Nursing homes provide intensive, 24/7 skilled nursing care and medical support. Those costs add up quickly, right? Few people have a limitless pot of gold at their disposal, so how might you best prepare to pay for nursing home expenses, whether it’s for your own care or the care of your loved ones?
Before you begin planning a strategy for paying for nursing home services, you first need to know about how much these services might cost and for how long you might need to support cost of care.
Monthly nursing home costs can run anywhere from a few thousand dollars a month to many thousands. Geographic location, cost of living, level of care needed, and nursing home quality all figure prominently in the bottom line.
The average nursing home will cost $67,000 per year, give or take.*
Most people stay an average 2.5 years in a nursing home.**
Consider the possible options for paying the nursing home bill. Here are the most common solutions people assume they have available to them. Unfortunately, unless you’ve planned ahead, few of these are going to offer the magic bullet:
- Long-term care insurance, provided you have taken out a policy, early enough, can certainly help. Consider it well before long-term care or nursing home expenses are needed. You’ll see the ads on late night TV. Problem is most people don’t plan for this type of personal insurance plan since the best strategy is to take out coverage well before you need this type of “later life” or elder care. Learn everything you can about long-term care plans before you purchase.
- Veteran’s benefits apply if the patient is a veteran. State VA benefits are complicated by many eligibility requirements including income, disability or medical condition, and other factors, so contact your state Veteran’s Administration directly. However, it’s fair to consider the fact that even if you are eligible for some VA money, it may still not cover all the monthly cost for a nursing home–considering that most nursing homes cost an average of $5,580 per month (based on the annual figure above). VA nursing homes and long term care facilities exist, but again, have stiff eligibility requirements you must consider well in advance.
- Medicare. One of the biggest mistakes made in planning for long-term care is the assumption that Medicare will cover these costs. To qualify for Medicare coverage you need to come to a nursing home directly from a hospital stay and coverage is limited. Visit Medicare.gov to learn more.
- Medicaid coverage is available to people with outstanding financial problems and low income. In some of these cases here is a viable solution for helping pay the nursing home bill. But these funds may be very limited, affecting your ability to choose a quality nursing home.
- Personal funds are one of the most common ways in which people pay their nursing home bills. This is why many patients lose their homes and livelihoods—to pay for costs for care.
Best advice: Consult a lawyer specialized in long-term nursing home care. He or she can help advise you on your legal rights as well as give you financial guidance and advice. There may also be valuable tax tips that can help you recoup some of your care expenses.
* USAToday.com, Fewer Seniors Live in Nursing Homes, http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/census/2007-09-27-nursing-homes_N.htm
** U.S. Census Bureau, Top Ten Considerations When Purchasing Long Term Care Insurance, http://www.census.gov/hrd/www/benefits/topten.html