Senior Guidance

Alaska Senior Living

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Programs for Seniors Living in Alaska

Seniors all over the U.S. are trying to determine the best places to live in during their retirement years. Is Alaska a good destination for a senior looking to retire? Alaska is a state that has a strange patchwork to care for its elderly citizens. It is probably best suited for healthy seniors with money who desire to live either in one of the larger cities like Anchorage or Fairbanks, or those that have enough money to live in a remote location. When, and if, the time comes that these seniors need assistance with their health-care needs, they will be able to either afford it in one of the larger cities, or with private help from individuals or companies in more remote locations.

Alaska Senior LivingAlaska’s Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ARDC) program helps disabled Alaska seniors, as well as those who are using long-term health care services via a caregiver. The ARDC helps all Alaskans in the state, no matter what their income or age is - so it can serve seniors who are 65, for example, or younger adults with disabilities. For help in this area you can call 1-877-6AK-ARDC or the site that is nearest to you.

There is a program called Personal Care Services (formerly Personal Care Assistance) for around 4,000 Alaskan elders and people who are disabled. PCA gives assistance related to Alaskan’s Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). It is a statewide program that is provided through private agencies and is checked by the PCA Unit of Senior and Disabilities Services, Department of Health and Social Services. There are two different models available for the PCA program:

  • Agency-Based PCA Program (ABPCA) – Alaska elders and disabled individuals receive services via an agency that manages and oversees their care; and
  • Consumer-Directed PCA Program (CDPCA) – Each participating consumer manages their own care. They can chose, fire, hire, and supervise their own personal care assistants.

Alaska also has 4 different Home and Community Based Waiver programs for seniors that are eligible for Medicaid. More information on these programs can be found here, but those that affect the senior population are:

  • Alaskans Living Independently (ALI) – available to adults age 21 and over; and
  • Adults with Physical and Developmental Disabilities – available to those over 21 who have been determined to be developmentally and physically Disabled.

Alaska also provides an extensive grants program under the Division of Senior and Disabilities Services. They make grants to nonprofit organizational partners across the state to help provide community based support services to families and individuals with Developmental Disabilities, Alzheimer’s Disease, and related Disorders (ADRD). These grants also help family caregivers of seniors living in Alaska who are over the age of 60, grandparents aged 55 and over raising grandchildren, seniors aged 60 and over, and/or frail or disabled seniors who need assistance in their homes.

These services are available to those who are waiting or don’t qualify for Home and Community Based services under the Medicaid waiver program, or for those who only need minimal support.

The Senior and Disabilities Services (SRS) is a grant program that provides money to rural and remotely located providers of certain Alaskan Assisted Living Facilities to operate and keep the facilities going. The purpose is to provide assistance in a residential setting so that Alaska elder residents can stay in the communities they choose as they get older. It is extremely important for Alaskan elders to stay close to their families and their loved ones and to stay in the community that they know and love instead of going to an urban assisted living facility that they are unfamiliar with. Currently, grants are provided to “Gramma’s House” in Dillingham, Alaska, and Yukon Koyukuk Elder Assisted Living Facility in Galena, Alaska. More information on this program can be found here.

Cost of Assisted Living in Alaska

The cost for an Assisted Living Facility in Alaska averages about $5,750 per month ($69,000 per year), although the costs increase depending on the services required. This is significantly higher than the national average and Alaska actually rates #1 as the most expensive state for long-term care, including Assisted Living and nursing home care. The costs may also increase for residents with dementia, and for seniors who are in special care facilities for dementia or Alzheimer's facilities. Assisted living costs in Alaska are still not as high as the cost of a nursing home. Semi-private rooms in Alaska nursing homes cost $292,000 and a private room is almost $300,000 per year.

2 major cities in Alaska have the following assisted living costs:

  • Anchorage, AK - $5,665 per month
  • Fairbanks, AK - $6,750 per month. Fairbanks assisted living is probably not easily affordable for many Alaska seniors.

