Home Care vs. Assisted Living: Understanding the Cost Differences
The phrase “aging in place” is commonly used to describe an older adult who lives in their own home. For many, it is seen as a way to save money while minimizing change and allowing the senior to remain comfortable.
While older adults often say they hope to be able to stay in their home, doing so isn’t always the safest or most economical choice to pursue. Even if the house is paid off, there are many other expenses an older adult will incur. And as an older adult becomes less independent, the costs to stay at home rise.
If you or a senior loved one are debating between home care and an assisted living community, here’s what you should know.
How Much Does Assisted Living Cost, and What Does it Include?
Assisted living is often considered to be the best of two worlds. Each resident has their own apartment or suite, typically with a kitchen or kitchenette. This allows the senior to maintain their independence while knowing that caregivers are onsite around the clock if they need a helping hand.
Assisted living caregivers provide as much—or as little—support with personal care and toileting as the resident needs. They also assist with medication management, housekeeping, and laundry.
According to the Genworth Cost of Care survey for 2017, the national median cost of assisted living is $3,750 per month, or $123 a day, though costs vary by location. The standard services and amenities that are typically included in that base monthly fee include the following:
- A private apartment or suite with built-in safety features, such as grab bars, good lighting, and accessible bathrooms
- Laundry, housekeeping, appliance repair, and household maintenance
- Well-balanced meals and snacks, which are often prepared by a chef working in conjunction with a dietician
- Utilities and basic cable services
- Emergency call system in the apartment
- Community outings to local destinations, grocery stores, movie theaters, and shopping malls
- Rich calendar of life enrichment programs and wellness activities
Other expenses that are usually billed separately include the following:
- Resident care charges on an individual basis depending upon the resident’s unique needs
- Transportation for resident appointments
- Use of the onsite resident beauty/barber shop
The Cost of In-Home Care and Aging at Home
While it’s a little tough to directly compare home care expenses with assisted living, here are a few factors to consider.
Seniors who live at home will still incur expenses, such as:
- Mortgage, homeowner’s insurance, and property taxes
- Utilities, cable television, local phone, Internet
- Household maintenance and repair expenses, lawn care, and snow removal
- Medical alert and home security systems
- Transportation to and from appointments and errands
Some older homes will also need to be modified to make them safe for a senior. Common home modifications include adding ramps to exit doors, installing grab bars, widening doorways, installing chair lifts, improving lighting, and adding a barrier-free shower.
There is also the cost of in-home care, whether it is an aide you hire on your own or an agency you employ that provides caregivers.
For older adults who only require a few hours of assistance each week, home care may be a financially feasible short-term solution. You can find an agency that will provide caregivers to assist with personal care, errands, and light housekeeping.
Depending on the state you reside in, a home care aide might also be able to offer medication prompts so a senior doesn’t forget to take their medicine.
In 2017, the average cost for a private duty home care aide was $20 per hour. Most home care agencies do have a minimum visit requirement, typically about 3 hours per visit, and/or a 20-hour-per-week minimum.
If an older adult’s health declines and they need more assistance, or if their need for assistance becomes more episodic (e.g., they need help using bathroom in the middle of the night), you may need to hire a live-in caregiver to remain at home. In this case, aging at home is usually more expensive than assisted living.
If you aren’t quite sure what is best for a senior in your life, our “Where to Begin” page is a resource you might find helpful. You’ll find more information about the different types of senior living, as well as a few important questions to ask yourself as you make this decision.