Why is assisted living so expensive?

I received an email recently from someone simply asking ‘why is assisted living so expensive?’

***Rent for a private room in an assisted living facility are, on average $3000/mo.   This rent can often-times be much more depending on the services needed, health condition of the resident, location of the facility, and other factors.

Senior paying for assisted living rent

Although this is a highly general question, I thought it was interesting and worth trying to answer.   I have always thought that it was assumed that everyone knows that assisted living is going to cost a lot, but I do think that it often times catches people off-guard once they find out exactly how much it actually can, and does cost.    This is especially true for people and families who don’t do advance planning in terms of having good long-term care insurance, and/or for families who have to pay part of, or all of the cost of care out-of-pocket.

After all, health crises tend to often-times sneak up on us with no warning, and many people and families are faced with the need for assisted living with immediacy – due to perhaps a stroke, an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, or a nasty fall.

As with anything, including assisted living – you get what you pay for.  

Having said that, there are, at times, options for senior care and assisted living that are ‘more affordable’ than others (I am reluctant to use the word ‘cheaper’ as that might imply lesser quality).    In general, if you pay less for assisted living, you’ll probably be getting less in terms of services, amenities and extras.    Care will probably be basic, and staffing ratios (staff to residents) will probably be lesser.   Geographic location in less-expensive facilities may also be less desirable, and safety and health ratings (usually done by the state’s health department or department of aging) might be a little more questionable.

The range of potential costs and expenses is great with assisted living.

In general, an industry ‘anchor’ or benchmark for assisted living costs per month is between $2000 and $5000 per month – depending on who you ask.   In our experience, this seems about right.   However, there are ‘luxury’ or ‘niche’ assisted living facilities that can cost upwards of $10,000 per month or more.     The staffing ratios for these facilities are usually much higher, and these places can often times care for more advanced conditions, or more complex health issues.     The environment might be more like a vacation resort than a senior care business.    These facilities may employ massage therapists, have on-site beauty salons, an on-site movie theater, and each room may have a view of something spectacular like the ocean, or a sweeping canyon, or a beautifully landscaped courtyard with gardens and gazebos.

Regardless of what you pay, assisted living is a matter of life and death, and is a serious business.

Anytime someone is paying for the care and well being for themselves, or a family member – you can expect your wallet to be lighter as a result.   This is not simply a matter of finding an apartment and signing a lease.   This is entrusting a trained, caring and skilled staff of professionals, chefs, security guards, engineers, administrators, owners, contract workers, nurses, caregivers and support staff to make sure that you or your loved-one is not only kept alive, but is comfortable, engaged, stimulated, socially active and genuinely cared for.

Plan ahead!   Assisted Living  may be expensive, but there are ways for you to share the cost, or insure that the cost is covered once you discover that living at home is no longer an option.

More Information