roommate brings. Assisted living communities often have multiple levels of care and each service level carries its own cost. The important point is to have a clear idea which items are negotiable and which are not.

Find Several Alternatives


Negotiation experts will tell you that the strongest way to negotiate is to enter a negotiation knowing what your alternative is. If all of your negotiating fails and you cannot reach an agreement, what would be the next best thing for you? This is called the Best Alternative to Negotiated Settlement and it is a powerful tool. While you might not want to exercise your alternative, you will be in a stronger and more comfortable position just knowing that you have an alternative.

Tour multiple communities in your area. Ask for referrals and recommendations. All American communities have an Area Agency on Aging (AAA) and the volunteers and paid staff that work at the AAAs are very knowledgeable about local services and housing for seniors. Alternatively, you might ask at local community centers, community organizations, or your local church.

To add to your list of assisted living communities in your area, you can always use a free senior living search service. If you live close to a state border, be sure to include some communities on the other side of the border. Differing regulations or demographics might make them cheaper.

Consider the Community’s Needs


Remember that they community wants to maintain a full and happy community of residents. What are some of the ways that you can assist them in their goals? Can you write a review of their services online (For example, SeniorAdvisor.com is online community where many families share their experiences of assisted living communities).

The timing of your entrance might be important. Assisted living communities and their sales and marketing staff may have certain times of the month, quarter, or year when they are looking to for move-ins more urgently in order to meet their goals. This could be an important point to strengthen your position.

Rural communities that are further from population centers may be more in need of new residents. Moreover, assisted living communities that are outside of urban areas will likely have lower overhead costs that they are able to pass along to residents through lower rates. Similarly, smaller communities without large marketing budgets and staff might be more hard pressed to bring in new residents and may provide a more intimate and personal level of care.

Like hotels, assisted living residences will need to keep occupancy above a certain thresholds and new residences need to fill up. If they have many empty units, they will be more likely to negotiate on price. For example, some will offer move-in incentives such as credits that can be used to reduce future rent payments or will drop their standard move-in fee.

While assisted living companies typically do not state their occupancy rates with clients, referral services do have access to this information. By working with the referral service, you can arrange to view many residences in a short time.

Summary


Remember when viewing assisted living residences, keep in mind what your loved one needs. Consider what alternatives you have and actively develop a list of different residences that would fit your requirements. Finally, there is always much to be gained by considering what the other side needs in a negotiation. If you are clear about what you want and are able to pay while being open to other ways that you might be able to cut costs, then you will be more successful in your search for affordable long term care.