The Cost of a Nursing Home in 2021
- Nursing home care is an important part of care and recovery for older adults. Learn about the cost of a nursing home and plan your recovery in advance.
Nursing home care is a link in the chain of recovery for many seniors with chronic or disabling medical conditions. Skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) are inpatient treatment centers where residents receive around-the-clock nursing care for health needs they can’t manage at home. Unfortunately, many seniors arrive at a SNF unprepared for the cost of a nursing home, which can limit their care options and may result in having to leave the facility before they are fully recovered. Planning ahead for nursing care helps ensure you get the treatment you need to recover from an operation or serious injury, or to manage a chronic health condition with the best care possible.
The Cost of a Nursing Home in 2021
Nursing home care in the United States costs an average of $7,756 a month for a shared room and $8,821 for a private one, according to Genworth Financial’s 2020 Cost of Care Survey. This survey takes into account cost data from all 50 states and analyzes the average price for care in major cities across the country. The figures are updated annually to keep track of year-over-year changes in the cost of a nursing home. Genworth’s numbers are also available for other levels of senior care, such as in-home health services and assisted living.
What Is a Nursing Home?
Nursing homes are residential treatment options for people who need 24/7 nursing care, but whose conditions allow them to leave the hospital. This arrangement is ideal for many people during their initial recovery from surgery or a serious injury. During their stay, many SNF residents get physical, occupational and mental health therapy to adjust to life with a disability, or to recover from their condition with professional assistance.
Nursing homes are also frequently chosen by seniors with permanent limitations that make living alone too difficult or dangerous. When age-related conditions make other types of senior living impossible, the community of long-term residents at skilled nursing care homes can be an excellent choice for many seniors.
How Are Nursing Homes Different from Other Senior Living Arrangements?
Nursing care homes occupy a special place in senior living arrangements. In terms of the care they offer, most SNFs fall close to the middle of living options. Other options for senior living are:
- Independent living in a senior community: This is just like having an apartment, except the complex is usually limited to adults aged 55 and over.
- Assisted living: There are varying degrees of assisted living care, but it can include an in-home caregiver to help residents with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing and other personal care needs.
- Residential or group home living: This senior living option is usually similar to having a family of other seniors living with you in a house, but with a group home attendant who can help with medication and other needs.
Skilled nursing falls somewhat higher than these living arrangements for how intensive and medically oriented the care they offer is.
Beyond the SNF, residents with advanced forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease or Huntington’s chorea, may do best in a dedicated memory care facility, or a senior living community where memory care is offered.
Hospice care is usually intended for people with end-stage illnesses, and the care they provide is primarily focused on improving residents’ physical and spiritual comfort.
What Are Some Alternatives to Nursing Home Care?
Seniors who need regular nursing care, but who are generally independent otherwise, may choose to live at home and get periodic home visits from a nurse. This is generally less expensive than full-time care options, and the familiar environment of home may be more comfortable for seniors. Some people even make use of nursing homes as outpatient treatment centers, visiting during the day for therapy and returning home at night to sleep. These options can significantly reduce the cost of a nursing home for many people.
Does Medicare Pay for the Cost of a Nursing Home?
Medicare does pay for up to 100 days of nursing home care, though this benefit does not cover all of the cost of a nursing home stay. Here's how it works if you have Original Medicare:
- Your Part A benefit covers up to 20 days of inpatient nursing care free, provided you need some nursing services and not just custodial supervision.
- For a stay that lasts between 21 and 100 days, you must pay a daily rate that in 2021 costs $185.50.
Thus, a 30-day stay in a SNF is free for Part A beneficiaries for the first 10 days, but costs $3,710 (20 x 185.50 = $3,710) for the remainder of your stay. After 100 days of nursing home care in a benefit period, you are responsible for all costs.
Other Ways to Pay
Medicaid helps pay for nursing home care for eligible residents, provided they have a medical need for nursing home care and no other way to pay for it. This care is provided at whatever share of cost your state Medicaid provider has assigned you. Be aware that many states seek to recover their Medicaid costs from your estate if you pass away after using the program to pay the cost of a nursing home.
Your private insurance policy might include a nursing home benefit. If you expect to be admitted to a SNF soon, call a plan representative and ask about pre-authorization of benefits. This may help you plan for the total cost of a nursing home.
What kinds of care do nursing homes offer?
Nursing homes primarily offer 24/7 nursing services to residents who need them. This includes personal care, medication management and blood draws. RNs at nursing homes can generally do anything nurses do in hospitals, though the facility might not be set up for some medical procedures. In addition to nursing care, SNF residents often get occupational and physical therapy. Some SNFs also offer hospice care for people with end-stage illnesses.
How long do people stay in nursing homes?
The length of time people stay in a nursing home is largely determined by how long they need care. Stays of a few weeks or months are very typical, though some people recover enough to go home in less time and others stay for much longer.
Do doctors work at nursing homes?
Most states require a full-time physician to at least be available for consultations at licensed nursing homes. Some SNFs have a doctor on-site every day, while others keep an MD on call.