Options vs. Resources: Elder Care Choices & Their Costs

Options vs. Resources: Elder Care Choices & Their Costs

More than any other aspect of elder care, the area of financial preparation seems to be one of the most difficult to grasp. One reason is because the laws which govern Medicare and Medicaid vary from state to state; they are also subject to frequent change. Often a family’s “ideal” care solution may not be the most practical one, financially speaking. So, what is the best care solution for your loved one, and how much will it cost?

The goal is to facilitate a balance between the amount of care required and the quality of life experienced, and there are a multitude of choices available ranging in price from, “My goodness, that’s expensive,” all the way up to, “Wow—who can afford that?” In the broadest sense, the available options include caring for your family member in your home, moving them into an assisted living community, or placing them in a nursing home.

Home Care

Keeping an elderly loved one in your own home is a wonderful plan, but it must be viewed realistically. For instance, if you are employed, having to take your loved one back and forth to doctors will probably mean lost time from your job; with a very few exceptions, employers have not traditionally been very supportive when the caregiving role intersects with professional responsibilities. Caregiver.org reports that 70 percent of caregivers suffer work-related difficulties because of their dual roles (caregiver vs. company employee). Lost time from work can mean lost wages, and that’s a daunting reality considering that for 2021 AARP reports that caregivers spend an average of $7,242 annually in out-of-pocket expenses relating to their caregiving roles.

Assisted Living

For many people who require long-term care, an assisted living community may sound very appealing. In this scenario, due consideration must be given to obtaining long-term care insurance because of the cost involved. According to Genworth’s 2020 Cost of Care Survey, the national average for an assisted living unit is $51,600 annually; this breaks down to $4,300 per month (but remember, that’s only an average; the actual cost can be lower, or it may be even higher).

Unlike traditional health insurance, long-term care insurance is set up to cover long-term services and supports, including care that is both personal and custodial (non-medical assistance with the activities of daily life). According to aboutassistedliving.org, if you have a long-term care insurance policy, it should cover assisted living costs. The safety features, nutritional meal preparation and socialization make assisted living a great option for seniors.

Nursing Home

Most people would agree that going into a nursing home would not be a first choice for those requiring long-term care. For my grandparents, however, it was our only reasonable option. Ironically, placement in the nursing home is not the only thing which causes the patient and their family members distress. There’s also the cost; the monthly financial requirements are staggering, which is why many people utilize Medicaid to underwrite the expense.

Genworth’s 2020 Cost of Care Survey shows the annual national average cost of a nursing home is $105,852 for a private room; a semi-private room comes in only slightly less at $93,072. Many different factors affect the cost of a nursing home including its location, the size of the facility, the services offered and the length of a patient’s stay.

Remember that providing care for a loved one is a fluid situation—it is highly subject to change. At some point you may find circumstances will necessitate re-evaluating your care choice. For example, the home care option may work for a period of time, but your loved one may eventually require more medical care than you can provide by yourself in your home. At that point you may need to look further into assisted living or a nursing home.

It will be beneficial to both you and your loved one if you take the time at the beginning of your caregiving journey and thoroughly weigh all the available options. Your loved one will receive the care they need, and you’ll have no regrets regarding your due diligence.


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