Making the decision to move from your own home into a nursing home is no easy task. It’s a difficult choice – you have to be prepared, both emotionally and financially. And often, it’s a necessary move if your health isn’t in the best shape.
Unfortunately, many seniors and their families aren’t prepared for one aspect of moving into a nursing home: the cost. Nursing homes are very expensive, and SeniorLiving.org reports that they can cost more than assisted living and in-home care¹. So how can you possibly make a nursing home affordable?
Nursing homes are expensive because of the round-the-clock care they provide. When seniors move into a nursing home, they have 24-hour medical care, skilled nurses and medical professionals nearby, and all the comforts of home. And whether you’re planning on making the move a permanent or temporary one, the cost can be shockingly high.
But there are ways to reduce the cost of a nursing home and its care. With different options available for seniors, there are potential ways you may be able to make a nursing home work for your financial situation.
Here are a few ways you may be able to cut costs and afford the price of a nursing home.
Use Your Medicare Coverage for Short-Term Stays
All seniors rely on Medicare as they grow older. And no matter what the specifics of your Medicare plan and coverage are, you may be able to use its basic nursing home care benefits.
Medicare offers limited coverage for nursing home stays. It isn’t meant to help with the cost of long-term or permanent moves into nursing home facilities. However, if you need to stay in a nursing home to recover, you may be able to get that stay covered.
According to Medicare.gov, Medicare will only cover skilled nursing care expenses – and it will only cover those expenses in certain situations². It will not offer coverage for custodial care.
To get your skilled nursing care costs covered, you’ll need to meet these Medicare requirements³:
- Be a Medicare Part A subscriber.
- Have a qualifying hospital stay.
- Have a doctor decide that you need daily skilled care from nursing or therapy staff.
- Stay in a Medicare-certified skilled nursing facility.
- Need this type of care due to a medical condition that required a hospital stay or that was hospital-related.
If you’re able to meet this criteria, you may be able to have some of your daily costs of staying in a skilled nursing facility covered under Medicare.
Apply for Medicaid
If you’re a senior who’s living on a very limited income, you may be able to turn to Medicaid for your nursing home needs. Medicaid is designed for low-income individuals, and it’s available at both the state and federal levels. This means you can check with both your state’s Medicaid program and the national Medicaid program to see if you qualify.
According to PayingForSeniorCare.com, Medicaid is actually the largest single-payer when it comes to nursing home care – Medicaid pays for 45 to 65 percent of all U.S. nursing home costs⁴. And you may be able to take advantage of this if you qualify for Medicaid.
In order to qualify for Medicaid, you’ll need to apply and have your income and financial assets assessed. However, if you do meet Medicaid requirements, 100 percent of your nursing home costs could be covered at a Medicaid-approved facility⁵.
Medicaid can be an excellent program if you’re a senior who can qualify for its benefits. With the bulk, if not all, of your nursing home costs covered under Medicaid, you won’t have to worry about finding the money to pay for your stay in the long- or short-term.
Use Your Veterans’ Benefits
If you served in the U.S. military and qualify for veterans’ benefits, you can turn to the Department of Veterans Affairs (the VA) to get help with nursing home costs.
The VA can provide long-term care services, particularly for any veterans who have service-related disabilities or injuries. You’ll need to receive your care at specific facilities or from certain VA-approved providers, but you can get financial assistance by doing so.
PayingForSeniorCare.com reports that there are two options veterans and their surviving spouses can consider⁶:
- The Aid and Attendance Benefit (or the Improved Pension): This program provides financial assistance to war-time veterans who need assistance with everyday activities.
- State VA Nursing Homes: This option is available for all veterans. If you get care from a VA nursing home, you may pay reduced costs or get financial assistance.
The benefits offered to veterans through the VA can vary from state to state. It’s a good idea to check with your local Department of Veterans Affairs to see what you might qualify for, and what benefits you may be able to take advantage of. There are opportunities to reduce the cost of long-term care, whether it’s in a VA nursing home or another facility.
Consider Long-Term Care Insurance
Long-term care insurance isn’t a type of insurance that people commonly carry. However, for seniors, it can be very beneficial.
If you carry long-term care insurance, you’ll be protected in the event you need to move into a nursing home. You’ll pay a monthly premium for the coverage, and the insurance will then protect you should you need long-term care.
Typically, as PayingForSeniorCare.com explains, there is a triggering event that causes your insurance to kick in⁷. This is often a serious health episode, like a broken hip or stroke, that leads to you needing long-term care.
Once an event like this happens, your long-term care insurance will begin sending you insurance payouts. You can use these payouts to cover any care costs, like nursing home fees or at-home care. It may not cover all of your costs – that depends on the details of the insurance plan you choose. But those monthly payouts can be a tremendous help financially.
Begin Looking Into Nursing Home Options Today
As you grow older, the possibility of requiring nursing home care becomes likely. Before this big decision arrives, it’s a good idea to prepare. Look into your options now, do your research ahead of time, and you can make an informed decision when the time comes.
Paying for a nursing home is often one of the most difficult parts of moving into a care facility. There are options you can turn to if a nursing home is too expensive. You may be able to make it more affordable with options like those mentioned here. It’s up to you to look into these ideas, assess them, and see if you’ll qualify.