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If figuring out how to pay for senior living has kept you up at night, you’re not alone. Questions about the cost and affordability of senior living are usually among the first ones that seniors and their loved ones ask.

First and foremost, it’s important to remember that senior living costs vary greatly across the country. The median per-month cost for assisted living in 2015 ranged anywhere from $2,880 in Georgia to $5,757 in Connecticut, for example. You can expect median monthly costs in your area to fall somewhere inbetween, but it’s important to compare senior living costs in your local market to get a clear picture.

And important factors to consider in calculating the costs of senior living are what services and amenities you need, what’s included in a particular senior living options monthly rate, and how much it would cost to arrange similar in-home services.

Calculating Your Current Costs

Calculating your current and future living expenses is a great place to begin figuring out how to pay for senior living. You’ll be able to compare your current living expenses to different types of senior living, and you’ll be able to identify any services or amenities that you’re not receiving now but will need in the future.

Different senior living options almost always package living expenses like housing, meals, entertainment, utilities, transportation and housekeeping together into a flat monthly fee. In other words, you won’t have additional monthly expenses for things like groceries or a vehicle registration — unless you choose to purchase those things on your own. Independent senior living does not provide in-home senior care, but other forms of senior living may include it in monthly fees.

Grab a pencil and paper or use an interactive online price calculator to add up how much you pay for each of these things per month: mortgage or rent, utilities, home or renter’s insurance, property tax, groceries, entertainment, lawn care and cleaning, maintenance or repairs, transportation and vehicle costs, in-home senior care, and other costs like long-term care insurance or homeowner's association fees.

Once you’ve added up your current living expenses down to the last dime, you’ll be able to gauge how much (if any) additional money you’ll need to budget for monthly to pay for senior living.

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Calculating Costs of Independent Senior Living

Independent senior living is often the most affordable senior living option. Residents typically don’t need help with everyday life activities, ongoing access to medical staff, or help with medication management — so those services aren’t included in monthly fees.

Independent senior living costs do include shared or private apartments, meals, laundry and housekeeping, social activities, wellness activities, and transportation services. All of your basic living expenses will be included in monthly rates, unless you need to arrange for in-home senior care services that aren’t included.   

Compare the costs of senior living. Use our senior living calculator.

Calculating Costs of Assisted Living

Assisted living is generally more expensive than independent senior living because costs include 24-hour supervision, access to medical staff, licensed on-site nurses and medication management services.

Residents might need help with normal daily activities like bathing, dressing or eating. An assessment will be performed before you move in to draft a personalized plan to meet your particular needs. How much help a person needs with activities of daily living (ADLs) will determine the senior care option for them, and ultimately, total monthly costs.

And, in addition to personal care, assisted living costs include shared or private apartments, meals, laundry and housekeeping, social programs, wellness programs and transportation services.

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Calculating Costs of Memory Care

Individuals in the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia often require memory care, which includes support with basic living and additional support and programming for memory care.

Memory care costs include shared and private apartments, 24-hour supervision, access to licensed medical staff, skilled nurses on staff, meals, laundry, memory care programming, social activities, and transportation services. In all, memory care provides around-the-clock supervision and support to people with dementia.

Memory care costs fluctuate greatly across the country, but you might find median monthly costs topping $7,000 in your area.

Calculating Costs of Skilled Nursing

Skilled nursing communities are generally reserved for those who need close medical care and support for all daily functions.

Costs include rooms, meals, housekeeping, social programs, wellness activities and transportation services in addition to more extensive things like 24-hour supervision, access to medical staff, licensed nurses on staff, and medication management support.

Overall, the median monthly cost of skilled nursing could top $8,000 per month.

Calculating Senior Living Costs: Adding it All Up

Your first step in calculating senior living costs should be to add up your current expenses, including the costs of current or future in-home senior care needs. Then, as you calculate the costs of various types of senior living — independent senior living, assisted living, memory care or skilled nursing — you’ll be able to compare your current costs and identify any new expenses that you’ll incur. Finally, remember that senior living costs vary greatly across the country so it’s important that you get out there and look at costs in your specific region to get a true picture when calculating different types of senior living costs.

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