Long-term care is an expensive necessity that many seniors and their families will face. As we age, most of us will need some long-term care services. This ongoing medical care and daily assistance with activities of daily living can be provided at home, in an assisted living facility, or in a skilled nursing home.
But how much does this necessary care really cost?
Understanding the full cost implications of long-term care is essential to plan ahead and make smart choices to protect your savings. Let’s look closer at unraveling the many hidden costs of care as you or a loved one age.
What is Long-Term Care?
Long-term care refers to a variety of medical, personal care, and support services for seniors or younger adults with disabilities who need assistance on an ongoing basis. This includes help with normal daily tasks like bathing, dressing, eating, taking medication, and more.
Long-term care services can be provided at home with a home health aide, in an adult day care center for socialization and activities during the day, in an assisted living community that provides housing, meals, and daily help, or in an experienced nursing facility that offers 24/7 nursing care.
How Much Does Long-Term Care Cost?
The cost of long-term care depends on the level and frequency of care needed and where it is provided. The nationwide median monthly cost of long-term care, as reported by Genworth’s 2021 Cost of Care Survey, is:
- Homemaker services: $4,481 per month
- Home health aide: $4,576 per month
- Adult day health care: $1,647 per month
- Assisted living facilities: $4,300 per month
- Semi-private nursing home room: $7,908 per month
- Private nursing home room: $8,821 per month
As you can see, costs add up quickly, especially for nursing home care. In Florida, Genworth reports the monthly cost of a semi-private nursing home room at $8,654 and a private room at $9,627. That equals $103,848 to $115,524 per year. Planning ahead for how to pay for long-term care is essential to avoid draining your retirement savings.
What Factors Affect the Cost of Long-Term Care?
Many variables impact the cost of long-term care, causing significant cost differences state by state and even within the same city. Some key factors that affect the price you’ll pay include:
- Geographic location – Costs are typically higher in urban areas and coastal states like Florida.
- Type of care – Skilled nursing and memory care are more expensive than home health or assisted living. The level of care needed makes a major cost difference.
- Service hours – More hours of care needed per day or week raises costs.
- Amenities & Services – Private rooms, luxury amenities, and robust activity programs increase assisted living and nursing home prices.
- Duration of care – Longer-term care is generally more expensive overall.
- Time of year – Peak seasonal times may increase demand and prices.
- Special diets – Therapeutic or pureed meals cost more.
- Level of assistance – Needing extensive help with mobility and activities of daily living increases costs more than minimal assistance.
It’s impossible to predict what care will cost you or a family member down the road. Costs can vary based on individual needs. But, being aware of average costs and cost factors helps you plan for this future expense.
How Much Does In-Home Care Cost?
For seniors who want to remain at home as long as possible, home health care can provide needed assistance at a more affordable rate than facility care. Home health aides help with household chores, cooking, bathing, medication management, transportation, etc.
The national average hourly pay for home health aides is $27, according to Genworth’s 2021 Cost of Care report. Most seniors need part-time assistance between 8 to 44 hours per week. At 3 hours per day, 5 days a week, home health aide services would cost approximately $4,050 monthly. In-home care costs vary based on location, hours needed, level of care provided, and agency rates. Still, it is typically only a fraction of the cost of nursing home care.
For families providing care for a loved one, the financial costs can include lost wages for leaving work. There are also emotional stresses that come with caring for an aging parent or spouse. Seeking home health assistance can provide a break for family caregivers.
Does Insurance Cover Long-Term Care Costs?
Unfortunately, traditional health insurance and Medicare generally do not cover long-term care. Here are some options that can help pay for care:
- Long-term care insurance – Private insurance policies help pay for care at home or in a facility. They can cover a portion of costs for years but require planning ahead.
- Life insurance – Some life insurance policies have riders to pay out benefits early if you become chronically ill or disabled to use for care.
- Veterans benefits – Veterans and their spouses may qualify for VA Aid & Attendance to help pay for care.
- Medicaid – Medicaid offers coverage for long-term care for very low-income seniors or those who spend down assets to qualify. An Elder Law Attorney can advise on legally transferring assets in advance to qualify for Medicaid sooner without spending your life savings first.
- Reverse mortgage – This can help you access home equity to pay for in-home care costs.
A combination of different resources may be required to cover the full cost of care. Planning ahead is key, as options like long-term care insurance must be purchased years in advance before needing care.
How Much Do Nursing Homes Cost in Florida?
For Florida seniors who eventually need skilled nursing facility care, costs are steep. As per Genworth, the median monthly cost for a semi-private room in Florida is $8,654, whereas a private room costs $9,627 per month.
This equals between $103,848 and $115,524 per year. Costs in South Florida and coastal communities run even higher.
A nursing home provides 24-hour supervised medical care, assistance with personal care, physical or occupational therapy, meals, activities, medication management, and more. Care is often needed for recovery after a major surgery, injury, or hospital stay. For those with advancing dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or other chronic conditions, nursing homes provide ongoing long-term care.
While nursing care is expensive, paying privately for multiple years will quickly deplete a lifetime of savings. Learning in advance how to qualify for Medicaid to cover nursing home costs can help preserve your assets. Proper planning is key.
Can You Afford to Pay for Care?
For most Florida seniors, paying for long-term care is their largest lifetime expense. More than the cost of college or buying a home. Can you afford to pay an average of $115,000 per year for a private nursing home room in Florida? Likely not, without using up your entire retirement savings and assets.
Can you afford to pay over $4,000 per month indefinitely for home health care? This is also unlikely to be sustainable for most retirees.
That’s why planning ahead and learning about ways to fund care is so important. Long-term care insurance, if purchased early enough, can be one solution. There are also legal ways to preserve your assets and qualify for Medicaid ahead of time, even with moderate retirement savings. An Elder Law Attorney can help protect your hard-earned nest egg.
Partner with a Knowledgeable Florida Elder Law Attorney
Aging comes with many challenges, and paying for long-term care is a major concern for many seniors and their families. An attorney at Elder Needs Law in Florida can assess your situation, advise on available options, and develop an effective plan tailored to your specific needs.
Whether you are hoping to protect your assets like your home, qualify for Medicaid, or set up a Special Needs Trust for a loved one, an attorney well-versed in elder law can make all the difference.