Our parents cared for us unconditionally when we were young.
They changed our diapers, patiently taught us, and provided to the best of their abilities.
So as our parents age, it’s only right that we show them the same unconditional love.
But caring for aging, elderly parents is challenging in more ways than one. First, there’s the emotional impact of seeing your childhood heroes growing old and frail. Not only is it difficult to see the toll of age, but it’s also a harsh reminder of our own humanity and mortality. Second, there’s the financial component of taking care of aging parents. Are they going to a nursing home, retirement center, or assisted living facility? Or are they going to live at home with you?
Below, we’ll explore the costs you can expect and how you can help manage them.
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Nursing Homes vs. Assisted Living vs. Retirement Homes: What’s the Difference?
Since we all have our own priorities, tastes, and needs, there is no universal approach to caring for your aging parents.
In an idyllic world, most of our parents would prefer to remain independent and live in their own homes. Unfortunately, this can’t always be the case if their safety is our top priority. If the care they need is something more than you can provide, then you might want to consider a long-term care solution.
Though it’s tempting to interchange terms such as “nursing home,” “retirement home” and other similar terms, the reality is that these are all different and provide various levels of care.
So what are the different types of senior living communities? Broadly speaking, there are:
- Assisted Living (also called “retirement homes”). Think of assisted living as a “college lifestyle” for seniors. They can remain (mostly) independent and social while receiving personalized care such as help bathing or using the bathroom. It’s similar to college in that they’re staying in a large building or neighborhood with other seniors. There are plenty of social activities to keep residents active, healthy, and happy.
Benefits vary per facility but may include restaurant-style dining, outings to theaters and events, help with laundry and housekeeping, and assistance with daily grooming. If your parents want help with maximum independence, then assisted living is likely the best choice. Many assisted living facilities even include kitchens so that your parents can continue to cook for themselves if they don’t want to eat in the dining hall or participate in happy hour.
- Nursing Homes. Also known as nursing facilities or convalescent homes, nursing homes are for those who need full-time monitoring and medical assistance. In other words, if your parent doesn’t need full-time hospitalization or hospice but does need more than assisted living can provide, then a nursing home is likely the best fit. For example, if your parents need daily help with medication or are completely bedridden, then a nursing home can provide good care for them.
Unlike assisted living facilities, residents at nursing homes do not have kitchens. Meals are left completely up to the staff for everyone’s safety. This ensures that all the residents get the nutrition they need, while also ensuring that there are no mishaps such as stoves that are left unattended.
So how do you choose between the two?
The key here is independence. The more independent your parent is, the more likely they’ll want to (and benefit from) an assisted living facility or community.
But if the medical care and supervision required is more intensive and specialized, then they’re more likely to need a nursing home.
How Much Does Assisted Living Cost?
Just like any other form of housing, the exact cost of assisted living is going to vary based on where you live. Generally speaking, assisted living facilities in larger metropolitan areas are going to cost more than those in rural areas.
Still, we can glean a lot of information from the median cost of assisted living, which is $4,500 per month – or $148 per day.
While this is a considerable cost, it’s still cheaper than a nursing home. In fact, many families believe the cost is worth it, as aging parents can maintain their independence while having the personalized help that they need.
Fortunately, Medicaid can help cover some of these costs. You’ll want to check with your state Medicaid resource to see if there are any special stipulations. Furthermore, seniors can also use their social security income to help pay for assisted living costs.
If you’re planning for your parents’ future but don’t have an immediate need for assisted living, then I encourage you to begin saving now to provide a helping financial hand, should they need it. Using a high-interest savings account such as the ones at CIT Bank will help you maximize your savings so you can financially support your parents when the time comes.
How Much Do Nursing Homes Cost?
Because nursing homes provide more intensive medical care, the cost is considerably higher than assisted living. The median cost for a private room is $297 per day – or $9,034 per month. The other option is to have a semi-private room (a “roommate”), which costs $260 per day – or $7,908 per month.
Keep in mind that these are just the median costs.
The actual cost will depend on the level of care that is needed as well as the medication(s) your parents may need.
Medicare will only cover skilled nursing care expenses. The rest will have to be covered through health insurance, life insurance, long-term insurance policies, savings, reverse mortgages, and local or regional agency assistance. Of course, you can also pay for the costs out-of-pocket – and out-of-pocket expenses for nursing homes are generally considered tax deductible, but you’ll want to double-check with your tax accountant.
If your parent is a veteran, then long-term care services should be approved and covered by the Department of Veteran Affairs (the “VA”).
Can My Parent(s) Live at Home with Me?
Before you decide to let your parents live at home with you, consider their mental and physical health. As much as we love our family, there are instances where the assistance they need is more than what we can provide. However, if they are still relatively independent, mobile, and aware of their surroundings, then moving them in with family members may be the best solution.
Here’s what you should also consider:
- What are my needs and my schedule? It’s easy to focus on what your parents need, but also factor in what you need. For example, if you have to drive your kids to school and work in the office all day, will your parents be ok if they’re left home alone? Or if they need you to be more hands-on, does your schedule allow for that?
- What are your personal limits? If your parents get to the point where they need someone to dress, bathe, and go to the bathroom with them, is that something you and your spouse are willing to help with? These are extremely personal tasks, which is why some parents would prefer professional care.
- How old are your children? In general, the older your children, the easier it is to care for a parent at home, as your kids can help with chores. If you have a baby, however, then your time and energy will be spread thin – especially if you have to help your parents with errands, medicine, and transportation.
- How’s your relationship with your parents? Unfortunately, not everyone has the best relationship with their parents. If you have had a rough relationship, then allowing your parents to stay at home can give you the opportunity to mend things before they move on. But it can also prove to be difficult. At the same time, caring for your parents is a way to give back the love and care they’ve provided you, even if they didn’t always know how.
Making the choice to take care of your parents at home is an incredibly personal decision.
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By considering these factors, you’ll be making the best choice for yourself and your family.
How Much Does It Cost to Take Care of a Parent at Home?
Of all the long-term care options, this is by far the cheapest. The median cost of allowing a parent to move into your home is $10,432 per year out of pocket.
The biggest costs are increased food, electricity, medicine, and transportation costs.
Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions:
- Can my parent(s) help with rent?
- Can they contribute to the cost of their move?
- Will they contribute to food and other expenses, etc.?
When asking these questions, it’s recommended not to go in with expectations. Rather, this should be an open conversation so that there is a mutual understanding and agreement about the arrangements being made.
Taking care of aging parents isn’t easy for anyone.
No matter your relationship with your parents, it’s critical to approach this topic with an open heart and open mind and to always communicate transparently with your spouse.
If you’d like to exchange ideas on this topic or ask people for their experience on taking care of an aging parent, I encourage you to join the TBM Family on Facebook! It’s an incredible community of people just like you who are figuring out life’s financial considerations, one step at a time!