It didn’t get as much press coverage as it usually does, thanks to some enormous competing headlines–in fact, as The Wall Street Journal’s Kelly Greene pointed out, its release date was postponed by Hurricane Sandy. But the MetLife Mature Market Institute has now published its annual survey of nursing home, assisted living, and other elder-care costs, and, as always, it’s valuable reading for anyone who’s nearing their own retirement, or helping older relatives navigate theirs. Here are a few points worth pondering:Reuters
Where you live matters. Nationwide, the average rate charged for a private room in a nursing home is $248 a day, or $90,520 a year. But there’s a wide geographic range, with costs running parallel the broader cost of living in each state. That room costs $406 a day in ritzy Connecticut (and a bonkers-high $687 a day in Alaska, though I suspect that’s a matter of a small sample size); down on the bayou in Louisiana, it’s $157 a day (still about $57,000 a year). MetLife also helpfully breaks out numbers for various communities in some states, which is illuminating: In California, for example, nursing home costs are outrageously high in the San Francisco Bay Area, but stick close to the national average in Los Angeles and San Diego. Expect to see some articles about whether it’s worth it to relocate your parents from New Jersey to, say, Arkansas or North Dakota to keep costs down; then consider actually asking your parents to do that, and go back to browsing the sports section.
Increase your care, double your costs. Nationwide, the average cost for twenty hours a week of in-home care from a home-health aide adds up to $21,840 a year; the average cost for a year in assisted living is $42,600; the average cost for a year in a private nursing home room is the aforementioned $90,520.
Alzheimer’s can cost extra. MetLife’s survey breaks out separate national cost averages for Alzheimer’s and dementia care, and some interesting figures emerge here, too. Only about 20% of nursing homes in the survey charge extra for such care, but about 61% of assisted-living facilities do (which makes some sense, since assisted-living homes assume a greater degree of independence for the resident). At a nursing home, the additional care increases the cost by about 5%; at an assisted living facility, it’s a much heftier surcharge – about 35%.
How long will you stay? For most families, elder-care costs aren’t eternal. As my colleague Elizabeth O’Brien reported earlier this month, fewer than half of the nation’s current 65-year-olds will eventually need nursing home care for some length of time, and only 9% will need it for five years or more. But of course, which percentile you or your parents will fall into isn’t exactly predictable.
This is an updated version of an article that originally ran on Encore on November 16, 2012.