How Much Does it Cost for Full-Time Elder Care?

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Options for full-time care of the elderly range from home care services to assisted living communities to nursing homes, depending on the needs and condition of each person. The expenses of caring for chronically ill or frail elderly people, along with health care costs in general, continue to climb upward. The costs of full-time care for the elderly vary by state -- even by cities within the state -- and by the services required.

Home Care

Elderly people may wish to stay in their own homes as long as they are able and to “age in place” among familiar surroundings. This need has given rise to a home care industry that provides nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and trained home health aides for those needing help with bathing, dressing and other daily activities. Companions may provide other services, such as transportation and housekeeping, for people with dementia who are in good health but needing supervision. According to the MetLife Survey of Long-Term Care Costs, the average hourly cost of a home health aide in 2012 was $21, while a homemaker rate was $20. The average annual rate for a home health aid was $21,840 and for a homemaker, it was $20,800. However, these costs are based only on four hours a day for five days a week, not on full-time care.

Assisted Living

Assisted living provides the bridge between home care and nursing homes by offering non-medical services for people who can’t live completely independently but who aren’t ready for a nursing home. Residents of assisted living communities can get help with bathing, getting dressed, cooking, housekeeping, transportation, medication supervision and more. As residents age, they may require additional services at additional cost. In 2012, the average base rate for assisted living communities was $3,550 a month, an increase of $73 over the previous year, according to the MetLife survey. The average annual cost was $42,600.

Nursing Home

Nursing homes provide their residents with a private or semi-private room as well as meals, nursing care, medical services and personal care. Patients can require short-term recovery care after hospitalization or long-term care for chronic illnesses. Nursing homes offer assistance with activities of daily living for those with physical limitations or cognitive limits of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. The MetLife survey reports that the average rate for a semi-private room in a nursing home in 2012 was $222 a day, an increase of $8 over the previous year. The rate for a private room was $248 a day, increasing by $9 over 2011. The average annual base rate for a nursing home was $81,030 for a semi-private room and $90,520 for a private room.

Informal Care

Other costs of care for the elderly are seen in financial loss to family members who quit work to care for an aging parent. According to another MetLife study, nearly 10 million people over age 50 are caring for their aging parents by providing personal care and, in many cases, financial help as well. The cost over a lifetime, in terms of lost wages and other financial sources, is nearly $3 trillion. Women who quit their jobs or reduced their working hours to care for an aging parent lost an average of $142,693 in wages. The average total loss for men and women was $304,000, not including other expenses such as traveling and buying needed items.


MSN Money provides a calculator to project annual long-term care costs, based on current age. As an example, a 60-year-old person who expects to need long-term care for five years starting at age 80, and having $50,000 set aside for such care, could expect long-term care expenses of nearly $480,000. MSN Money recommends that the individual save $6,830 every year or buy a long-term care insurance policy.