Interview With Emily Schwarz of ElderLife Financial Services


On November 29, 2022 Prestige hosted a free webinar with Emily Schwarz of ElderLife Financial Services.

The webinar is entitled “Finances and Senior Living: Making a Plan” and explored a variety of financial resources that help families pay for senior living.

Read on for an interview with Emily where she discusses topics related to financing senior living.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?

Emily Schwarz: “I come to ElderLife with many years of experience in the VA benefit world. Until recently I have only helped families understand one resource to pay for senior living, the VA’s Aid and Attendance benefit. Coming on board with ElderLife has provided me an opportunity to talk about other resources as well. But I’ve been working with senior living and families looking for senior living for 15 years.”

And can you tell us about ElderLife Financial Services?

ES: “ElderLife was founded in 2000, and since then we have been helping families in the senior living world understand ways to pay for care. There are many financial resources to pay for senior care, but for many we speak with it’s the family’s very first introduction to senior living. They don’t know how much it costs or how to pay for it. They don’t have a game plan. ElderLife works with over 3,500 assisted and independent living communities to help their prospective residents, and sometimes existing residents, really understand the myriad different options to help pay for, to help move in, and then continuously pay for care for as long as they need it.”

What is a common question or concern people have when it comes to paying for senior living?

ES: “Families look at the total cost of rent and then the care on top of that, and what they don’t think about is the resources that they have. Many times, families have a home to sell and that can fund years of care and they’re not seeing that. They’re only thinking about their Social Security coming in – how are they going to pay that monthly rent and care when it might be double their Social Security?

Well, they are living in their biggest asset and we can absolutely help them monetize that home so they can choose the community they want and easily pay for the care.

They also may not realize VA benefits. In fact, most veterans and surviving spouses that are looking at communities are not aware of VA benefits… which can be an additional $2,642 of monthly income for them. ElderLife will help a Veteran family understand how much of the Aid and Attendance benefit they can be entitled to.

If they have been fortunate enough to have a long-term care insurance policy, very likely they have absolutely no idea how to use it. They don’t know when it triggers. And will it trigger in independent living, or assisted living, or skilled nursing? How does that happen? How do they get reimbursed for it? They have no idea how to start that process. ElderLife can help them with a free policy review.

And then there’s other options that can also be used for care. We can talk to families about monetizing a life insurance policy, or maybe a reverse mortgage, or the tax deductibility of assisted living. And these are things they’ve never thought about before.”

The financial aspect of senior living can be difficult for families to navigate, but what are other common questions?

ES: “I think when families look at placing a loved one into a safe and nurturing environment, they’re unclear of whether they should be looking at independent living, assisted living or memory care. Oftentimes families don’t understand the differences in those. And they look at assisted living communities as more of a medical facility and that’s not what it’s about. It’s about creating a wonderful home environment. I think families can be confused about what the different care levels are and what options they have for their loved one, and finding that right fit for their family.”

When families are touring a community, what should they keep in mind from a financial standpoint?

ES: “I think when they’re going into that tour, they should be transparent about what mom or dad’s care needs are and what they’re looking for. Are they looking for a one bedroom or would they be okay with a studio? Does mom or dad need care every day with a shower assist and medication management?

In order to get a real estimate of what the rent and care is going to be so that they can come up with a game plan, they need to be transparent about what mom and dad’s care needs are currently. They should also be realistic about what mom and dad’s care needs might be next year or the year after so they can come up with a plan of how to remain in the community.

ElderLife does help families with that. Sometimes they start easily being able to pay on their own, but then the care cost goes up because mom and dad need more assistance and then they’re in a little bit of a financial crunch. We even help existing residents if they’re going to sell their home or maybe they weren’t eligible for the Aid and Attendance benefit when they moved in because they were either too healthy or had too much in assets but now they can apply.

I think they should come armed with not only an understanding of mom and dad’s medical situation, but really understanding mom and dad’s income situation as well to make a realistic selection.”

Can you tell us what to expect from the webinar?

ES: “During the webinar we’re going to cover all the financial resources that ElderLife Financial offers, First and foremost, our bridge loan. It’s our most popular resource and it helps families make that immediate transition. If they’re looking to move into the community today, but the resources aren’t available yet, we can provide that short-term funding that they need. But we’ll also talk about the other ways that families are able to afford senior living with VA benefits, long-term care insurance, possibly monetizing a life insurance policy, every way possible to help a family build a financial game plan to move in and stay at a community for as long as they need.”