How to Calculate the Cost of Long-term Senior Care

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How to Calculate the Cost of Long-term Senior Care

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Young man on a laptop explaining care options to an elderly relative

The average life expectancy in the US has risen dramatically in the last century. According to the National Institute on Aging, the number of seniors in the 85+ age group is expected to increase by as much as 351 percent between 2010 and 2050. And with the increase in this particular age group will come a corresponding need for quality senior care.

For many adult children, a time arrives when you realize that mom and dad are no longer able to safely live at home alone. Depending on their health, the time may come early, before age 70, or later, after age 80. Regardless of when it happens, the job of finding assisted care, calculating the cost and benefits of the various care options, often falls to these adult children.

Types of Long-term Care

The options for long-term senior care range from in-home care to assisted living facilities to a more traditional nursing home setting. When you start searching out a residential community or in-home service, it is helpful to begin by determining exactly what type of care your loved one needs as cost can vary depending on the amount of attention and level of skill needed.

So, before you begin your search, sit down and chart out those factors that could determine the amount of assistance your parents’ need:

  • Medical needs (Alzheimer's, stroke recovery, or other illness)
  • Mobility issues
  • Emotional and social needs
  • Home maintenance (home has become too much to care for)
  • Financial situation

Seniors needing higher levels of care may feel safer in an assisted living facility, nursing home or with a 24-hour live-in professional caregiver.

While affordablity is certainly a primary concern, health and safety must also be a priority.

Determining the Costs

It's important to have realistic expectations regarding the costs of long-term residential or in-home senior care. Housing is going to be one of the biggest expenses, but if you plan for these expenses and compare your options, you can find the right place at the right price.

Ideally, it's best to discuss care before your parents need it.

This often is a conversation many older adults and their children prefer not to have—it's easier to pretend mom and dad will always be younger, vital and able to care for themselves. The reality for most of us, however, is we'll need help at some point.

According to UPI (United Press International), the average costs of senior care are as follows:

  • In home care: $16 to $26 per hour
  • 24-hour live-in care: $150 to $280 per day
  • Assisted living: $2,500 to $5,000 per month
  • Nursing home (semi-private): $5,400 to $12,000 per month
  • Nursing home (private): approximately $14,500 per month

Medicare does not cover long-term costs after 100 days, so it is not a viable option when looking for financing to cover permanent care for mom and dad.

Medicaid, however, can cover assisted care or nursing home costs for certain low-income seniors when an annual minimal income level is met.

Beyond federal and state aid, most long-term care expenses are paid from personal savings. However, some insurers offer nursing home (long-term care) insurance or allow policy holders to utilize their life insurance to pay for assisted care.

How to Calculate the Potential Cost of Long-term Care

One of the best and easiest ways to calculate the potential cost of mom or dad's long-term care is to use an online calculator such as the Health Care Costs Calculator from AARP. These tools can help you estimate the health care expenses that your parents will likely need to cover.

These costs may include but are not limited to:

  • Room and board (includes housekeeping but laundry may be a separate fee)
  • Incontinence care
  • Medication
  • Equipment or supplies (ie: wheelchair, feeding tube)
  • Daily meals
  • Special dietary issues
  • Physical therapy

It also is important to remember the cost of permanent senior care will vary by location. Urban areas in general have higher health care costs than non-urban areas.

Selecting the best care for mom and dad doesn't have to be overwhelming. Understanding the basic costs and talking to doctors to determine exactly the type of care needed are the first steps.

Not Sure How to Pay for Retirement? Download Our Financial Answers eBook
Bryan Reynolds
January 30, 2014
Bryan Reynolds is the Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations for Episcopal Retirement Services (ERS). Bryan is responsible for developing and implementing ERS' digital marketing strategy, and overseeing the website, social media outlets, audio and video content and online advertising. After originally attending The Ohio State University, he graduated from the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, where he earned a Bachelor of fine arts focused on electronic media. Bryan loves to share his passion for technology by assisting older adults with their computer and mobile devices. He has taught several classes within ERS communities as well as at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute run by the University of Cincinnati. He also participates on the Technology Team at ERS to help provide direction. Bryan and his wife Krista currently reside in Lebanon, Ohio with their 5 children.

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