For those with a loved one who might need some extra help and living alone no longer seems like the best option, it can be difficult to evaluate whether assisted living or in-home care would be the best option. Whether the need is high, such as assistance with bathing, eating, medication, or the need is low, such as companionship, daily check-ups, or help preparing meals, either care option may be best. Many considerations impact the decision. From access to medical professionals to opportunities for meaningful social interactions, there’s a lot to take into account.
One of the considerations is cost. While no one likes to think that finances should affect the decision of how to provide care for a loved one, the reality is that everyone’s needs should be taken into account, including those of the family members helping with the cost of care.
Let’s explore what factors affect the cost of assisted living versus in-home care, what to consider, and how to calculate the cost for each.
Factors that Affect the Cost of Assisted Living vs. In-Home Care
As you would expect, the cost of care itself is dependent on a variety of factors, including the type of care needed, the type of of medical providers needed, and where you live.
1. Type of Care Needed
In-home care is very flexible when it comes to the type of care that your loved one can receive — you can tailor care precisely as needed. Many assisted living communities also offer a spectrum of care options. One of the biggest impacts on cost is medical care. If your loved one needs access to skilled professionals, the cost will be higher than if he or she simply needs personal care and social services.
If only personal care and social services are needed, in-home care may be more cost-effective, especially if family members are helping to provide some of the services. However, if your loved one needs access to medical care, being in an assisted living community with on-site professionals also serving other residents will allow the higher cost of medical care to be shared.
2. Types of Providers Needed
The cost of skilled professional care is dependent on the types of providers needed. For example, CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) services are less expensive than LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) services, which are less expensive than RN (Registered Nurse) services. “Private duty” CNA, LPN, and RN services are available to provide care in-home, and costs will depend on how much care is needed and how frequently. Again, being in an assisted living community with on-site CNAs, LPNs, and RNs also serving other residents will allow the higher cost of medical care to be shared. If your loved one is in need of intermittent care or you fear they are at risk of falling, localized call-systems and 24-hour staffing allow assisted living communities to provide “as-needed” care much more affordable than in-home care and less intrusive than a Life Alert or 911 call.
3. Where You Live
Location affects pricing as well, for both options. Cost of living and availability of skilled professionals both have an impact. Some locations are more in-demand, creating higher costs, but at the same time, rural areas may have a shortage of skilled professionals, which also drives up costs. Take your time researching and comparing costs before moving forward with a decision.
How to Calculate the Costs for Assisted Living vs. In-Home Care
While many variables affect the cost, in general, if your loved one needs less than 40 hours of paid home care each week, then in-home care will probably (but not always) be less expensive than assisted living. To find out which option is less expensive, you’ll need to run some calculations.
Calculating the Cost of Assisted Living
Determining the cost of assisted living is fairly straightforward. Create a list of your loved one’s needs and then look at the assisted living community options in your local area to see their associated costs. On average, the monthly cost of assisted living is around $3,600, although depending on location, you could pay as little as as $2,500 or as much as $6,000 monthly. Memory care needs raise the cost by another $1,000-$1,500 per month. Many communities offer a free assessment that will give you the exact cost of your loved one’s tailored care.
Calculating the Cost of In-Home Care
The cost of in-home care is more complicated to calculate. You can get a rough estimate by multiplying the number of hours of care needed per month by the average costs of home care in your state.
For a more precise calculation, follow these steps below:
- Estimate how many hours of care your loved one will need per month and then break down the amount into types (medical, personal, companionship).
- Determine who will be providing each type of care. Family and respite volunteers may help to provide personal care and companionship, or you may want to use paid care for all of it. You may also want to consider supplementing with adult day care programs which are less costly than private care. Day care programs are also an ideal opportunity for social interaction. For medical services, you’ll need private duty nursing services and/or other medical providers.
- Find out the cost of each type of care in your area and multiply each hourly rate by the number of hours estimated for each type of care per month. This information may require some digging, or you can use national averages for each type of care in your calculations.
- Add in monthly living expenses. In-home care has associated costs like mortgage or rent payments, food, TV, electricity, and other utilities that would come included in the monthly costs of an assisted living community.
This process will give you a more accurate estimate so you can compare the costs of assisted living vs. in-home care with greater confidence. If you find that the costs are similar in your area for the type and amount of care your loved one needs, you can then focus on other criteria.
If the costs are quite different and your family’s resources are limited, please know that quality of life can be found in both. If you need to rely on in-home care, you can get creative with ways to help meet your loved one’s social needs, for example. On the other hand, if assisted living is more affordable but your loved one wants to remain with family, there are many ways to make family a part of the assisted living community experience.