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Assisted Living vs. Living at Home: Costs Compared

senior couple discussing assisted living costs

Last updated: April 22, 2015

When shopping for an assisted living community for your loved one, sticker shock is a common condition.

A Place for Mom's Senior Living Advisors frequently hear the refrain "That's so much more expensive than just living at home." In some situations, assisted living does cost more than living at home, but in most cases, total assisted living costs are significantly less than in-home care costs.

Assisted Living Costs by State

Just like any market for real estate or goods and services, price depends heavilty on local supply and demand. In particularly remote areas, assisted living costs may be higher than average due to low availablity of accomodations. On the other side of the coin, costs may be higher than average in densely populated areas due to the high costs of real estate and staff salaries.

The U.S. states with the most expensive median monthly assisted living costs are:

  1. Alaska - $6,000
  2. New Jersey - $5,994
  3. Delaware - $5,533
  4. Connecticut - $5,000
  5. Massachusetts - $4,950

The U.S. states with the least expensive median monthly assisted living costs are:

  1. Missouri - $2,288
  2. Alabama - $2,600
  3. Georgia - $2,703
  4. Kentucky - $2,720
  5. Michigan - $2,850

Other Factors in Assisted Living Costs

While location is an important factor in assisted living costs, there are several other considerations that can play a big role in the bottom line:

  • Apartment Size: A 400-square-foot studio apartment will obviously cost less than a 1,200-square-foot two-bedroom in the same community.
  • Level of Care Required: Not all assisted living residents require the same level of care. Those who need help with fewer aspects of daily life will often pay less than those who need extensive services.
  • Additional Fees: Assisted living communities typically charge a non-refundable administrative fee upon move-in. This fee covers everything from getting the new resident enrolled in services to renovating his or her apartment, and typically ranges from $1,000 to $5,000.

Most Living Expenses Included

When comparing assisted living to home care, it's important to remember how many expenses are included in the price. Assisted living fees replace typical expenses associated with living at home, including:

  • Mortgage or rent: Current homeowners will additionally eliminate property tax and insurance expenses by moving to assisted living.
  • Utilities: Assisted living fees generally cover all utilities outside of phone and cable, including garbage/water/sewer, heat and air-conditioning, and electricity.
  • Maintenance: Not only will you not be on the hook for emergency repairs, you'll no longer have to hire out yard work or housekeeping services. Many assisted living facilities even offer linen service and help with laundry.
  • Meals: Food is a major-line item in most people's budgets, accounting for up to a third of total monthly expenditures. Two or three hot meals per day are included in most assisted living plans.
  • Household assistance or personal care: At $10-25+ per hour, hiring this type of help can add up quickly. At-home medical care can cost even more.

Assisted Living Boosts Quality of Life

"Not only is assisted living financially equal to living at home in many cases, it's a dramatically different way of life," says Pam Talon, A Place for Mom's Market Development Coach for the U.S.Northeast region. "Quality of life is a key difference."

Living in a vibrant, engaging community with numerous daily opportunities for social interaction and entertainment is a welcome change of pace for most seniors. In fact, many seniors living at home cut back on entertainment as a way to save money.

"With a senior living at home, the monthly budget usually has a blank space next to social and entertainment," Talon says. Regular social activities not only help keep seniors fit and sharp, they often equal the difference between surviving and thriving.

Talon says sons and daughters need to take a hard look at their parents' current lifestyle: "Do both people get to retire in this house? How did mom's life change when Dad retired? Did it get better or did it get worse? We're still dealing with an age group where moms didn't get to retire, so we're dealing with quality of life."

Related Resources

 *All costs calculated in U.S. dollars.


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