The Cost of Caring for an Elderly Parent

Taking care of an elderly parent on top of your own family responsibilities can be as time consuming and exhausting as it is expensive. To help manage, have open conversations early on about how your parent wants to spend his or her golden years — and what you can contribute in time and money — and carefully weigh all of the options together.

As your parents begin to age, here are a few key elder care costs to consider and tips to help you proactively provide for your aging parent without breaking your budget.

Health Care Costs for the Elderly

Elder care is difficult to plan for because costs vary depending on specific health issues, says Joe Buckheit, CEO of, an online forum and resource center for caregivers. “There really is no one-size-fits-all,” he says. For example, more than 78 percent of family caregivers incur some form of out-of-pocket expense, according to AARP’s 2016 Family Caregiving and Out-of-Pocket Costs Report. And when it comes to total expenses, family caregivers roughly spend an average of $6,954 annually.

Long-term insurance policies also are not a one-size-fits-all. They differ on benefits and coverage. If your loved one has an insurance policy, understand what expenses will be covered and what expenses will be out-of-pocket.

When considering health care options, find out whether your parent is or will be eligible for Medicare and Medicaid and how these benefits programs may help offset costs. For example, Medicare may only pay for up to 100 days of skilled nursing home care. This benefit applies only if the elderly person has had a minimum three-day hospital stay and is then transferred to a nursing care facility.

On the other hand, Medicaid will pay for nursing home care only if the elderly person meets certain financial requirements determined by each state’s plan and vary depending on whether the person is single or married.

Assisted Living Costs for the Elderly

While housing and/or assisted living costs may vary based on Medicaid assistance, the type of services required, and other factors, the average cost of living in a private, one-bedroom assisted living facility in the United States is $3,750 per month, according to the Genworth Cost of Care Survey; the national median rate for in-home care is $22 per hour.

If your parent owns his or her own home, one option for paying for assisted living is for him or her to sell or rent it.

In addition to help from Medicare and/or Medicaid, if your loved one has an annual income of less than 50 percent of your area’s median income, adjusted for household size, he or she might qualify for Department of Housing and Urban Development 202 and Section 8 senior housing.

Accessibility Costs for the Elderly

If your aging parent stays at home — in addition to budgeting for mortgage payments, annual taxes, insurance, maintenance, and lawn care — you may need to retrofit parts of the house to make it more accessible. This could be as simple as moving his or her bedroom to the first floor, but it could also require building entrance ramps and making bathrooms handicap accessible.

To help manage the costs, some organizations like Meals on Wheels may offer minor home improvement services free of charge. According to Joseph Guy, director of home repair services at Meals on Wheels Atlanta, the organization is “about one of 15 Meals on Wheels organizations nationwide that offer home repair services.”

“We focus on minor repairs, such as replacing toilets and faucets, to ensure that the resident has safe and usable access to bathroom, kitchen, living, and sleeping areas. Our aim is to keep the senior in their own home for as long as possible.”

Daily Expenses for the Elderly

Living at home requires budgeting for utilities, groceries, and transportation, especially a reliable ride to and from doctors’ appointments.

Meals on Wheels is probably most well-known for its daily meal program, which delivers hot meals to residents 60 and over for as little as $6 per meal, with the option of choosing a regular or therapeutic meal for residents with diabetes, difficulty chewing, kidney-related diet restrictions, low-sodium or vegetarian diets. Additionally, some Meals on Wheels centers offer adult day services that include meals, activities, and home repair programs.

Alternately, you might save money by buying food in bulk for the whole family and bringing meals to your parent — rather than buying food for his or her home that might go bad with only one person is eating it.

Elderly Care Assistance Programs

Buckheit says it’s never too early to look into assistance programs for which your parent may qualify. Veterans Affairs offers assistance to veterans and surviving spouses, for example.

“Other programs are localized at the state or county level, so look for programs in your specific area,” he says.

Your local Area Agency on Aging, sometimes called the Department of Elder Affairs or the Office for Senior Citizens, can connect you with resources. Find the nearest office at

Discussing these costs and concerns with your aging parent early, and creating a plan together, will help him or her make a choice he or she will feel comfortable with when changes need to be made down the line.

Read more to help determine what level of care your elderly parent needs and consider the cost of housing for your loved one.


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