Assisted Living in Alaska costs more than Adult Day Health Care, which averages around $36,500 per year. Alaska Assisted Living Facilities are actually cheaper than hiring a Home Health Aide which costs, on average $62,000 a year. By the year 2030, Assisted Living in Alaska is projected to cost $104,369 per year – an increase of over $35,000 per year.

One of the reasons for the high cost for Assisted Living in Alaska is due to Alaska’s low population. In the larger cities, there is a labor force that is more readily available; however, in large states such as Alaska where the population is so widely dispersed, these employees may have to commute farther and facilities may need to maintain larger staff to ensure adequate 24-hour care.

 

Who Pays for Assisted Living Care in Alaska?

Most Assisted Living care in Alaska is paid for out of pocket by either the resident or their families. Each assisted living program in Alaska has eligibility requirements, including asset and income qualifications. There are requirements to receive Adult Public Assistance (APA) in Alaska which provides cash to needy seniors and blind and disabled Alaskans to help them remain independent. These requirements include:

  • Those under the age of 65 must be blind or disabled;
  • Disabled means that he or she is not able to take a part in any substantial activity due to a mental or physical disability that can be medically verified, which does not include drug and alcohol addiction. The disability must have been present or is projected to be present for at least 12 months or to end in death;
  • U.S. citizen or a qualified immigrant;
  • Currently residing in Alaska;
  • If not disabled or blind, the Alaskan senior must be at least 65 years of age and if blind or disabled they must be at least 18 years of age;
  • They must not have resources of $2,000 for an individual or $3,000 for a couple; and

Pros and Cons of Senior Living in Alaska

Alaska is a diverse state with mountains as well as the coast so when you are a senior and you are choosing a place to live, you should consider your options.

Here are some things to consider when choosing where to live and retire in Alaska.

• Beauty – it is not called “America’s Last Great Frontier” by mistake. Alaska is one of the most beautiful places in the United States, especially for those seniors who love the outdoors. There are 3 million lakes, 3,000 rivers and hundreds of miles of coastline to look at and to fish from should you desire. It also has wildlife that you probably won’t see anywhere else in America like Grizzly Bears, Polar Bears, Humpback Whales, Moose and the beautiful bird the Puffin;

• High cost of senior living – It can cost an estimated 35% more than the national average to live in Alaska. Utilities are around 50% higher and food is 37% more expensive. Again, that gets more expensive if you choose to live in an area that is not an urban area;

• Healthcare around your area –Unless you are living in one of the major cities, getting to a hospital can be hard, if not impossible in Alaska. It may require a three-hour plane ride to get to a decent hospital if you are living in the more remote parts of Alaska;

• Small towns – there are still some very cool small towns in Alaska that maintain the frontier atmosphere. Juneau, Homer, Seward, Ketchikan, and Sitka are beautiful towns with opportunities to see wildlife from bears to whales; and

• Low to no Taxes – Alaska has no income tax or sales tax and does not tax pension or Social Security Income.

The climate of Alaska is classified as a mid-latitude oceanic climate in the southern part of the state and a subarctic oceanic climate in the northern parts. Each year, the southeast part of Alaska is both the warmest and the wettest part of the state with softer temperatures during the winter and much rain throughout the year– Juneau, the capital averages over 50 inches of precipitation with Ketchikan averaging 150 inches. The southeast is also the only part of the state where the average daytime high temperature is above freezing during the winter. Anchorage, the capital, and south central Alaska are mild by Alaskan standards due to the proximity to the coast. This area gets less rain than southeast Alaska, but gets more snow and the days tend to be clearer. Anchorage averages 16 inches of precipitation per year and around 75 inches of snow, although there are some areas in south central Alaska that receive far more snow annually.

