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How Much Does Assisted Living Cost?

| By Nancy Swanger, PhD, M.ED

Understanding the costs and fees of assisted living across the country can help you make an informed decision when choosing a community or deciding to stay at home.

Understanding the costs and fees of assisted living across the country can help you make an informed decision when considering this living option.  It is important to understand how assisted living works financially because the additional services and care available in these settings go beyond what other senior lifestyles typically provide.

An Overview of Assisted Living Costs and Fees

In general, base fees for assisted living cover a basic level of service, which may vary depending on the operator and location. Base fees also cover monthly rent, meals and snacks, housekeeping, scheduled transportation, emergency response, resident engagement activities and administrative functions.

Assisted living operators then utilize a care professional (frequently a licensed nurse) to assess resident acuity and supportive care needs at the time the resident moves into the community and at certain intervals thereafter to determine additional care related fees.

Initial needs assessments and, thereafter, intervals for reassessments are often prescribed by the state (but typically assessments take place upon move-in, whenever there is a change in the condition of the resident, or as otherwise dictated by state requirements). The residency agreement that you receive at move-in is a legal document and should specify exactly how assisted living fees are determined by the community (frequently with language prescribed by the state in which the community is located).

For services in excess of base fees, assisted living pricing allows each resident to pay based upon his or her level of need and the services required.  This means each resident is charged only for the care and services they utilize, which helps to lower costs for residents with fewer needs.

As resident needs change and more care and caregiver staff time is required, fees are adjusted to reflect the additional care and service provided. It is not uncommon for significant changes in an older adult’s physical or cognitive condition to occur over relatively short periods of time.

Do Any Assisted Living Communities Charge a Flat Fee?

While it is relatively uncommon, some assisted living communities (particularly those specializing in memory care) may charge a flat, all-inclusive monthly fee.  Often this occurs in markets where all-inclusive fees have historically been accepted by residents and their families and where resident needs tend to be similar across the community.

How Much Does Assisted Living Cost?

The answer depends on the community, the size of your apartment, the number of services you need and what part of the country you live in.

For comparison, a 2023 Genworth Cost of Care Survey indicated the average annual cost of assisted living community rose 1.36% since 2022. The cost for a private room totaled around $64,200 per year or $176 per day.

The Genworth survey also found the average cost for a private room in a nursing home cost was $320 per day or $116,800 per year ($104,025 per year for a semi-private room) – a nearly five percent increase from 2022. Home health aide services rose 10% from 2022. Costs averaged $207 per day ($75,504 per year), based on an eight-hour day, 5 days a week (more time-intensive care will likely be more expensive).

Assisted living costs by state and by metro areas are available in the Genworth Cost of Care Survey. You can also calculate future costs of assisted living and other types of care at the site.

How to Pay for Assisted Living

Many people believe assisted living is covered by Medicare. In fact, 57% of people surveyed said they plan to rely on Medicare to help pay for any senior care they might need. However, while your personal health insurance coverage and your pharmaceutical coverage continues after relocating to a community, Medicare typically doesn’t pay for assisted living.

The same survey found that 61% of respondents thought they would rely on Social Security to cover assisted living or other long-term care costs. The reality is, the average monthly Social Security payment only covers a small portion of those costs.

Most assisted living residents pay for assisted living from their personal resources (“private pay”) or with help from the coverage provided by long-term care insurance. Adult children often help with expenses, as well. However, many states offer home and community-based waivers that help low-income residents afford assisted living. Check with your state Medicaid resource to address your situation and needs.

It’s worth noting that in a Life Plan Community (or Continuing Care Retirement Community), your entrance fee helps guarantee you access to all levels of care – including assisted living and memory care – and helps offset the long-term costs of that care. In many cases, a portion of the entrance fee is tax-deductible as a medical expense, so be sure to talk with a tax professional about these savings.

The Value of Assisted Living

When it’s apparent that some type of assistance is needed for day-to-day support, sorting through the finances to pay for assisted living is important. Do your due diligence – look at the Genworth site for costs in your area. As a point of comparison, figure out how much it’s costing you to stay in your house with this Costs Worksheet. (Note: If you haven’t paid off your mortgage, you should add that expense to the worksheet, too.)

It’s also important to factor in the other benefits you get from an assisted living or a Life Plan Community. Social connections, wellness programs, cultural experiences, nutritious meals, opportunities to learn and grow, safety and 24/7 security – they’re all part of what you get on top of personal assistance. To find an assisted living community near you, use our Community Locator tool.

Do the math; consider the value. You may be surprised at how affordable assisted living really is.

Where You Live Matters

Where You Live Matters is powered by the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA), a respected voice in the senior housing industry. ASHA primarily focuses on legislative and regulatory advocacy, research, and educational opportunities and networking for senior living executives, so they can better understand the needs of older adults across the country.

Originally Published: March 14, 2017 – Updated On: March 19, 2024

Long-Term Care in America: Views on Who Should Bear the Responsibility and Costs of Care. AP/NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 2017.

By Nancy Swanger, PhD, M.ED

Granger Cobb Institute for Senior Living

Dr. Nancy Swanger is the Founding Director of the Granger Cobb Institute for Senior Living, which is housed in the School of Hospitality Business Management in the Carson College of Business at Washington State University. In addition to her administrative duties, she teaches various courses in the curriculum—senior living operations, professional development, and special topics focusing on current trends or industry issues. Nancy has extensive restaurant experience as a co-worker, manager, district manager, and owner. She and her husband owned and operated eight Subway restaurants from 1988-2017, and they still own two independent concepts. Her research interests are in the areas of senior living, quick-serve restaurant operations, food safety/sanitation, and hospitality curriculum. As part of the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing, Nancy was named to the Healthy Ageing 50, one of four from the United States. The Granger Cobb Institute was recognized as a 2023 Innovations That Inspire awardee by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)—one of 25 worldwide. Prior to Washington State, Nancy taught at the University of Idaho and Lewis-Clark State College.

Learn more about Nancy Swanger, PhD, M.ED