When it comes to finding the right senior living option for yourself or your loved one, knowing how much it costs is an important part of the process. You need to be sure that the costs associated with the lifestyle option match your budget and financial plans - view our cost calculator. If you are searching for assisted living, it’s important to do your research so that you understand how costs can be allocated to residents as well as what factors could affect the costs from community to community. Curious to compare the cost of senior living vs. staying at home? Our cost calculator can help you with that as well!
At this stage, you may be asking, “Who pays for assisted living?” As you review assisted living options with your financial planner, it is imperative that you review not only your loved one’s retirement funds and plan but also understand different ways to potentially offset the monthly costs of assisted living. It’s also important to realize that planning for additional care in the future is a wise decision, especially if your loved one currently lives with chronic pain or conditions that could create the need for additional assistance down the road.
- Assisted Living Costs
- How Living Options Affect Assisted Living Pricing
- Financial Assistance for Assisted Living
- Assisted Living Financing
- Developing a Financial Plan for Assisted Living
Assisted Living Costs
According to Genworth’s Cost of Care Survey, the average assisted living community charged an average of $4,500 per month in 2021. This option was significantly less expensive than skilled nursing costs, which ranged from $7,000-$9,000 per month, as well as in-home care options, which were about $5,000 per month.
Of course, assisted living communities do not always charge the national average. There are a variety of factors that can increase or decrease that cost, including location, services, amenities provided, and features of the home. Additional care services can also increase the monthly fee.
As you begin researching how to pay for assisted living, you can begin by taking note of the monthly fee. Inquire if that fee changes from month to month or if it remains consistent. Having a consistent monthly fee that includes most costs will make budgeting more predictable, which will make financial planning for the future a snap.
What’s Included in Assisted Living Costs
Assisted living communities typically have one monthly fee that includes nearly every service, resource, and amenity available on-site. While each assisted living community is unique, most monthly costs cover more than just rent for their apartment home.
Monthly costs can also commonly include utilities, including Wi-Fi, as well as three meals per day served in the dining room. Costs also include weekly housekeeping services, maintenance services, personal laundry or linen services, and access to the community’s amenities and resources. Resident monthly costs also include transportation services and events hosted by the community’s life enrichment department.
Hidden Costs of Assisted Living
Sometimes, there are other factors that can drive up the monthly cost of assisted living. Most times, senior living communities are quite open about these factors and will cover them during the inquiry process. However, it is important to do your due diligence and ask about any factors that would increase costs or require additional payments.
For example, the monthly fee for residents who require more support and assistance with activities of daily living is typically higher than for residents who don’t require this support. These activities of daily living include personal care tasks such as dressing, bathing, grooming, and continence care. If you require medication management, this can also impact cost.
Additional costs could include internet or cable TV costs; deep cleaning costs; and physical, occupational, or speech therapy costs.
There might also be a one-time fee associated with admission or discharge.
Other Factors Affecting Assisted Living Costs
Not all assisted living communities cost the same, and there are a variety of reasons for that. The size of your apartment will impact your monthly fee — for example, if you choose to have two bedrooms instead of one, your cost will be higher. Floor plans and apartment features can increase or decrease monthly base costs.
Just like with any real estate purchase, location matters when it comes to pricing. Assisted living communities in more rural areas, for example, often cost less per month than communities in suburban or urban areas.
Finally, communities with more luxury amenities and services, such as a concierge, weekly housekeeping, a salon and spa, and so on, will often charge more than communities without them.
How Living Options Affect Assisted Living Pricing
It is common for assisted living communities to adjust their monthly base fee in order to reflect the type of support or assistance the resident requires. Of course, all residents in assisted living receive assistance from around-the-clock caregivers. However, as medical conditions progress, sometimes residents need support or assistance that goes above and beyond the “typical” care offered in communities.
Additional costs can be incurred if a resident requires more assistance that translates to the community needing additional staff or equipment.
How Support Needed Is Assessed
Each assisted living community determines how to best assess the appropriate living option for incoming residents as well as for residents who have lived there for some time based on their abilities and the support they need. Typically, there is an assessment process that is conducted by a nurse, in which the type of support and assistance needed is measured.
Some communities use a numbered scale to reflect how often and how much care the resident needs for each activity of daily living. For example, someone who needs hands-on assistance with dressing every morning would need more care than someone who just needs a quick verbal reminder that it is time to get up.
Similarly, a resident who needs someone to push their wheelchair to and from the dining room and other community events would need more assistance than a resident who can independently get from one place to another with their cane.
Resident assessments for care are typically done before admission as well as yearly thereafter and anytime there is a significant change in condition. The family members will be notified of the result, and there can be a conversation where they can ask questions or voice any concerns.
Financial Assistance for Assisted Living
Not all assisted living costs need to be paid out of pocket. There are some ways to offset costs if you are eligible. The more you know about what type of assistance is out there and what type of assistance does not apply, the better you can plan for your loved one’s future in an assisted living community.
Does Medicare Pay for Assisted Living?
Medicare is the primary health care insurance for the majority of American seniors. However, it is important to note that Medicare does not cover assisted living costs, including memory care communities that operate under an assisted living license.
Medicare covers skilled nursing facility costs but only after a qualifying stay at the hospital. With a qualifying stay, Medicare will pay for 100 days of skilled nursing costs annually, covering 100 percent of the costs for the first 20 days and then 80 percent for days 21-100. These 100 days do not have to be used consecutively.
