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Guide to Senior Living in Washington

In 2019, 15.4% of Washington’s residents were at least 65 years old, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The state’s senior population is expected to grow, with the Washington Office of Financial Management estimating that 26.7% of residents will be 65 or older by 2040. Due to its favorable tax policies, the Evergreen State is one of the best places to retire. The state also has a low crime rate, lower-than-average property taxes and a booming economy.

Due to the high cost of living in Washington, the cost of senior living exceeds the national average in most cases. For instance, assisted living costs a monthly average of $5,500, which is nearly $1,500 more than the national average of $4,051. This guide covers the average costs of senior living in Washington, explains what seniors can expect to pay for different levels of care and provides information about programs that may help cover some of the costs of senior living.

Paying for Senior Living in Washington

The cost of senior care varies based on how much assistance an older adult needs. Adult day care is the least expensive option, but many seniors need more assistance than this type of care provides. Senior living is slightly more affordable than in-home care or home health care. Due to the level of care provided, nursing home care is the most expensive; however, not every senior requires daily medical care.

$5500

Assisted Living

$5720

In-Home Care

$5815

Home Health Care

$1441

Adult Day Care

$9112

Nursing Home Care

The Cost of Assisted Living in Washington

Washington has a higher cost of living than many states, and as a result, Washington seniors can expect to spend $5,500 per month, on average, for assisted living. This is nearly $1,500 per month more than the national average of $4,051. California and Oregon residents pay around $4,500 per month, while Montana and Idaho are even more affordable; assisted living costs less than $4,000 per month in both states.

$5500

Washington

$4051

United States

$4500

California

$4499

Oregon

$3820

Montana

$3728

Idaho

The Cost of In-Home Care in Washington

Daily tasks like grooming, dressing, housekeeping and shopping do become difficult as people age, but staying put at home despite these challenges is important to many seniors who will look to in-home care companies to help them. In Washington, these companies offer their services for an average of $5,720 each month. This is higher than the national average of $4,290 as well as the fees charged in four neighboring states. The cost differences between Washington and Oregon, Idaho, Montana and California range from $381 to $1,525 per month, so if saving money is a priority, seniors may want to look to outside of Washington for in-home care needs. 

$5720

Washington

$4290

United States

$5148

Oregon

$4195

Idaho

$4576

Montana

$5339

California

The Cost of Nursing Home Care in Washington

Unlike in-home care, nursing home care in The Evergreen State is a bit more affordable with Washington’s rate, $9,112, falling closer the middle of the range as compared to the national average, $7,513; Montana, $7,459; Idaho, $7,924; Oregon, $9,551; and California, $10,646. The fees in Washington are not the highest, but seniors can still save over $1,000 a month for the same care in neighboring Idaho.  

$9112

Washington

$7513

United States

$9551

Oregon

$7924

Idaho

$7459

Montana

$10646

California

Financial Assistance for Senior Living in Washington

Community First Choice Option Waiver

Apple Health, Washington’s Medicaid program, offers the Community First Choice Option waiver for residents who want to remain in their communities instead of moving to skilled nursing facilities. This program was established under the Affordable Care Act to give seniors more ways to get the care they need without having to live in an institutional setting.

To qualify for the CFCO waiver, a senior must meet Medicaid eligibility requirements. Each year, enrollees must also submit a determination indicating that they would have to live in a nursing home or similar facility if they stopped receiving community-based supports under the CFCO program. Seniors who are at least 65 years old may qualify for Apple Health if they have no more than $783 per month in income ($1,175 per month for a two-person household).

Contact: Seniors can apply for Apple Health by completing the online application process, calling (877) 501-2233, visiting a local Community Services Office or sending a paper application to the Washington State Department of Health and Social Services, PO Box 11699, Tacoma, WA 98411-6699.

Community Options Program Entry System

Medicaid offers Home and Community-Based Services waivers to ensure seniors receive the support they need to stay in their homes or communities. The Community Options Program Entry System is one of these waivers. COPES pays for board at a senior living facility, giving seniors access to the support they need to avoid institutionalization.

The program is limited to low-income residents of Washington with a demonstrated ability to safely live in their communities. Applicants must also have specific care needs to qualify for the COPES waiver.

Contact: Seniors can call the Aging and Long-Term Support Administration at (360) 725-2300.

Medicaid Personal Care

The Medicaid Personal Care program aims to help seniors remain in community settings. Although it doesn’t cover room and board, it does pay for personal care services provided to seniors in senior living facilities. For qualifying seniors, the MPC program may make senior living more affordable.

Seniors interested in this program must meet the financial requirements for Apple Health. As of May 2020, the monthly income limit for Apple Health is $783 for individuals and $1,175 for two-person households. Applicants must also be functionally eligible for the MPC program. This means that they can safely live in noninstitutional settings as long as they receive the right supports. Every applicant must undergo an assessment before receiving MPC benefits.

Contact: To apply for Medicaid, seniors can fill out an online application or mail a completed paper application to the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, Community Services Division – Customer Service Center, PO Box 11699, Tacoma, WA 98411-6699.

Senior Living Laws and Regulations in Washington

Note: All these rules typically apply to non-clinical senior living facilities, such as independent living, assisted living, and memory care facilities. Nursing homes and other senior living facilities with a clinical setting may have additional or slightly different requirements and regulations. 

The Washington State Department of Health and Social Services regulates senior living facilities throughout the state. Although some facilities are permitted to operate without a license, all senior living facilities must follow the regulations set forth in Title 388 of the Washington Administrative Code. These are some of the most relevant regulations.

Service Plans

A senior living facility must assess every new resident prior to admission. The assessor must identify the applicant’s medical and social needs, food and activity preferences, medication needs and personal care needs. Information from this assessment is used to develop an initial resident service plan.