Alaska Demographics

Alaska is the 47th least populous and least densely populated state with a population of less than 1 million people, the majority of whom live in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau. 40% of the population live in Anchorage, the capital, alone. It is the largest state in the nation with over 650,000 square miles of land area alone – twice the size of Texas – although if you count the territorial waters it is larger than Texas, California, and Montana combined.

The largest cities in Alaska by population are: Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Badger, and Knik-Fairview. In the last United States Census, Alaska was identified as having 355 incorporated cities and census-designated places (CDPs). This includes four unified municipalities, which are communities located in the rural areas of Alaska knows as “The Bush” and are not connected to the contiguous North American road network. In the last census, almost 3% of the population did not live in an incorporated city of CDP. Of that 3%, ¾ were people who live in urban or suburban areas on the outskirts of the city limits of Ketchikan, Palmer, and Wasilla.

Anchorage is the metropolitan area and the largest in the state with almost 300,000 people, followed by Fairbanks (approximately 32,000), Juneau, (about 31,000), Badger (approximately 20,000), and Knit-Fairview (about 15,000). About 34% of Alaskans were members of religious congregations with the majority (in 2010) being: The Roman Catholic Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the Southern Baptist Convention. Alaska is known to be one of the least religious states in the United States, at least in terms of church membership.

English is the primary language in Alaska followed by Spanish, another Indo-European language other than Spanish or English, and an Asian language (country not specified). 5.2% of Alaskans speak one of the state’s 20 native languages, which belong to two major language families – Eskimo-Aleut and Na-Dené.

The racial composition of Alaska in the last census was approximately: 67% White; 15% American Indian or Alaskan Native; 5.4% Asian; 3.5% Black; and 1% Pacific Islander. Northern and western Alaska which are large and sparsely populated are primarily inhabited by Alaska Natives who are also prominent in the southeastern part of the state. Anchorage, Fairbanks, and other parts of south-central and southeast Alaska have many White Americans. The Wrangell-Petersburg area has many people of Scandinavian descent while the Aleutian Islands have a large Filipino population. Most of the state’s African-American population live in Anchorage and Fairbanks, but then again 40% of the population lives in Anchorage alone. Alaska has the largest percentage of American Indians, or Alaskan Natives, of any state.

Alaska does not have a state sales tax, nor does it have a state income tax. Alaska has the seventh highest per capita income in the nation at $30,651 and a median household income in Alaska is the second highest in the country at around $69,825 in the recent years. The median family income is $82,870 and the median value of an owner-occupied housing unit is $144,201. However, the purchasing power is also less in Alaska. For example, $94.61 will buy you things that would cost you $100 in a different state and this could be higher depending on how far away you live from a metropolitan area which requires planes to transport goods.

Some places to consider for Alaska Senior living:

• Southcentral Alaska – Kenai Peninsula Borough, Alaska – Seward, Alaska has been honored as an All-American City three times and seniors are drawn here for the sense of community and quality of life. It is known as the ‘Gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park’ and is located 126 miles south of Anchorage;

• Prince of Wales Island, Alaska – surrounded by the Tongass National Forest, Native Islands, and State lands, this island is the third largest island in the United States;

• Haines, Alaska – a rural community on the Chilkoot and Chilkat Inlet. Haines has a connection to the to the inner and the lower states via a roadway.

• Homer, Kenai Peninsula, Alaska – nicknamed “Camelot by the Sea,” this city is at the end of the Kenai Peninsula on Kachemak Bay. Seniors living in Homer, AK will appreciate the gorgeous view of the Kenai Mountains and the five glaciers in the surrounding areas. Homer is also known as an artistic community; and

• Sitka, Alaska – considered Alaska’s most beautiful seaside town, Sitka has views of island waters and forests that reach the water’s edge. It is well known due to its culturally diverse past and its devotion to preserve that past.

SeniorGuidance.org provides comprehensive resources on various senior living options, including: assisted living facilities, senior living communities, nursing homes, independent living communities, continuing care retirement communities (CCRC) and all other long term senior care options, including memory care such as Alzheimer's or Dementia.

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