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The average cost of assisted living was $4,000 a month in 2018, according to Genworth Financial, which has been tracking costs since 2004. Across the country, though, the price of assisted living varies widely depending on such factors as location, facility size and amenities. If you’re not sure whether or how you can afford this type of living arrangement, our free matching tool can connect you with a financial advisor. Here’s what you need to know about the costs.

Breakdown of the Cost of Assisted Living 

The costs of assisted living typically break down into two categories: rent and services. The former depends largely on location and apartment size. The latter usually includes three meals a day, housekeeping, social activities and nursing care, with the quality, quantity or level affecting the price. For example, a resident who needs about three hours of help performing tasks like taking medication, eating and bathing daily would pay more than someone who only needs assistance with one of those tasks. As you evaluate your needs and budget, be sure you understand the different types of long-term care facilities.

A recent study by SeniorLiving.org put the overall annual price of assisted living at $30,438 a year in Missouri on the low end and $80,400 in Washington, D.C. on the high end. Of course, assisted living costs correlate to the area’s costs of living, which are usually higher in more densely populated cities. Indeed, the National Investment Center for the Seniors Housing & Care Industry (NIC) found in its study that San Francisco, New York City, San Jose, Boston and Los Angeles have the most expensive facilities.

On top of monthly rent and services, most assisted living communities require a one-time move-in fee. This generally ranges from $1,000 to $5,000. You can pay the fee upfront, or it can be prorated monthly.

Assisted Living Cost: Package Fee Versus Separate Fees

The cost of assisted living facilities varies by location and type of services offered.

Some assisted living facilities offer services as a package and at varying levels. The more expensive packages may offer more services (like more frequent housekeeping) and a higher level of nursing care. Whether you use all the services or not, you’ll pay for them.

Alternately, your facility may offer the option of paying for services a la carte. If you go this route, you may pay more per service than the package rate, but pay less overall.

Some places may offer additional services such as memory care. This is typically reserved for people suffering from Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. The additional price for this type of care varies widely, depending on the facility and the extent of care needed.

Whether bundled or separate fees, these costs will probably seem high. According to Genworth Financial’s most recent numbers, the median assisted living costs is $133 per day. By state, the median cost ranges from $95 per day (in Missouri) to $371 (in Washington, D.C.). But these medians are actually lower than what you would pay if you stayed in your home. According to Genworth Financial, the daily median costs for homemaker and health aide services are $141 and $144, respectively. What’s more, these medians don’t include the cost of food, while assisted living costs do cover three meals a day. For greater insight into how prices vary by state, check out the best states for nursing home care.

Assisted Living Cost: One Less Expensive Option 

If you need assistance just during the day, you may want to look into adult day healthcare. As it sounds, this kind of facility provides meals and supervision for adults during normal business hours. There may also be recreational activities. The median cost for this type of facility is $1,625 a month or $75 a day, which is a bit less than the median costs for assisted living.

In addition to safety and meals, adult care ensures that senior citizens have company if they want it. This is important, since loneliness and social isolation are linked to higher risks for a variety of physical and mental conditions. According to the National Institute of Aging, these conditions include high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease – and even death.

Assisted Living Cost: One More Expensive Option

Of course, nursing homes, which offer around-the-clock care as well as medical services, come with a bigger price tag than assisted living facilities. Genworth Financial reports that the median monthly cost for a semi-private room is $7,513 and $8,517 for a private room. By state, the median for a semi-private room runs from $4,867 per month (in both Oklahoma and Texas) to $30,219 per month (in Alaska). For a private room, the median costs run from $5,627 (in Oklahoma) and again, $30,219 (in Alaska).

For many people, assisted living is their way of hanging onto their independence for as long as possible. Eventually, they expect to move into a costlier nursing home. If this is the path you envision, you may want to consider a continuing care retirement community (CCRC), where both kinds of facilities or levels of care are on one campus. The costs are generally not lower, but the transitions are less disruptive than moving from one place to a entirely different one.

Bottom Line

The type of facility can raise or lower your assisted living cost.

Compared to staying in your home, assisted living may seem exorbitant. But once you factor in the costs of homemaker services or a home health aide, assisted living may actually cost less. Even if an adult child stays home to be the caregiver, the loss of wages must be considered. Plus, the social and health benefits of being among other golden-agers may outweigh the cost differences.

Tips on Paying for Assisted Living

  • Contrary to popular belief, Medicare doesn’t cover most assisted living services. People generally pay out of pocket or have long-term care insurance. A financial advisor can help you plan for the future. To find the right one for you, use our pro matching tool. It connects you with up to three advisors based on your preferences.
  • Want to stretch your retirement dollars as far as possible? Lowering your taxes will help. Check out our story on the best states to retire for taxes.
Javier Simon, CEPF® Javier Simon is a banking, investing and retirement expert for SmartAsset. The personal finance writer's work has been featured in Investopedia, PLANADVISER and iGrad. Javier is a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing. He has a degree in journalism from SUNY Plattsburgh. Javier is passionate about helping others beyond their personal finances. He has volunteered and raised funds for charities including Fight Cancer Together, Children's Miracle Network Hospitals and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
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