Average Cost of a Nursing Home

Senior woman and nursing staff playing ludo board game

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According to AARP, at least 90 percent of retirees want to live at home for as long as they can, so finding ways to avoid the nursing home is the best option, as long as their safety isn’t compromised. This probably saves a lot of money in the process, too. It’s difficult to estimate the cost of in-home care, but if you use an average rate of $20 per hour for 20 hours per week, that’s around $21,000 per year—much lower than nursing home care. And Medicare will pay some of these costs, so the out-of-pocket cost will be lower.

Another option related to living at home is adult daycare. Adult daycare is much like assisted living, but the retiree still lives at home and spends either the day or a portion of the day at a care facility. Average rates vary from state to state, but the national average is $70 per day. At five days per week, the cost would come in at $18,200 per year.

Unfortunately, Medicare doesn’t pay for adult daycare, but Medicaid may be an option.

Other programs help those choosing to live at home. Meals on wheels, senior community centers, help with shopping and transportation, and free legal services are probably available in your community.

Accessory Dwelling Units

An accessory dwelling unit, sometimes known as a mother-in-law suite, is an area of a home that functions like an apparent. It often has its own bathroom, kitchen, and separate living and sleeping areas, so the senior person can still keep their independence, while still being under the watchful eye of a loved one.

The cost of remodeling or adding on to a home might be cost prohibitive but if the home already has usable space, the cost of remodeling might be much lower than the cost of an assisted living facility for multiple years. This option can cause disruption to the family, especially if dementia or another illness is involved. Families are encouraged to get help and be ready to move the person into skilled care before the impact on the family becomes too high.

Assisted Living

Assisted living is for people who are mostly independent but may need help with personal care tasks. They’re probably still mobile but live in a fully staffed facility with a private or semi-private room.

There’s no universal definition of an assisted living center, so each might offer different services, but the price difference of assisted living versus a nursing home is substantial. Prices vary by area with state averages ranging from $2,500 to $6,000 per month. At a national average of $3,600 monthly, the annual cost comes in at $43,200.

Beware: Medicare does not pay for assisted living services. If you or your loved one doesn't have the money to pay for assisted living services, apply for Medicaid—the only government-sponsored program that pays for assisted living. If you have long-term care insurance, that will pay a portion of the costs based on your policy.

Nursing Home

If you’ve exhausted all other alternatives, or your loved one needs specialized care for dementia or other conditions, a nursing home may be the best arrangement. A nursing home provides 24/7 medical care along with rehabilitation, socialization, and housekeeping. Because the care is specialized, it comes at a much higher price than other options. The average yearly cost of a semi-private room is $82,128, and a private room is $92,376. Many facilities charge an all-inclusive rate, but some will have a more "a la carte" option. Make sure to ask as you’re getting rate information.

Much like assisted living and other resident programs, Medicare probably will not cover the costs, but any out-of-pocket expenses are often tax deductible if paid by somebody else on the resident’s behalf.

For people who don’t have the funds to pay for nursing home care, some health insurance, long-term care insurance, and life insurance policies can be tapped to cover costs.

Medicaid will pay for care if you meet the low-income requirements, but that may require you to spend down your assets to meet those qualifications.

If you’re a veteran, you will enjoy full coverage from the VA at certain locations approved by the VA.