How to Pay for Nursing Home Care With Social Security


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Understanding Social Security benefits

Social Security is a leading source of income for older adults between the ages of 60 and 89, making up nearly 50% of their income after retirement.[01] The Social Security Administration has created several programs that benefit seniors, and although the following programs sound similar, they each have specific eligibility requirements.

Social Security benefits are based on a person’s lifetime earnings and are funded by employer and employee contributions. The average monthly Social Security benefit is $1,767.03.[01]

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits were created for low-income adults with disabilities who aren’t eligible for Social Security disability benefits. The average monthly SSI benefit for adults age 65 and older is $1,033.[01]

Some seniors are eligible to receive a combination of Social Security and SSI benefits each month.

While these sums are significant and can help seniors with essential care and living expenses, it’s important to understand how they compare to the costs of senior living communities.

Does Social Security pay for nursing home care?

No, Social Security benefits won’t pay for nursing home expenses in full, but they may cover some care costs.

Nursing homes provide the highest level of round-the-clock care for aging adults. Because they offer a wide range of comprehensive services, from skilled nursing and personal care services to palliative and hospice care, the cost of care is high.

The monthly average for a semi-private room in a nursing home is $7,908, while a private room will cost seniors $9,034.[02] This means Social Security benefits, on average, would only cover about 21% of nursing costs for seniors who opt for a shared room and roughly 18% for those in a solo space. These percentages would drop even further for seniors using SSI benefits alone.


Understanding nursing care services

Nursing homes provide long-term care and housing to aging adults. They also offer medical services to residents, though they’re sometimes provided by third-party companies and not the actual nursing home staff.

Seniors who are seeking short-term care for rehabilitation or recovery often choose skilled nursing services. At a skilled nursing facility, patients can receive professional medical care from doctors, nurses, and therapists. Skilled nursing services may be offered at assisted living and memory care communities, too — which we’ll cover next.

Does Social Security pay for other senior living options?

While Social Security benefits are a reliable source of income for many seniors, these payments typically aren’t enough to fully cover other senior living options, either — even those that cost less than nursing homes, such as assisted living and memory care. Still, Social Security may be used to pay for a portion of the costs.

Explore the services offered by assisted living and memory care communities in comparison to nursing homes, and find out the differences in price to know how much Social Security benefits will cover.


Assisted living

Assisted living communities provide a blend of custodial care like help with activities of daily living, along with basic medical care like medication management, all while fostering and encouraging independence. For seniors who don’t need as much hands-on support as nursing homes offer, assisted living is a great option to consider. Plus, assisted living can cost nearly half what you’d expect to pay for a nursing home.

On average, assisted living facilities cost $4,807 per month.[03]


Memory care

Designed specifically for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, memory care communities offer secure environments and 24-hour support. Professionally trained staff provide dementia therapies and offer mind-enriching activities that can improve a loved one’s quality of life. Seniors with dementia receive focused memory-care attention at these facilities, while nursing homes don’t guarantee similar services.

The national median cost of memory care facilities is $5,995 a month, according to data compiled by A Place for Mom.[03]

Both assisted living and memory care communities can be paid for, in part, by using Social Security and SSI benefits.


Other ways to pay for senior care

After putting Social Security benefits toward care and living costs, seniors will have to offset the full expenses through other payment methods. These typically include state or federal funding, insurance policies, and personal savings. Many seniors and their families adopt a mix-and-match approach to funding care costs, using multiple payment methods to cover expenses.

Explore the following alternative funding options for long-term care:

  • Medicaid. This state-based coverage is an option for low-income seniors, and it can help pay for medical expenses including nursing home care. If a senior qualifies for SSI benefits, they might be eligible for Medicaid, as well.
  • Medicare. If a senior needs short-term support, Medicare can cover temporary nursing home stays. While it also doesn’t cover long-term care like assisted living or memory care, Medicare may pay for certain medical services provided at senior communities.
  • VA benefits. Eligible veterans can apply for financial assistance that covers assisted living, memory care, home care, and even nursing home care.
  • Long-term care insurance or private insurance policies. Reach out to your loved one’s insurance agent to understand what, if any, senior costs are covered by their policy. Many essential medical services are included in senior insurance plans.
  • Retirement funds and personal savings. Seniors often choose to supplement care costs through retirement funds and stocks. They can also pay out of pocket with personal savings.
  • Selling a home or exploring a reverse mortgage. It’s common for seniors to sell their home as they prepare for long-term care. This influx of money can be put toward senior living expenses. Reverse mortgages are a popular loan option to explore if keeping the family home is important to everyone involved in the decision-making process.

Planning ahead for senior care

If nursing home care is right for your senior loved one, it’s a good idea to tour a variety of communities. Ask for an itemized price sheet to get an idea of how much nursing home care will cost and to determine how far your parent’s Social Security benefits will go toward covering the costs.

Maybe you’re simply planning ahead and still considering each of the senior care options available. At no cost to your family, A Place for Mom’s trusted Senior Living Advisors can help talk you through the benefits, services, and costs of home care, independent living, assisted living, and memory care communities. Our experts will work to understand a family’s financial situation and how to approach paying for care when Social Security won’t cover it all.

This article originally appeared on APlaceForMom and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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