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Assisted Living or Home Care: Weighing the Costs

Long-term home care can be shockingly expensive. And because it mostly isn’t covered by Medicare, and Medicaid only pays for those with limited incomes and few assets, paying for long-term care can be a major stressor for caregivers. Often, family caregivers find themselves trying to balance the costs of services against the care their loved ones truly need.

The Cost of Family Caregiving

While some services are paid by Medicare or insurance, many others become out-of-pocket expenses. A recent survey conducted by shows that 46 percent of family caregivers spent “more than $5,000 annually in caregiving costs,” which could include any money spent on medication, bills, home care, or nursing facilities. Of that 46 percent, about 7 percent spend $50,000 or more each year.

Home Care or Assisted Living?

The costs of long-term care can vary widely, as can the levels of care provided. As the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows, in 2010:

  • Caregivers could expect to pay $6,965 per month ($229 per day) for a private room in a skilled nursing facility.
  • The average cost of care and space in an assisted living community was $3,293 each month.
  • On average, adult day care came in at about $67 per day.

Some seniors need only minimal support and can remain independent with the right tools — including medical alert systems — for only a few dollars a day. In other cases, skilled nursing facilities are less expensive than taking care of a loved one at home.

Paying for Care

If Medicare and private health insurance don’t pay for sustained long-term care, how can anyone afford it? Medicaid is an option for many people, although it will only begin paying after savings have been spent and assets have been sold. You can learn more about other public options from the National Council on Aging.

Long-term care insurance is also an option, although the amount paid out for services can vary. Discussing plans for long-term care before it is necessary is often the only way to ensure that this type of coverage will meet later needs.

Family caregiving can be emotionally difficult, and it can put stress on your family’s budget. Caregivers are often tasked with covering the costs of long-term care — especially when their loved ones remain in home care — and many caregivers utilize their savings, dip into retirement funds, or, in some cases, take out loans or second mortgages to provide their loved ones with quality care. While paying for home care can be difficult, it can be cheaper than long-term care in a skilled nursing facility. By making plans in advance and researching your options, you’ll be equipped to find the solution that best suits your loved one’s needs.

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