When the search for an assisted living community begins, finances often become an early topic of discussion. If you haven’t been through this process with an older family member before, understanding the ins and outs of financing care can seem a bit perplexing. It typically boils down to one question: how much does assisted living cost?
The good news is that assisted living can be an economical solution for older adults who need a little extra help to maintain their independence. In 2016, the national median cost for an assisted living community was $3,628 per month. This price is based on a private, one-bedroom assisted living apartment.
In most communities, the monthly fee includes a wide variety of services and amenities such as the following:
A private apartment or suite designed with the unique needs of an older adult in mind (grab bars, step-in showers, and more)
Life enrichment activities, wellness programs, and outings to area events
Housekeeping, laundry, maintenance, and repairs
Caregivers onsite 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Emergency call system in the resident’s apartment
Nutritionally balanced meals and snacks
Basic utilities and cable television
Access to an onsite beauty/barber shop
In most assisted living communities, individual level of care charges are assessed separately. Some, however, offer bundled pricing that also includes care charges. It is always a good idea to ask the staff member helping you at each community to provide you with a list of other expenses you should expect to pay each month.
Cost of Assisted Living vs. In-Home Care
Another question seniors and their families often have is how the cost of assisted living compares to in-home care. That one is a little more complicated to answer.
If an older adult only needs a few hours of assistance each week, home care might be a temporary solution that works. A caregiver can provide support with grocery shopping, housekeeping, personal care, and more.
The challenge is when the type of care a senior needs is more episodic (such as assistance to and from the bathroom at different hours of the day and night) or when the number of hours of daily or weekly care is more significant. For these seniors, in-home care becomes a less effective solution. At an average hourly rate of $20, it’s easy to see how the cost of in-home care can quickly add up.
It is also important to know that in major metropolitan areas, as well as in rural areas of the country, the cost of having an in-home caregiver can be even higher.
Who Pays for Assisted Living?
The answer to this question is often surprising to families who are new to assisted living. Many believe an older adult’s Medicare benefit will pay for assisted living. Some families also ask if there is such a thing as assisted living insurance they can purchase to help offset the expenses.
Unfortunately, Medicare is a medical benefit. It pays only for care and services that are medical in nature, and assisted living isn’t a covered service. And while long-term care insurance often helps defray some assisted living expenses, it is probably too late to purchase it if the senior is planning to move in the near future.
The majority of assisted living costs are typically paid for using a senior’s private resources and with help from family. But there are additional funding sources some might qualify for:
Aid & Attendance benefit for veterans and/or their surviving spouses
Life settlement companies that purchase a senior’s life insurance policy for more than face value
Long-term care insurance that has an assisted living benefit