Understanding Senior Living Costs


Understanding Senior Living Costs

With such a wide range of senior living choices available at varying price points, it can be quite difficult to pinpoint the ideal option within your budget. To make the best decision possible, it is essential that you recognize the different costs associated with senior living care.

Examining Your Senior Living Needs

When evaluating the cost of senior living care, the first step is determining what type of senior living will meet the level of care you or your loved one requires. There are various senior care options available, to include:

Generally, in-home care can be more expensive overall than assisted living. However, assisted living costs can vary based on many factors, such as the level of care, community amenities, and suite/apartment type. According to Genworth's 2020 Cost of Care Survey, the average cost of assisted living nationally is $4,300 per month ($51,600 per year), while the average cost of assisted living in Virginia is $4,850 per month ($58,200 per year). Similar to residential housing, senior living costs are largely impacted by geography, as certain regions have a higher or lower cost of living. Your local Senior Living Expert can advise you on the senior living rates in your area.

Additional Senior Living Costs

When examining senior living options, it is important to understand the following:

  • Pricing structure. A majority of senior living communities have a baseline fee for their suites/apartments, and offer separate add-on rates for care services, with tiered pricing that correspond to different levels of care. As a result, the overall cost of residing in a senior living community grows as the level of care increases. While this “a la carte” based pricing model is popular with many communities, there are also some that offer all-inclusive services or charge on a fee-for-service basis.
  • Lease period. Most senior living communities charge their residents on a monthly basis, but there are also communities that offer long-term leasing options.
  • Supplementary fees. The standard rate for senior living generally covers the suite/apartment, meals, housekeeping, activities, and on-site care. Yet, some senior living communities also apply additional charges to cover deposits, entrance fees, pets, and some auxiliary services, including cable, laundry, pet care, and transportation.

Establishing Your Budget

Most residents and/or their families are financially responsible for the cost of senior living care through private pay methods. However, there are also private Long-Term Care Insurance and federal/state-sponsored programs that can cover all or a portion of senior living costs. Some senior living communities also offer “spend down” options that allow residents to use private pay methods to cover their senior living costs until their private financial resources are exhausted; they would then transition to state-sponsored Medicaid to cover the cost of their senior living care. Yet, these rules can differ state-to-state, so please contact your local Senior Living Expert for more information about pay options in your area.

Determining What You Can Afford

When evaluating what you can afford for senior living care, it’s a good idea to start with your current monthly living expenses, as detailed in the table below. Generally, the daily living expenses of senior living residents are covered by their community living fee, so most out-of-pocket costs relate to amenity services, such as shopping, entertainment, enhanced cable/internet, non-medical transportation, and other conveniences.

Personal Living Expense
Monthly Cost
Mortgage or Rent
Property Taxes
Home Insurance
Cable Service/Internet
Leisure Events/Activities
Personal Aid/Care
Other expenses
Total Living Expenses

Financial Assistance Options

We all want the very best in senior living care for our loved ones, but it is common for budget constraints to limit a family’s ability to pay for those high-end senior living communities. However, a limited budget does not always mean appropriate senior living care is totally unattainable. There are various government programs designed to help subsidize the cost of senior living for eligible adults. Some of those programs include the following:

  • Medicaid. Medicaid is a joint federal and state program that provides health-care support to eligible lower-income U.S. citizens. This benefits program is the largest contributor to room and board medical care, and social activities in nursing homes. Many state Medicaid programs also pay for assisted living care services. Additionally, with the Assisted Living Housing Waiver, eligible low-income individuals can opt for care services in a community-based location instead of a nursing home. Click here for more information on Virginia’s Medicaid program.
  • Medicare. Medicare is a federal program that provides health insurance to eligible U.S. citizens. While senior living care services are not covered under Medicare A or B benefits, Medicare A (hospital insurance) may cover costs associated with inpatient care in a hospital, inpatient care in a skilled nursing facility, home health care, hospice care, and inpatient care in a religious non-medical health care institution. Click here for more information on Virginia’s Medicare program.
  • Veterans Benefits. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides Aid and Attendance benefits as well as Housebound allowances, which provide monthly senior care allowances in addition to the monthly VA pension amount received by qualified Veterans and their survivors. Click here for more information on the VA's Aid and Attendance benefits and Housebound allowances. The VA also provides Geriatrics and Extended Care benefits to support long-term care services for qualified Veterans and their survivors. Click here for more information on the VA's Geriatrics and Extended Care benefits.
  • Housing Subsidies. Seniors with annual income under $12,000 may qualify for housing programs administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, to include Section 202 (Supportive Housing For The Elderly Program), Section 8 (Housing Choice Voucher Program), and Section 811 (Supportive Housing For Persons With Disabilities). These types of housing subsidy programs can help pay for the cost of residing in a senior living community.
  • Long-Term Care Insurance (LTCI). LTCI is an insurance product that helps cover the cost of long-term care services, like assisted living and memory care. LTCI provides coverage for care services that are typically excluded by health insurance, Medicaid, and Medicare. Moreover, in specific circumstances, an in-force life insurance policy can include a long-term care rider, or it can be converted into a long-term care insurance product.

For more information or no-cost assistance with independent living, assisted living, memory care, or other senior living options in Northern Virginia’s Prince William County, Fairfax County, Loudoun County, Arlington County, or Alexandria, please call our local elder care experts today at (703) 878-7870 or contact us via e-mail.