A Place for Mom

10 Best Ways to Save Money on Assisted Living Costs

Merritt Whitley
By Merritt WhitleyApril 9, 2020
Caregiver helping an elderly woman walk down the hallway of their building.

Assisted living provides peace of mind knowing your parents are independent yet have help with daily needs. But many people are surprised, and disappointed, to learn it’s not covered by Medicare. The good news is there are several ways to pay for assisted living that aren’t commonly recognized. Read on for practical ways to help shoulder the costs and find the right community for your loved one without breaking the bank.

1. Learn the basics about assisted living options

Doing some digging is the first step. A few of our tools can help:

  • Senior Living and Planning Guide: Our detailed guide includes information about the different types of communities, services, and general costs.
  • Assisted Living Checklist: You’ll want to develop a checklist of features important to you, such as amenities or safety measures. Include your budget, and use our list of questions to assess each facility.
  • Senior Living Cost Index: Some locations are more cost-effective than others. We’ve created an average price index so you can explore prices around the United States.
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2. Research and tour communities  

It’s stressful, frustrating, and expensive if your loved one needs to move several times before finding the right fit. Instead, do your due diligence:

  • Visit locations in-person or virtually, preferably with your loved one, and talk to residents and staff. Download our Community Tour Notes Guide to keep track of your observations.
  • Check communities’ state licensing.
  • Talk to the local long-term care ombudsman, a government official or volunteer who works to resolve problems related to the health, safety, and rights of residents in nursing homes and assisted living communities
  • Join a waitlist if you’re interested. If you wait until the last minute, you may end up paying more.

3. Ask about price flexibility and specials

You may be asking yourself, “Can I really negotiate senior living costs?” The simple answer is, “Yes.” The cost of assisted living facilities is not always set in stone, so it’s important to ask:

  • Are there any move-in incentives?
  • What kind of specials are available?
  • Is the community willing to negotiate its monthly price?
  • Can the entrance fee be waived?

Depending on the time of year and location, facilities can have vacancies and may be willing to offer a discount. Many communities offer deals — all you need to do is ask!

4. Explore lesser-known financing options

If your loved one or their spouse served in the armed forces or has home or other equity, these options may help pay for assisted living:

  • Veterans (VA) benefits. Wartime veterans or the spouse of a wartime vet may qualify for a pension program through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to offset the cost of senior care. Our Guide to VA Benefits and Long-Term Care includes detailed information about how to apply, what’s included, and eligibility.
  • Bridge loans. This short-term loan is ideal for urgent situations and can help homeowners gain cash flow quickly. It can be used to pay for assisted living while you’re liquidating assets or waiting for your home to sell.
  • Reverse mortgage. This option allows a spouse or adult children to remain in their home while creating funds for assisted living for an elderly loved one by tapping into home equity. With a reverse mortgage, the borrower can receive money either in a lump sum or as needed to supplement an income.

In this Ask an Advisor Series: How to Finance video, Senior Living Advisors share what they’ve learned from working with thousands of families about paying for assisted living.

5. Sell or surrender a life insurance policy

Many people don’t realize a senior’s life insurance policy or that of a loved one can be used to pay for assisted living. You can sell your policy to a third party for market value and use the proceeds to fund a long-term care benefit plan while some of the death benefit remains. Another option is “surrendering” a life insurance policy to the life insurance company for cash value. In this case, you give up ownership and the death benefit.

If you’re planning ahead for senior living, you may want to invest in long-term care insurance (LTCI). Only about 8% of Americans have purchased LTCI, but as the average life expectancy rate continues to climb, more people are considering LTCI as a way to pay for future potential long-term care.

6. Compare a la carte costs with inclusive pricing

Some assisted living communities offer a variety of services that are covered by either a one-time fee or a separate charge based on when you need them. Figuring out the best option for your needs will help you plan and budget more efficiently.

  • A la carte. This option allows you to purchase services or items separately based on need, including laundry or bathing services, additional housekeeping, meal delivery, and more.
  • All-inclusive. In this model, a monthly fee covers a range of services so there are no surprise charges. Be sure to ask what’s included.

Consider overall costs and then decide which option best fits your budget. Family members or volunteer services may be able to fill in potential gaps in a more cost-effective way. Bear in mind, though, that for some families an all-inclusive option might be more affordable, especially in certain geographic areas where the cost of living is higher.

7. Consider a roommate

In many senior living communities, a shared space is more cost-effective than a single room or apartment. In addition to saving money, sharing a room can be safer and prevent loneliness, a common problem among the elderly. Who would make a great living companion?

8. Enroll in discount programs for essentials for low-income seniors 

Wouldn’t it be nice to save money on other necessities, so that you could put those funds toward the cost of assisted living? Your loved one may be eligible to receive funds or assistance through senior benefit programs.

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) lists several programs for vulnerable adults or low-income seniors to save costs on drug prescriptions, food, hearing care, dental care, vision coverage, and energy bills.

9. Save on Senior Citizen Moving Expenses 

Fall can be the least expensive time to relocate because the peak moving season in the U.S. lasts from April to September. The demand for movers tends to be higher in the warmer months (June, July, and August), which can increase the overall costs of moving. Here are some ways to save or find discounts from professional movers:

  • Ask if they offer a senior discount
  • If you were referred by your assisted living community or another source, ask about a referral discount
  • Check moving companies’ websites or social media accounts for deals.
  • Talk to your real estate agent — they may have connections in the industry.

10. Get Personalized Senior Living Advice

A Place for Mom’s senior living advisors have experience helping families find affordable senior living. “How do you pay for assisted living?” is one of the most common questions families ask. “Some families can simply pay for care with their income and their savings,” says Mary Lontkowski, a Senior Living Advisor. “But other families, it takes a little more creativity.”

For additional tips and advice on financing or saving money on senior living costs, read our e-book, 5 Best-Kept Secrets to Financing Senior Care.

Merritt Whitley
Merritt Whitley

Merritt Whitely is an editor at A Place for Mom. She developed health content for seniors at Hearing Charities of America and the National Hearing Aid Project. She’s also managed multiple print publications, blogs, and social media channels for seniors as the marketing manager at Sertoma, Inc.

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