Selecting The Right Senior Housing For Your Parents


Learn more about in-home care, assisted living facilities and nursing homes to help determine the right housing option for your aging parents.

Watching our parents decline in health can be hard enough, but having to decide the level of care they need, the cost of that care and the best way to deliver it can be nearly impossible. Most seniors want to retain their independence and live in their homes for as long as possible. Some need a little more assistance and some need more intensive care. Here’s a look at three housing options for your aging parents: in-home care, assisted living facilities and nursing homes.

In-home senior care

The ability to stay in their home is often very important to seniors; their home is familiar, comfortable and full of memories, which can often help with emotional well-being. In-home care ranges from simple companionship (taking walks, getting groceries) to personal care (bathing, grooming) to specialized care (activities for those with dementia, supporting the family through end-of-life care).

Typically these services are charged by the hour or day, averaging $19/hour and $152/day—which can quickly add up, depending on type of care provided and how often it is needed. Also, there are no federal regulations around in-home care agencies or independent in-home health aides. Many states do require accreditation and licensing, but the requirements can vary.

Before making the choice to work with an in-home care provider, be sure to research the company or individual, understand certification requirements and training, and calculate the cost of the care that will be needed.

Assisted living facilities

Assisted living facilities afford a level of independence, while also providing a level of care and monitoring that is often more affordable than round-the-clock in-home care. And, should additional health assistance be needed, most assisted living facilities are able to provide extra care—to a point.

Residents who are able to live somewhat independently can begin with basic services like cleaning, transportation and meals. This basic level of services can vary with each facility, but be aware that once your loved one needs additional services, they’ll need to pay an additional cost.

On average, you can expect to pay around $3,000 a month; although, some of this cost may be covered by Medicaid depending on the facility and your state. Don’t assume, however, that the listed price is the set price—there’s always opportunity for negotiation, especially if the facility has a high vacancy rate.

Also be aware that few government regulations exist around these facilities and the staff may not be able to continue helping your loved one as their health needs increase. Before selecting a facility, be sure to talk with residents, sample meals, check with the Better Business Bureau, ask for a record of violations or fines, and have contracts reviewed by an elder law attorney.


Nursing home facilities

When your parents need more care than can be provided at home or at an assisted living facility, a nursing home is likely the best option. Nursing home ratings are easy to find and review (check out and most accept Medicare and Medicaid—which can be a relief as nursing home costs can range from $50,000 to $200,000 a year.

Not all nursing homes accept Medicaid, however, and some that do may only allocate a limited number of beds for those with Medicaid. So, you’ll need to do your research.

What else to look for? In addition to the suggestions for reviewing assisted living facilities, talk with staff (not management) to determine the staff-to-resident ratio (the national average is one registered nurse for every 15 residents), ask for the latest inspection results, talk with geriatric care managers or your local Area Agency on Aging, and be sure the home is accredited by The Joint Commission.

This article contains general information. Individual situations are unique.

Source: SmartMoney, A Place For Mom,, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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