As the baby-boom generation ages, assisted living will continue to grow in popularity. Assisted living communities offer seniors a way to live independently while getting assistance with daily living activities. While living alone comes with risks of social isolation and loneliness, assisted living offers a vibrant, social environment that improves mental and physical health.
Understanding assisted living costs can be confusing. Not all assisted living communities are alike. Different communities offer different levels of care, a variety of services and varying pricing structures to top it all off.
It can be confusing. We’re here to help. Here’s a list of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to assisted living costs, and the answers.
Q: How much does assisted living cost?
The simple answer is $3,750. That’s the national average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in an assisted living facility.
But the better answer is, it depends.
First, it depends on where you live. The cost of assisted living varies just like home values do. The average cost of a one-bedroom assisted living unit in Manhattan is $5,600, but the average cost in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is less than $2,900.
In addition to that, it depends on what level of care you need. Seniors who just need their meals prepared and help managing medications can pay far less than people who also need assistance with daily-living activities, such as bathing, dressing and getting in and out of bed.
Lastly, the regimen of recreational activities and the amenities a community offers can also be reflected in the price tag per community.
Q: How do I pay for it?
Most people pay for assisted-living expenses out of pocket, at least at first. That is because the insurance market hasn’t adapted well to how people use long-term care.
Private health insurance does not cover long-term care, and neither does Medicare. There is a special kind of insurance, long-term care insurance, that covers long-term care, though the market for it has been shrinking for some time, falling from 750,000 new policies issued in 2002 to only 89,000 new policies in 2016. (Even in 2012, less than 3 percent of people had long-term care insurance.)
The U.S. Veterans Administration has a provision in its Veterans Pension that pays an extra benefit for low-income pensioners who require “aid and attendance,” for which assisted living qualifies.
Private assets, such as savings, proceeds from the sale of a home or the sale of a life-insurance policy to a life-settlement provider, which converts the policy from a death benefit to a temporary income stream for long-term care costs.
For more information on ways to pay for assisted living, download our guide [Assisted Living Costs and Affordability].
Q: Will Medicare pay for it?
No. Medicare covers care that is medically necessary and that is provided by a skilled nursing facility, a Medicare certified home health agency or a hospice agency. It does not cover assisted living, which is designed to assist with the activities of daily living, not provide medical treatment.
Q: Why is assisted living so expensive?
At first glance, it may seem that assisted living comes with a hefty price tag. Especially if you have already paid off your home. But, here’s food for thought: If you were to hire a full-time cook, in-home personal assistant, housekeeper, groundskeeper, maintenance supervisor, social coordinator and chauffeur, it would be quite expensive, even if you split the cost with a few dozen friends.
That’s essentially a move into an assisted living facility provides. From nutritious, well-balanced meals to someone nearby to help you in and out of the tub or remind you to take your medication, and a community of people to interact with and spend time with, or not worrying about who will mow the lawn, shovel the walk or replace a furnace filter.
There are many benefits to assisted living, and there are many options available that you can tailor to your needs. Paying for it can seem daunting, but it can also be more affordable than you think.