Many families struggle with whether senior assisted living is the best option for their loved ones for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is cost. Adult children may realize the benefits of such a move but see the price and wonder if it’s truly worth the money. Often, they come across the “sticker value” of how much senior assisted living is and don’t quite understand what goes into the cost.
Although senior assisted living can seem expensive, what it’s paying for is often crucial for the needs of loved ones, and typically factors in expenses that your loved one is used to paying for individually. When the care, features, and amenities of the best communities are broken down, the costs don’t seem as outrageous. Moreover, many families understandably fail to consider that aging in place, at home, comes with its own costs that are also significant in comparison. What follows is a breakdown of costs of senior assisted living:
The price tag for senior assisted living covers many things, including:
- Apartment or room: Essentially, a senior’s living space at a community qualifies as rent, and of course, the bigger the apartment, the more that rent will cost. Moreover, apartment/room features for assisted living may be specialized, such as senior-friendly bathtubs and non-slip floors.
- Meals: Some seniors are unable to cook for themselves, and others are content to let someone else do the cooking. These costs are added into the overall bill.
- Housekeeping: Many communities offer housekeeping services, including laundry, for their residents.
- Community maintenance: Just like rent or HOA fees go toward property upkeep, the monthly cost of assisted living includes maintenance and operation of the community grounds.
- Security and general support: Most senior assisted living communities feature secure buildings and grounds, and also include alert systems for residents. Beyond security, communities may also offer support staff to help residents with non-care activities (e.g., transportation, helping bring up groceries or move furniture, and so on).
- Care: Assisted living by its definition entails some sort of care, whether it’s with activities of daily life (ADLs), medical needs, or both. The exact expense varies by the level of care required but nonetheless accounts for a sizable chunk of the monthly cost. A senior who only requires occasional help with bathing or having medicine administered will need significantly less support than someone who must be escorted to and from activities or requires insulin shots. The difference can add up to hundreds of dollars per month.
What is important to also remember is that a senior living community must pay staff, train its employees, and pay its own bills in order to provide a high level of service for its residents. Most of those funds unavoidably come from resident fees.
Living at Home Can Still Be Costly
The sticker shock some adult children feel is just that: shock. A monthly cost that runs $3,000-$6,000 naturally will make families take pause. However, many families already are paying that much or more for seniors who still live at home and need advanced care—it’s just not compiled into one bill. Consider the categories we listed above, but for aging in place:
- House/apartment: Apartments require rent, and homes still may have a mortgage (and definitely will have property taxes). Yards must be mowed, sidewalks need to be shoveled, leaky faucets must be repaired, and so on—and the costs of these additional homeowner responsibilities add up.
- Meals: Food costs will always be there for seniors, at home or in an assisted living community. At least in a community, residents are assured healthy meals—seniors at home might not have the ability or the budget to prepare nutritious meals for themselves.
- Housekeeping: Bringing a maid in once a week (or more) can cost a few hundred dollars a month.
- Security: Alert pendants for seniors at home are available for a monthly subscription, but again that, along with home security systems that might be necessary for seniors living alone, is another cost.
- Care: Nurses and home healthcare workers are expensive; depending on your loved one’s needs, in-home care can quickly add up to a couple thousand dollars a month or more.
Run the Numbers Yourself
A great way to determine the cost of aging in place compared to senior assisted living is to use our convenient online calculator. You simply enter monthly expenses—including mortgage or rent, utilities, food, and care costs—for living at home, and the tool computes the cost and compares it to the cost of a senior living community. You might be surprised at how close the two numbers might be, and the calculator at least gives you a starting point for more careful consideration on what option will be best for your loved one and your family.