Medication Management

Senior living facilities must have policies and procedures to promote safe medication service for every resident. Medications are only to be administered if the facility has a written order from a licensed prescriber, a nursing note documenting a telephone order from a physician or a prescription label from a licensed pharmacy. The order or prescription label must include the resident’s name, the name of the medication, the dosage, how often the medication should be taken and the name of the prescriber.

If residents can’t safely store their medications in their rooms or apartments, the facility must be responsible for medication storage. All medications must be stored together for each resident, separate from toxic substances or food and in a locked compartment that can only be accessed by authorized staff members. Each medication must be kept in a container with the manufacturer’s label or the original pharmacy label.

Background Checks

All caregivers employed by a senior living facility must undergo a Washington name and date of birth background check, which provides information about an individual’s conviction history and pending criminal charges. A facility may not employ anyone who has a disqualifying conviction or a pending charge for a disqualifying crime. Qualifying crimes include assault, felony domestic violence, murder, rape and robbery.

Applicants who pass the state background check must also undergo a national fingerprint check. If the national check uncovers a disqualifying conviction or pending charges for a disqualifying crime in another state, the applicant isn’t permitted to work as a caregiver or administrator in a senior living facility.

Training Requirements

All staff must receive appropriate training based on their job duties. This training includes safety, first aid and CPR. Additional training is required for employees of facilities with specialized care units for residents with dementia.

Specialized Care Units

Senior living facilities are permitted to operate specialized units for residents with dementia. Any facility with this type of unit must obtain information related to the resident’s personal needs, significant life experiences and patterns of behavior that could indicate the resident has an unexpressed need for support.

If a resident with dementia is capable of safely leaving the building, they must be able to do so without restriction. For buildings with restricted entrances and exits, residents and their visitors must be given freedom of movement. These buildings must also have secured outdoor spaces. Facilities providing memory care must be designed with that type of care in mind. Each facility must have common areas to promote socialization and safe outdoor areas to encourage physical activity.

Reporting Abuse and Neglect

Any staff member who suspects that a resident has been abused, neglected or exploited must file a report with the Aging and Disability Services Administration Complaint Resolution Unit hotline at (800) 562-6078. Online reports may also be filed at the Washington State Department of Health and Social Services website. If a staff member suspects that a resident has been physically or sexually abused, a report must also be filed with a local law enforcement agency.

Washington Senior Living Free Resources

Washington Agencies

Washington State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program

The Washington State Long-Term Care Ombudsman program provides mediation services to seniors with concerns about their long-term care facilities. Assistance is available to seniors in nursing homes, veterans’ homes, senior living facilities and adult family homes. Seniors’ relatives and friends can also report their concerns.

Contact: Seniors and their family members can file a complaint against a long-term care facility by calling (800) 562-6078 or filling out the online complaint form.

Area Agencies on Aging in Washington

Washington has more than three dozen Area Agencies on Aging to help seniors learn about senior living and other care options. Each AAA has a limited service area to ensure seniors receive referrals to local resources. Staff members can help seniors understand the differences between senior living and other types of care, explore financial assistance options or find senior living facilities capable of meeting their specialized needs.

Veterans Affairs Offices in Washington

The Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs offers a variety of benefits to help veterans in Washington manage their medical, psychological and personal needs. WSDVA also helps veterans access federal benefits related to their military service. One of those benefits is the Aid and Attendance pension supplement. This supplement provides additional funds that can be used to pay for memory care or senior living services. Payment amounts depend on whether the applicant is a single veteran, a married veteran or a surviving spouse.

To receive the VA Aid and Attendance pension supplement, veterans or surviving spouses must have some type of functional impairment that makes it difficult to perform some of the activities of daily living. For example, this benefit is available to blind veterans and veterans with disabilities that require them to spend most of their time in bed. Applicants must qualify for a traditional VA pension to receive this monetary supplement.

Social Security Offices in Washington

The Social Security Administration makes monthly payments to millions of seniors who qualify for traditional Social Security, Social Security Disability Insurance and Social Security Income. The SSDI and SSI programs are available to low-income individuals who meet strict requirements regarding their financial resources. Traditional Social Security payments are available to all seniors who paid Social Security taxes for at least 40 quarters in their lifetimes. Funds provided by each of these programs may be used to pay for senior living expenses, making senior care more affordable.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does assisted living cost in Washington?

Washington has higher-than-average assisted living costs. According to the Genworth Financial 2019 Cost of Care Survey, Washington seniors can expect to pay an average of $5,500 per month for assisted living, which is much higher than the national average. Costs are even higher in the Seattle area.

Are there financial assistance programs for assisted living in Washington?

Yes. Some seniors qualify for Medicaid waivers that can be used to cover the costs of assisted living. These programs, the Community Options Program Entry System and the Community First Choice Option waiver, aim to keep seniors out of nursing homes by providing the support they need to live safely in the community. The Medicaid Personal Care program may also provide funds that can be used to pay for personal care provided in an assisted living facility.

What are activities of daily living?

Activities of daily living are routine activities that all adults should be able to perform without assistance. They include eating, drinking, using the bathroom and getting dressed.

What types of amenities are commonly in assisted living communities?

Assisted living facilities typically have housekeeping and laundry services, private dining rooms, game rooms and activity centers. Most facilities also arrange social activities for their residents.

Who should consider assisted living?

Seniors who need 24/7 support should consider assisted living if they need help with some activities of daily living but don’t require the daily medical care provided in a nursing home.

The Top Cities for Senior Living in Washington

Learn more about the cost of senior living in the top Washington cities. Additionally, find reviews and information about assisted living facilities and other senior living communities across the state.

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