Assisted Living vs. Home Care: How to Decide What’s Right for You

Last Updated: July 8, 2019

When you, a parent or spouse is ready for more care, it’s important to consider all of your senior care options — and to decide whether you want that care in an assisted living community or in your own home.Assisted Living vs. Home Care

This is a lot to consider, so we’ve put together a list of six things to factor into your assisted living vs. home care decision. Read through these tips:

1. Do you have help close by?

If you have caregivers, family or friends nearby to help you, staying at home may be a fine choice. If your family lives too far away to help on the spur of the moment, it may be safer and less stressful to rely on the 24/7 on-call help in assisted living.

2. How much does home upkeep cost you?

Even if your mortgage is paid off, home maintenance is an ongoing expense. To do a valid cost comparison between assisted living vs. home care, add up the yearly expenses to maintain your home (appliance replacement, lawn care, roof repairs and septic tank maintenance, for example). Include the cost of safety upgrades like grab bars, a ramp or a stair lift. Add that number to the cost of live-in care and compare that total to assisted living rates in your area.

3. How much help do you need?

On average, you’ll have someone at home 44 hours a week, year-round. If you need someone for fewer hours, in-home help may be a better deal than assisted living. If you need more care, or if full-time care is more expensive than assisted living in your area, assisted living might save you money.

4. What’s the quality of your options?

Try out a few home care services and visit several assisted living communities before you decide. Lower cost doesn’t necessarily mean better value. Look for assisted living and home care services with great customer reviews and low staff turnover rates, and think about how well they will serve your particular needs.

5. What’s your ideal social life?

For some people, seeing familiar neighbors, hosting family and friends, and enjoying peace and quiet at home is ideal. For others, meeting new people and participating in assisted living social activities is a great mood boost.

6. Which costs less, assisted living or home care?

The cost is roughly the same in many parts of the country, according to the most recent Genworth Cost of Care survey. The national median assisted living cost is $43,200 per year; homemaker services cost $44,000 and home health assistance, $45,700. But there are some big differences by state. The home care numbers are based on full-time care services (it becomes a lot less expensive if you only need a home caregiver for a few hours a week, as we explain in the next section). You can click here to see assisted living rates for your state as well.

Finally, there are factors that are harder to fit into a checklist, but they matter a lot. One is what your loved ones are telling you (or are hesitating to tell you). If they’re truly worried that living at home is no longer safe and can’t be made safe, that’s a big sign it’s time to move. The other is how much staying in your home means to you. If it’s the key to your happiness and your family supports the idea, it can be worth the effort and money to make it work.

For free expert help navigating your options, please call (866) 592-8119 to be connected with a local Senior Care Advisor.

Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelance writer whose childhood was made awesome by her grandmothers, great-grandmother, great-aunts and -uncles, and their friends.

7 Comments

  1. Comfort Keepers November 2, 2016 Reply

    Nice informative sharing about adviser for home care.

  2. MikeA December 21, 2017 Reply

    My 91 year old mother has been in two assisted living communities. This is what I learned:

    1. Assisted living communities will bait you with a low rate, so you think it’s more cost effective than homecare. Then, once you pay the huge “get-in” fee along with the first months rate, they will change their evaluation (even thought they will do a thorough evaluation before admittance) to increase the level of care (whether it is needed or not) and boost up your rates. Here’s what I’ve experienced:
    Assisted Living Community #1: Year-1: $4,500/month, Year-2: $5,500/month, Year-3: $6,500/month, Year 4: $8,500/month
    Assisted Living Community #2: Month-1: $7,500/month, Month-2: $9,500/month.
    These cost are above the average 12-25% annual increase (they will tell you that it is 3-6 percent before moving in, then they will say that their corporate office changed it) – this has happened at both locations

    The extra care they charged me for was nothing that really should have been charged. Basically, my mother is in excellent physical condition (she goes up stairs, uses no walker or cane, and still wears high heels). So what’ the care they boosted my rates thousands of dollars for? Reminding her to shower (not showering her, but simply reminding her. Reminder her to go to her meals. Reminder her to change into fresh clothes. That’s it!

    I left the first facility, because when I would visit, I discovered that they weren’t providing these services and simply listed them so we can be charged. She wasn’t being reminded to go to meals or to shower. On the positive side, she was being reminded to change into fresh clothes. The second place evaluated her thoroughly and said we would save money (her funds are running out). Then they immediately boosted us up to the $9,500/month mark. Funny thing is that I discovered this place was worse than the first in not providing the care they were charging us for. Worse yet, they didn’t clean the rooms or make the beds like the old place. I also told them that my mother likes to stay up until 11PM with other residence in the common room and watch TV. They said she would be right at home at the new place. Well, I move her in to discover that they lied. There is no common room with a TV (something I specifically asked about). I also discovered that they shut the doors and put everyone to bet between 8PM – 9PM. The eating area also fills up with no seats to be had, and the food is slop. There is also no activities director and most residents (with the exception of a once a month movie trip and an occasional day trip) stay in their rooms or fall asleep in the common area where there is nothing to do. Shortly after I moved her in, I was there one night and commented to a caregiver that they really sell you a bill of goods. Her reply was “wow, you found that out early.” Also a third party personal assistant (who accompanies a resident there) told me that being in the industry, all assisted living is a rip-off.

    Bottom line is that assisted living facilities are crooks and liars. Their only goal is to bait you into putting your loved on there so they can find ways to drain their funds as fast as possible and then turn over the room to someone new. If you simply want to throw away your loved one, then this (I guess) is fine. If you are like me and visit your loved one multiple times a week, then you will see that your loved one is not getting the level of care for which they are paying.

    I’m now in process of moving my mother close to me with the following safeguards. This will save her approx. $30,000/year over the ridiculously high costs of assisted living. This will also allow me to control both the costs and the care to assure that my mother is being taken care of. Will use a sensor camera with app that rings my phone and has two way communications if she walks out of the apartment while caregiving is not there. If she doesn’t go in, then I simply walk a block up to get her myself.

    Apartment next to mine: $1,825/month
    Electric: $ 50/month
    Caregiver (9-5, 7 days) $4,500/month
    TOTAL: $6,375/month

    Verses assisted living at $9,500/month (set to go up to $10,600/month the next year)

  3. Mark Murphy December 17, 2018 Reply

    I really appreciate your tip on how it can be less stressful when you get 24/7 care for your loved ones. My wife and I have been thinking of getting my mother some live-in help ever since my father died. I will be sure to look into getting 24/7 care so we won’t have to worry.

  4. Joni Bradford July 17, 2019 Reply

    My mother and disabled sister both lived with me for many years. They were both in the same assisted living community for a while, which turned into a nightmare that I won’t go into, then a board and care home where they were verbally and emotionally abused. Then they were back in my home again until their care needs became too great. My mother is now in a skilled nursing facility (mostly paid by Medicaid), and my sister is in a board and care which seems to be working out. I get very upset when I see how badly our aging and disabled population is frequently treated. Our elected officials don’t seem to be addressing the problems at hand, and costs just continue to soar. Where will we be in twenty years?

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