Weighing the Costs of Home Care versus Senior Living

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“There’s no place like home.” Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz may have said it first, but she is certainly not the last to feel that way. That’s why the question, “Should you stay home as you age or move to senior living?” is often balked at when asked. Of course you’d rather stay at home. In fact, nearly 90 percent of people over age 65 want to stay at home for as long as possible according to AARP. It’s understandable; there are a host of emotional reasons most people feel this way. And on the surface you might also think that it’s the most budget-friendly option even if you need care. Surprisingly, that’s not always the case. Let’s weigh the costs of home care versus senior living.

Understanding Your Options

Before we look at costs, you need to know what you’re comparing. Luckily today seniors have more options than ever when it comes to care, whether at home or in senior living.

At Home

  • Home Health Care – Provided on an hourly, as needed or 24/7 live-in basis. These services help you live more independently at home and typically include personal care, household chores, cooking, transportation, occupational, physical and/or speech therapy.
  • Adult Day Care – Here you’ll find a safe environment that typically provides care during normal business hours, five days a week with services that may include meals and snacks, health monitoring, medication assistance and fitness, as well as enrichment programs and social activities.

In Senior Living

  • Independent Living – An option for those who require little daily assistance, but seek a vibrant social community and worry-free living without chores and home upkeep.
  • Assisted Living – Provides housing, personalized care and support with daily tasks to help residents remain as independent as possible and enjoy an active, engaging life.
  • Memory Care – This option is designed to nurture and support those with Alzheimer’s and dementia by providing 24-hour supervision, structured activities and a secure, calming environment with specially trained staff.
  • Skilled Nursing – Provides 24-hour supervised care with a licensed physician or nurse. These senior living communities also offer physical, speech and occupational therapists onsite.

For more information on comparing home care versus senior living, check out our Family Guide to Funding Senior Care & Housing!

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The Cost of Care

From the care environment to services offered to geography, there are many factors that affect your cost. But perhaps the best example of what you can expect comes from the Genworth 2018 Cost of Care Survey which found these average monthly costs:

At Home

  • Home Health Care
    • Homemaker Services —$4,004
    • Home Health Aide Services —$4,195
  • Adult Day Care —$1,560

In Senior Living

  • Assisted living — Private, one-bedroom: $4,000
  • Skilled nursing — Semi-private room: $7,441; Private room: $8,365

Unlike the levels of care above, there is little published data on average monthly costs for independent living and memory care because it varies so greatly. However, typical ranges are as follows:

  • Independent Living — $1,400 to $4,000 per month
  • Memory Care — $2,000 to $7,000 per month

The Real Comparison

The cost of living at home isn’t just your mortgage or rent. When comparing to senior living you must look at the total cost of living at home which also includes your monthly food, utilities, home maintenance, property taxes, insurance and entertainment costs. Why? Because these things are typically included in the cost of senior living. 

In addition, you must also factor in the cost of any home health care and/or home modifications to support your needs. But be careful in doing this as four out of five adults underestimate the costs of home healthcare with the average American underestimating the cost by almost 50 percent according to the Genworth Long Term Care/Caregiving Online Survey.

Once you’ve compared to total cost of living at home, you may find senior living is actually less expensive!

The Value of Senior Living

Even if the comparison shows senior living may cost more than staying at home in your case, factoring in the positive impact of quality of life may tip the scale.

That’s the true value of senior living for you, and your family. Not only is the full calendar of social, fitness and enrichment opportunities a benefit, as is the worry-free lifestyle without unexpected expenses, chores or maintenance. You also have the added peace of mind that support is available however your care needs evolve. What’s more, your family won’t have to take on caregiving burdens and instead, can enjoy life right alongside you.