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Deciding on the type of care your parent, grandparent or other family member needs can be difficult. How do you know when your parent is no longer independent enough to live alone? Does the senior need to move in with a son or daughter or to an assisted living center? How will you pay for that care? If the senior in your life can get around on his or her own but may need help with cooking, driving and other basic daily living tasks, an assisted living facility could be the right choice. It's rare that government-assisted financial programs like Medicaid, or even long-term care insurance policies, will cover the costs associated with assisted living, which means either the older adult or his or her family ends up footing the bill. In this article, we outline what you can expect to pay for assisted living.
What is Assisted Living?
Sometimes called residential care, assisted living is an intermediary step between home care and a nursing home. In an assisted living facility, an older adult lives independently in a residential setting but receives care in the form of meals, housekeeping, transportation and daily activity help, such as bathing, dressing and medications. Residents typically live in an apartment or private suite and share common area facilities such as a lounge, garden and fireplace. Instead of a sterile cafeteria, assisted living centers have central dining areas, and many offer evening entertainment and transportation to local libraries and health clubs, as well as to events including live theater and concerts. While many assisted living facilities have licensing requirements, these regulations vary by state.
General Assisted Living Costs
As a general rule, assisted living facility costs are 60 percent of those of a nursing home. For the basics-room and board, base utilities (electricity, heat, water), housekeeping (fresh linens) and some meals-you're looking at anywhere from $60 to $80 per day or $1800 to $2400 per month. Assisted living facilities then break out costs based on individual care needs-often categorized as minimal, moderate and maximum-which can range from a few hundred to just over a thousand dollars per month. The type of room or apartment also dictates base rent costs. Accommodations can be private, semi-private, suites with shared bathrooms, studios and one, two or three bedrooms with or without kitchens. And don't forget about miscellaneous charges like additional meals, personal hygiene products and activities. Once all is said and done, your original quote of $1,800 per month can quickly balloon to $4,000 per month or more. It is in an assisted living facility's best interest (legally and from a public relations perspective) to be completely upfront with you about these line-item/a-la-carte costs, so you know what to expect.
As we mentioned above, more often than not, the senior or his or her family pays 100 percent of the assisted living costs. Some long-term health insurance plans may include coverage for assisted living and some states offer limited assistance through Medicaid-for which the senior must qualify. Additionally, some assisted living facilities may offer financial aid to help offset the costs.
Before you start your search for an assisted living facility, check with local resources, like your doctor, the local senior center or health center, and friends and other family who have had to make similar decisions. Call and visit (virtually and in person) each potential assisted living facility, get all the details on financials and included costs, and talk to residents who live there and their families to get an honest perspective on the facility and its programs. Because it can help the senior in your life stay independent, is a viable alternative to you being a caregiver and costs significantly less than a nursing home, an assisted living facility can be an ideal option for many families.
It's tough enough trying to find a living environment that fits a senior's needs. From various physical and cognitive abilities to individual expectations and personalities, there is almost always a built-in need to compromise. Once you add in trying to pay for the cost of assisted living, it may not feel like you have any viable options. As frustrating as this process can become, try not to despair. You may have more options than you realize. It's incredibly tough to give sound advice without knowing the exact personal and financial circumstances of individual seniors and their families. But we can lay out some guidelines to help you estimate the cost of assisted living, as well as how various options may affect your quality of life or that of a loved one.
Cost of Assisted Living for Facility vs. Home-Based Care Costs
- Assisted Living Costs - Facilities:Your costs may range anywhere from just under $20,000 to nearly $100,000 a year for more upscale facilities, but the average cost is probably between $30,000-$40,000 a year. It's also somewhat common for assisted living facilities to charge a base rate for basic services such as room, board, utilities, and housekeeping, and then add on extra fees based on the level of personal attention and medical care that individual residents require.
- Home-Based Assisted Living Cost: It's nearly impossible to estimate how much an in-home personal care staff will cost without knowing how much care your senior requires. A better strategy for estimating costs is to assume you'll pay somewhere between $8-$12/hour for staff you hire independently and $15-$20/hour for staff provided by an agency. Total the number of hours you think you'll need and you have your cost estimate. Generally speaking, this solution will be less expensive than facility-based care if the senior needs only part-time assistance, but more expensive if he or she needs round-the-clock care. That said, while cost is always a consideration, the key difference is that this option allows the senior to stay in his or her home but lacks a built-in community of seniors that assisted living facilities provide.
Additional Assisted Living Costs & Factors
- The Regional Cost of Assisted Living: This is a big one. The cost of assisted living is liable twice as expensive (or cheap) depending on where you live.
- Hybrid Solutions: There maybe nifty ways to combine different assisted living solutions. You or your loved one might go to an adult day-care center during the day, supplemented by family members in the evening and/or part-time in-home care. This might be a reasonably cost-effective solution, but the real advantage is combining the support of a community of seniors with staying in your own home.
- Profit/Non-Profit/Public Assistance: Whether your facility- or home-based care is operated by a for-profit company, non-profit, or a partially subsidized public assistance program may influence the cost somewhat. There are risks to each paradigm: Money that might otherwise to care can be eaten up by profit margins. On the other hand, in some areas, public assistance programs may be a race to the bottom in terms of personalized care.
- Discounts/Availability: Often, availability goes hand-in-hand with discounted rates. Most assisted living programs are reluctant to offer discounts unless they're having trouble filling beds. Still, you may get lucky. Some facilities may provide temporary discounts or promotions, such as offering the first three months free.
Find Assisted Living Programs near You
ServiceMagic can help you find the best assisted living options for you. Just submit a free online request, and we'll actively connect you to prescreened companies and professionals in your area. You can even use our customer ratings and reviews section to get a feel for what other people have to say about individual assisted living programs. You can look for assisted living facilities, in-home care, and other professionals who provide various senior care services.