Although roughly 90 percent of seniors1 say they want to stay in their current residence, aging at home can be quite an undertaking. Many adults don’t realize that opting for assisted living can be both less expensive and more enjoyable than aging in place.
Senior assisted living offers significantly more accommodations than most aging adults would achieve at home, including healthy gourmet food at every meal, regularly planned social activities, and a gorgeous apartment your loved one can be proud of.
However, many families assume assisted living costs too much to even consider. Prices certainly vary from region to region and depend heavily on the services you or your loved one needs.
Here’s the truth: For many seniors, assisted living costs actually offer a better value compared to the cost of staying at home. Let’s dig into the specifics of when and how assisted living might be the right choice for your senior loved one.
Assisted Living Cost
There is no true “average” senior living price tag. What you pay depends on a myriad of factors, including:
- Community amenities: Better, more luxurious communities typically charge more.
- Type and extent of care needed: More extensive support, such as the kind provided in a memory care community, carries a higher price tag.
- Geographic location: The cost of assisted living is loosely tied to the local cost of living. You’ll pay a lot more for care in New York City than in Blue Springs, Missouri.
Nationwide, the average assisted living community carries a price tag of roughly $4,500 per month. Although this figure is enough to give any family sticker shock, it’s important to consider that your senior loved one will be saving on other monthly costs by moving into assisted living. We go into more detail about these savings later on.
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Paying for Long-Term Assisted Senior Living
The monthly price tag for senior living includes things that your loved one was paying for separately at home, like mortgage or rent, utilities, and yard work. Depending on the community, most of these expenses are covered under a single price tag, so your loved one never has to worry about surprise expenses like a leaky roof or broken pipes.
In many cases, they also won’t have to budget for groceries, activities, or entertainment. These inclusions offer not only significant cost savings but also financial reassurance.
Important Note: Remember, the cost of senior living may increase as the resident’s needs change, so that “all-inclusive” number isn’t set in stone.
Your loved one doesn’t have to be wealthy or even have hefty savings to access the benefits of a high-quality senior living community. Here are some options for funding senior living:
Medicare may cover medically required care, skilled nursing facility care, and long-term care in some cases. Be sure to note that rules and regulations vary (often widely) by state, and every senior living community has its own payment policies. That is to say, although Medicare isn’t a sure-fire answer, it may be worth looking into.
Some VA programs and veterans benefit packages will cover all or a portion of assisted living care costs.
Long-Term Care Insurance
It’s important to check the specific terms of your loved one’s policy, but long-term care insurance is designed specifically for seniors requiring long-term care such as an assisted living community. Your loved one’s policy may cover the full assisted living cost, or at least a significant portion of it.
Social Security and Disability Benefits
Social Security benefit recipients get a small monthly stipend to fund a portion of their assisted living care costs. Similarly, disability benefits recipients may also get financial assistance to cover some of their care expenses.
Some life insurance policies allow your loved one to cash out the policy early in circumstances like these. Doing so can help fund long-term care like assisted living for your senior loved one.
Strategies for Reducing the Cost of Senior Living
Although many policies and benefits packages can cover assisted living, not everyone has access to traditional options. Don’t despair! Your senior loved one may still be able to afford the care necessary for a comfortable lifestyle. There are plenty of options for reducing costs.
1. Selling a Home or Other Property
If your senior loved one is moving to an assisted living community, you can greatly reduce monthly expenses by selling an existing home or other property, if possible. The proceeds from the sale help fund long-term expenses and potentially even pad a savings account.
2. Pooling Money Together
Families and close loved ones often come together to pool money and help fund care. Some even choose to start a GoFundMe or opt for a similar fundraising option to raise additional money.
3. Dipping into a Retirement Savings Account
Retirement funds are for retirement, after all. Opt to cash out the savings account to help pay for the retirement your senior loved one deserves.
4. Considering More Affordable Senior Living Options
Shaving a few hundred dollars off of your monthly budget can add up to thousands in savings over time. Your loved one could try sharing accommodations with family members at the senior living community of your choice. The occupancy fee will be based on their needs, and it will likely be lower than the community’s base rate.
The Costs of Not Choosing Assisted Living
It’s easy to fixate on the senior living price tag and compare that to no expenses at all. But that’s not a fair comparison, considering the possible implications.
Impact on Health and Wellness
The emotional and physical toll of opting out of a senior living community option can be immense.
- Health risks and associated medical expenses: Moving to a senior living community may improve certain health conditions by making nutrition and exercise more accessible. Plus, emergency help is on hand when needed, making injury and falls less of a concern. Living at home can be immensely lonely for seniors, and that loneliness is more than just an inconvenience. Isolation poses a serious long-term threat to senior health and can even increase the risk of conditions like dementia, heart disease, and stroke.
- An inadequate lifestyle for seniors: No matter how much you love your aging parent, no single caregiver can provide the level of care and attention they’ll receive in a senior community. Even with multiple in-home aides, it’s simply not possible to provide the custom-crafted dining, regular dynamic entertainment, and plentiful socialization opportunities that come with the right senior living community.
- Family conflict: Families are complex groups, and disagreements over caregiving decisions can occur without productive methods of communication. Discussing care obligations, scheduling conflicts, and budgeting choices must be approached with patience and understanding to avoid unnecessary stress.
Impact on Personal Finances
Moreover, some of the financial costs you’ll bear include the following:
- Paying for in-home aides: If and when your loved one needs in-home aides, the expense can add up to thousands of dollars per month. These services often cost significantly more than traditional senior living, while offering fewer amenities and less reliable support.
- Home maintenance costs: These expenses may include rent or a mortgage, utilities, repairs, property taxes, and much more. If your senior loved one in need of care moves in with another family member, they’ll incur expenses selling their home and likely add to the household’s monthly expenses.
- Daily living expenses: Retirement can get expensive, especially if your senior loved one is enjoying it! Movie tickets, concerts, vacations, and other entertainment are not cheap. Add in regular necessities such as groceries, gas, transportation, and other expenditures, and you may be shocked by how much it costs to maintain a comfortable retirement lifestyle.
Impact on Family Caregivers
As we previously mentioned, deciding against assisted living for seniors also has considerable effects on close loved ones and family members, particularly primary caregivers. These implications include:
- Lost wages and income: Family caregivers spend an average of $7,000 per year of their own money to care for senior loved ones. They’re also more likely to lose career and income opportunities, pay more for childcare, and fund their own mental health support to manage the challenges of caregiving.
- Stress and burnout: Caregiving is physically and emotionally taxing work. These obligations often mean giving up time with children, spouses, or other loved ones. Many caregivers must compromise their own long-term goals and risk losing opportunities at work. In fact, several studies show that many caregivers have symptoms of depression.
Help Your Senior Loved One Make the Most of Retirement
Ultimately, the average monthly cost for assisted living is often equal to or less than the combined expenses of living at home. Regardless of your loved one’s financial situation or lifestyle, Cedarhurst is committed to providing compassionate and engaged senior care that meets adults where they are. With so many options available, it’s important to us that you find a community that offers all the support and respect your loved one deserves.
If you’re trying to figure out the cost of assisted living for a parent or other aging adult in your life, be sure to access our free resource, The Insider’s Guide to Understanding Assisted Living Costs.
This post was originally published in May 2021 and updated in December 2023.