This is the sixteenth in a series of articles intended to demystify the experience of living in a retirement community.

This column discusses costs for memory care and other long-term care in settings that are part of local retirement communities run by Good Samaritan, Granite Gate and Las Fuentes.

According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), 70 percent of people over the age of 65 will need long-term care at some point in their lives. More than 40 percent will need the care offered by a nursing home. Nationally, on average a private room in a nursing home costs about $84K/year. A semi-private room (housing two people) costs about $75K/year per person.

Depending on the level of care needed, a bed in a semi-private room at Good Samaritan costs $73K-86K/year, and private rooms cost $81K-95K/year. The private rooms in Good Samaritan are the same size as the rooms that house two people.

The rates for a bed in a two-person room at Las Fuentes start at $75K/year, very small private rooms start at $85K/year and private rooms the size of the rooms that house two people start at $135K/year. In all cases, the rates at Las Fuentes may be significantly higher than those noted here depending on the level of care needed.

Comparing apples to apples, Good Samaritan costs less than Las Fuentes for basic long-term care. For an individual in a large private room, in fact, the costs are about $54K less at Good Samaritan than at Las Fuentes.

You can ask each organization to tell you its price for any specific situation you have in mind, since charges for added services can vary significantly.

Costs for memory care at Good Samaritan are $83K/year for a semi-private room and $92K/year for a private room.

At Granite Gate, costs for memory care are about $58K/year for a semi-private apartment and $84K/year for a private apartment. The Granite Gate apartments are quite a bit larger than the rooms at Good Samaritan.

Charges for memory care in both communities cover all levels of care offered. That is, unlike the case in other long-term care units, rates are not tiered based on the intensity of services provided by the facility.

Good Samaritan's memory care unit is licensed as a nursing facility/skilled nursing facility, while Granite Gate is licensed for assisted living. Thus, the services offered may not be identical and again, it is reasonable to ask about any specific case that you have in mind.

Note that I have converted all the costs in this article into annual numbers. However, long-term care facilities typically charge by the day or by the month. That is to say, when an individual no longer is using the services, charges stop either that day or in the worst case, at the end of the month.

None of the numbers quoted above include what might be called standard medical expenses - doctors' visits, prescription drugs, lab tests, eyeglasses, some types of medical supplies, and so forth. In addition, the numbers quoted don't include personal expenses, such as clothing or toiletries.

The rates at Good Samaritan do include expenses for ancillary equipment that some people need, such as wheelchairs or walkers.

Many people assume that Medicare will cover the costs of nursing homes. However, with the exception of a short period after a hospitalization, generally Medicare will not cover these costs.

The sheer size of these numbers can be startling if this is the first time you've looked at them. You might be wondering how you could possibly pay these rates.

One point to keep in mind is that people don't typically need this level of service for decades. In fact, according to HHS, typically "someone who is 65 today will need some type of long-term care services and supports for three years." And 80 percent need services for less than five years.

The next column will talk about some ways to find the money to cover the costs of living in a retirement community. As is true for covering the costs of college, quite a few different options are available, and you might be surprised to discover some that you hadn't considered.

-- Next -- 097. How to Pay for Independent Living in a Retirement Community