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Long-term care costs rising

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Posted: 2 pm ET

The cost of nursing home, assisted living and adult day care costs all rose in 2010 from 2009, according to MetLife Mature Market Institute's annual survey, released today. The numbers here are enough to send most people's retirement planning into a tailspin.

Key findings includ:

  • The national average daily rate for a private room in a nursing home is $229 or $83,585 annually, while a semi-private room is $205 or $74,825 annually, up from $219 and $198 respectively in 2009. The lowest rates are in Louisiana and Texas; the highest rates are in Alaska, where it costs $687 for a private room and $610 for a semi-private room.
  • The national average monthly base rate in an assisted living community rose from $3,131 in 2009 to $3,293 or $39,516 annually in 2010.
  • Staying at home and having someone care for you continued to be the most cost-effective approach. The national average hourly rate for home health aides is $21, while homemakers average $19. The daily rate for adult day services was $67. All of these rates were unchanged from 2009.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2009, 68 percent of nursing-home residents were women. The median age of residents was 83 years, with only 16 percent younger than 65. The average length of their stay was 2.4 years. If you multiply the average cost by the average length of stay, you get $173,448 -- more money than most people can spend.

If you're healthier, you might opt for an assisted-living residence. MetLife calculates that nearly 1 million people live in approximately 39,500 assisted living facilities in the U.S.  The average age of an assisted-living resident is 86.9 years old, and the median length of stay in assisted living is also 2.4 years. The average cost multiplied by the average length of stay is a more reasonable $94,838.

The cost of hiring a home health care aide to provide 24-hour care rivals the cost of a nursing home at $504 per day. Multiplied by the 2.4-year average need, that's $441,504, a staggering amount of money. But, of course, many people figure out how to get by with much less.

No matter how you manage long-term care, these are big numbers and most of us would be hard-pressed to pay them without help. Long-term care insurance is obviously worth considering. Aging and illness are almost an inevitable part of retirement. Being prepared to cope is important.

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Scott Pilgrim
October 27, 2010 at 2:25 pm

You are comparing Apples and Oranges. Of course adult day care costs less than 24 hour skilled nursing (unless you count the Social Security - which would go to the facility, the senior housing subsidy, the home health paid by medicare, the adult day care expense, etc, etc, etc). Bunion surgery costs less than heart bypass surgery too. Anyone who could stay in the community for less than it would cost in a nursing home, should do so. But almost all nursing home residents are too frail and ill to do so.

October 27, 2010 at 8:56 am

Adult day cares are a much more cost effective alternative for long term care. The average annual cost for a person to attend an adult day care is one-third of the cost of a nursing home.