Does Medicaid Pay for Assisted Living?
For eligible seniors, Medicaid can be used to offset the cost of some assisted living services. However, the assisted living community must accept Medicaid as a form of payment, and not all communities do. Be sure to inquire if the communities you are looking at take Medicaid payments if your loved one is eligible.
What Medicaid does cover in assisted living
Medicaid often pays for assisted living services via home and community-based services (HCBS) waivers. However, not all 50 states offer financial assistance to Medicaid-eligible residents for assisted living, non-nursing home, residential care.
If your loved one is eligible for Medicaid and an HCBS waiver, and if the assisted living community takes Medicaid payment, you might be able to pay less of a monthly fee. Medicaid will pick up the remaining amount.
Veterans Benefits for Assisted Living
For eligible veterans and their partners, there is some financial relief available for assisted living services. The Veterans Aid & Attendance benefit provides monthly payments for qualified veterans and partners who need assistance with daily activities.
Veterans Aid & Attendance benefits can be used to offset costs of home care or assisted living, including memory care communities that operate under an assisted living license.
How to apply for VA benefits for assisted living
Eligible veterans and their spouses can apply for Aid & Attendance benefits through their local VA office or their pension management center. If approved, benefits are paid retroactively. It’s important to note that processing applications can be slow. If the person applying is over the age of 90, they can request an expedited review through a cover letter that accompanies their application.
State Nonmedical Programs
Many states do offer waiver programs through Medicaid that can offset the cost of assisted living for eligible residents. However, it is important to note that not all assisted living communities accept this type of payment.
Social Security and Assisted Living
Social Security does not directly pay for assisted living services. However, some states increase or supplement the amount of benefits if the senior resides in an assisted living community.
Long-Term Care Insurance
Depending on the type of long-term care insurance, you might be able to leverage the plan to offset costs associated with assisted living. However, you must have the plan prior to being admitted to a community because most long-term care plans will not cover you if you already live in an assisted living community.
You might find financial relief if you can sell a life insurance policy for a lump sum. Then, this money can be used to pay the monthly costs of assisted living.
Assisted Living Financing
A majority of seniors are worried that they will outlive their finances, which means you should make sure you are planning far into the future to ensure your loved one has the means to continue living in their preferred community. There are some ways you can find additional money or support as you look for ways to finance assisted living in the long term.
For example, you can find banks and private lenders who will offer mortgages for assisted living communities.
Bridge Loans for Assisted Living
You can work with your local bank to research the types of short-term loans that are available to help fund senior living costs while you are waiting to sell a home or liquidate other assets. It is important to review any interest on these loans as you determine if it is worth it in the long term to borrow for the short term.
If your loved one still owns their home, you can leverage that asset in order to pay for assisted living costs. You can sell the home, rent the home, or use a reverse mortgage.
Renting or selling your home
Selling a home is often the most common way to pay for assisted living costs. However, if selling is not an option at this time, renting it out can also be beneficial by providing a monthly payment that can be used to offset assisted living costs while paying for any mortgage payments that might remain.
Using a reverse mortgage to pay for assisted living
Reverse mortgages have been around for decades but are still a cause for confusion for most seniors and their family members. This option was originally developed to support widows and widowers who wanted to stay at home even though their spouses passed away or moved to senior living.
If the house is fully owned or close to being paid off, a reverse mortgage can allow the owner to cash out the value of the home’s equity in monthly payments or all at once.
You must apply for a reverse mortgage, the applicant must be over the age of 62, and at least one person must still live in the home. As with all options, there are drawbacks to reverse mortgages. Be sure to consult your financial planner before you make any decisions.
Developing a Financial Plan for Assisted Living
Decrease your stress levels by ensuring you have planned for assisted living costs and that your loved one’s budget can support the costs now and in the future. If you don’t already consult with a professional when it comes to senior living costs or your fixed budget, now is the perfect time to enlist the help of someone who is experienced.
Public Benefits Counselors
Contact your local Area Agency on Aging to inquire if they have counselors on staff that can help you understand assisted living options and payment assistance. These counselors are often free to the public and have some experience in financial planning. However, they are typically volunteers and do not always have financial planning degrees or education.
Geriatric Case Managers
For family members or seniors who are looking for personalized assistance, a geriatric case manager could be a wise investment. These professionals are there to provide guidance and to create long-term plans for older adults. You’ll need to pay for their services out of pocket, but finding the right one is often well worth it.
Elder Care Resource Planners
These specialists can help you develop financial plans and differ from counselors or case managers in that they often have a financial background. Again, their services are paid for out of pocket.
Elder Law Attorneys
This is often the most expensive option when finding someone to assist with a financial plan. Most attorneys charge an hourly rate and provide all necessary services for financial planning. However, they may not be aware of all the local resources available for lower-income families.
One of the most often asked questions is, “How do you pay for assisted living?” Reading and understanding all of your options lays the groundwork for successful financial planning. Paying for assisted living is often accessible for most older adults. You just need to be aware of what the typical monthly costs are, what factors drive that cost up, and how you can offset those costs if needed.
Ready to start your financial planning? Check out our Senior Living Cost Calculator!
Learn more about assisted living, including more about payment and costs, with our resource, The Complete Guide to Assisted Living.