Understanding Senior Housing Costs
Mike McClernonMay 5th, 2020
Financial & Legal Considerations
Understand what the financial picture looks like.
With so many senior living options at so many different price points, it can be hard to know which option is best for you and your loved one. Before making a decision, it’s important to understand the different types of residences available to you—and their associated costs.
Evaluating Your Housing Needs
When determining senior housing costs, your first step is to decide which type of housing your loved one needs. There are a wide range of options and care services available for senior living, including:
- Independent Living
- Assisted Living Communities
- Assisted Living Homes
- Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care
- In-Home Companion Care
- Skilled Nursing Care
Assisted Living is often less expensive than in-home care. Costs will also vary depending on unit size—for example, a studio, versus a one or two-bedroom apartment. The average nationwide cost for a private, one-bedroom apartment in an assisted living residence is about $3,000 per month. And just like general housing, there is a wide difference in senior housing and care costs depending on which part of the country in which you live. Your local Assisted Living Locators Care Advisor can tell you about the costs in your area.
Additional Senior Housing Costs
When evaluating senior housing options, be sure to ask about:
- Pricing models. Most Assisted Living Communities have a base rate for the room and a tiered pricing add-on that varies based on the level of care required. The more care that is required, the higher the care add-on price. Other residences may be all-inclusive, a la carte, or charge on a fee-for-service basis.
- Additional fees. The base rate for senior housing typically covers room and board, meals, housekeeping, activities, and 24-hour on-site support. Additional charges may include entrance fees, deposits, and fees for other services such as transportation, laundry, pets, and cable.
- Lease length. Most assisted living residences charge on a month-to-month basis, but some may require a more long-term arrangement.
Determining Your Budget
Many senior living residents and their families pay for senior housing costs through private financial resources. Long Term Care Insurance (LTCI) is also a way families defray costs. Many communities also operate on a "spend down" model, where the senior pays privately for their housing and care for an agreed-upon period of time, and once their financial resources are depleted, they are transitioned into state-provided Medicaid assistance. These policies and procedures can vary by state; contact your local Assisted Living Locators Care Advisor in your area for the rules in your community.
How Much Can You Afford?
When trying to calculate what you can afford for independent retirement, assisted living or dementia/Alzheimer’s care, the place to start is figuring out your current expenses. When a person moves into one of these communities, almost all day to day expenses are covered. Usually, the only additional out-of-pocket costs are a phone, cable, out of pocket medical, and petty cash for entertainment, clothes, or sundries.
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Financial Assistance Options
We know you want the very best for your loved one. If your budget is limited, that doesn’t mean that you can’t afford suitable care. There are several government programs to help subsidize senior housing costs.
- Medicare. While neither Medicare A nor B offer coverage for assisted living, Medicare A (hospital insurance) may cover costs incurred in a skilled nursing facility for the first 100 days after being released from hospitalization for an acute illness or injury. Ask Medicare can provide more information on these benefits, plus other helpful tools to help you make informed health decisions for your loved one.
- Medicaid. Medicaid, which provides federal health-care assistance to lower-income Americans, is the biggest payer for room, board, nursing care, and social activities in nursing homes. Many states cover some assisted living services under their Medicaid programs. With the Assisted Living Housing Waiver, eligible low-income adults can choose to receive senior living care services in a community-based setting rather than in a nursing facility.
- Housing Subsidies. Seniors with annual incomes under $12,000 may qualify for U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development 202 and Section 8 senior housing. This can provide rent subsidies to help you pay for room-and-board at either an independent or assisted living residence.
- Veterans Subsidies. Aid and Attendance is a benefit paid by Veterans Affairs (VA) to veterans, veteran's spouses, or surviving spouses. Click here for more information and eligibility requirements for Veteran's Benefits.
- Long-Term Care Insurance is an insurance product that helps pay for the costs associated with long-term care. Long-term care insurance covers care generally not covered by health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid. Additionally, in certain instances, an in-force life insurance policy contains an assisted living rider or can be converted into a long term care insurance product. Read our blog to learn more.
For more information and advice on financing senior living or memory care services, you can visit the Center for Long-Term Care Financing, AARP, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, and America’s Health Insurance Plans.