How to Pay for Assisted Living Costs

You May Be Eligible for Financial Aid or Other Help

Woman helping an old lady to reduce her assisted living costs.
••• Chris Ryan

Many people who are in need of assisted living, nursing home care, or in-home care for themselves or a loved one might put off getting the help they need for fear of the cost.

While it's true this level of care and service can be very expensive, you might find resources to help cover the costs or use a combination of care providers to make help more affordable.

How Much Assisted Living Costs

The cost of assistance will depend on the level of care needed and the quality of the facility. The Genworth Cost of Care 2019 Survey puts the average monthly price at $4,051 for assisted living. It also determined the national average to be $1,625 for adult day care, $4,385 for a home health aide, and $8,517 for a private room in a nursing home.

You'll find most assisted living communities offer all-inclusive pricing or fee-for-service pricing, where you can pick and choose what services you need. If you are able to cover some of the services yourself, you may find some savings this way.

On the other hand, all-inclusive pricing may save money because everything is all rolled together instead of broken out individually; this option may be more affordable for seniors who need a higher level of care.

Once you've chosen the appropriate level of care for yourself or your loved one, it comes time to figure out how to pay for it. You have several options.

Paying Out-of-Pocket

The simplest approach is, of course, to simply pay out of pocket. If you don't qualify for certain assistance programs, or you've been putting money aside for this very purpose, paying out-of-pocket makes sense.

If you find yourself unexpectedly paying for assisted living, it's worth checking with your chosen facility to see if they have any flexibility in the cost of care, perhaps through move-in specials, room sharing, or switching to a more affordable location. Even an out-of-state facility may be a good option if it's easy to get to and priced affordably.

Be sure to research thoroughly before committing to an assisted living facility and be flexible in your search. The best solution for you may be unexpected, especially if you're paying out-of-pocket: an out-of-state facility, an in-home care provider, or another source of care.

Veteran Aid & Attendance

Check eligibility for the Veteran Aid & Attendance Pension, a federal program that can provide financial help to those who require assistance with activities of daily living such as eating, bathing, dressing, or adjusting prosthetics. This program also helps the bedridden, the physically or mentally incapacitated, or the functionally blind.

It can pay up to $1,912 per month to a veteran, $1,230 per month to a surviving spouse, or $2,266 per month to a couple for veterans and spouses.

Certain income and asset limits apply. This program allows you to keep more assets ($127,061 not counting primary residence) than most state aid programs, and it provides a higher level of assistance. You cannot receive benefits from both the Veterans program and a state aid program, so you may want to evaluate both to determine which provides the highest level of assistance for you or your loved one.

The Housebound assistance program is an add-on to the basic veteran pension that provides an additional $1,400 a month for housebound veterans, $939 to spouses, and $1,755 to couples.

Medicaid

Many state programs offer assistance with assisted living costs for those who have no financial resources. To qualify for Medicaid, you'll need to have assets and income that are below the federal poverty levels. Qualifying for such assistance usually means you have less than $2,000 in assets, although exact program requirements can vary from state to state.

Find your state Medicaid office to check the available resources. You can check other state aid programs at benefits.gov; such programs may supply food, shelter, medicine or other benefits.

Non-Profit Resources

With a little digging, you may find a non-profit organization that can help. If they can't help, they may direct you to additional sources of assistance. Start with these two organizations:

  • Your local Area Agency for Aging: They can help you locate resources such as elder abuse prevention programs, counseling, meals, volunteers who will visit, and adult day care services.
  • Eldercare.gov: Here you will find help in your local community. You'll find referrals to local resources such as home health services, transportation resources, senior housing options, respite care, and even financial assistance, if you qualify.

Long-Term Care Insurance

Long-term Care Insurance is a way to pay for long-term care needed due to chronic illness, degenerative disease, or another reason. By paying premiums ahead of time, you protect yourself in the event that you need long-term care down the road.

The cost of long-term care insurance varies greatly from provider to provider, so it pays to shop around. As with other insurance products, it's best to sign up for long-term care insurance before you need it. That might require evaluating your financial prospects sooner rather than later. A qualified broker can help you find the best policy for your needs.

Family Support

Enlisting the support of family members can reduce your out-of-pocket costs, especially for things such as transportation to medical appointments or medication management.

You could use a letter, a Facebook page, or another format to explain your or your loved one’s needs to extended family and ask family members if they would be willing to contribute time or money in order to provide in-home or assisted living care. Sometimes it takes a village to care for those who need it most.