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Assisted Living v. Living at Home: Costs Compared

senior couple discussing assisted living costs

Last updated: June 18, 2014

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 the in-home care costs.

Assisted living costs vary depending on several factors including:

  • Geographic location
  • Size of accommodations
  • Level of care required
  • Additional amenity and service fees

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

A Different Way of Life

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

Most people underestimate how much money they spend on food each month, and forget about all the miscellaneous expenses that crop up, Talon says. Mentally, they simply add up rent or the mortgage and utilities, guess on how much they spend on eating, and come up with a figure that's not accurate.

Assisted living costs include all basic living expenses such as rent, utilities and food-but also includes 24-hour security services, housekeeping, health monitoring services, lawn care, property taxes and insurance, trash removal, repairs and maintenance, and the most frequent things people forget to include-social activities and entertainment.

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. "We point out and say, 'Look at what your mom or dad are spending on socialization and entertainment-nothing-and that's not a good thing.'"

Measuring Quality of Life

Those senior social activities are important for all seniors to keep them physically and mentally sharp, and are the difference between surviving and thriving. But they may be especially important for many women whose retirement isn't very relaxing because their workload actually increases with their retired husbands or partners at home all the time.

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."

 *All costs calculated in U.S. dollars.

1 Be sure to ask each facility what is included in the basic rate and for a list of any extra fees

2 2010 U.S. Dept. of Labor Consumer Expenditure Survey, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

3 2014 Genworth "Cost of Care" Research. The survey included feedback from more than 25,000 providers in order to complete more than 9,000 surveys of nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and home care providers in the United States

4 2011 National Association of Home Builders Residential Real Estate Tax Rates in the American Community Survey

5 These fees vary widely and may not be applicable. Actual costs will increase if they are included

6 A Place for Mom, Inc. "best guess" estimates


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