If you live long enough, the odds that you'll need long-term care at some point become quite high. Few people base their retirement plans on an early death, which means you'll need to prepare for this eventuality. Here are some of the different kinds of long-term care that you can choose from based on your circumstances.
Adult day services
These facilities take senior centers to the next level. Adult day service centers give seniors who need assistance and/or supervision a place to socialize, enjoy games and other activities, and generally get out of the house while still receiving the care they need. These services generally include transportation to and from the center and meals while the senior is there. For seniors living with adult children or other caretakers, such centers also give those caretakers a well-deserved break. The activities at adult day services often focus on mental stimulation and light exercise to improve seniors' physical and mental health. Adult day services generally cost around $70 per day, although rates vary widely.
Someone who just needs help with the basic activities of daily living (e.g., bathing, dressing, and eating) can often get by with a home care aide. These aides generally aren't trained medical personnel, but most work for agencies specializing in custodial care and may be supervised by a licensed nurse.
Custodial care generally involves help with basic daily activities, including housework and meal preparation. For someone without significant medical issues, custodial care may be the best (and cheapest) option. Custodial care agencies charge around $20 per hour on average, according to the American Elder Care Research Organization (AECRO). Individuals not affiliated with an agency may be cheaper, but they may also be less qualified.
Home health aides
If you need more than help with household chores, a home health aide might be your best option. Home health aides generally aren't nurses, but they have received formal training in basic health services like giving medication, changing dressings, and the like, and they have also passed a competency test. These aides allow seniors with ongoing health issues to stay at home instead of moving into a nursing home or other facility. Home health aides charge slightly higher rates than aides that provide only custodial care; the nationwide average is around $20.50 per hour, according to AECRO.
Medical conditions like cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and kidney disease can bring painful and unpleasant symptoms. Palliative care is focused on relieving those symptoms and enabling patients to live reasonably comfortable lives.
Palliative care teams generally consist of one or more doctors and nurses who are specially trained in providing this kind of care. Some teams will provide care at your home; in other cases, you may need to go to an outpatient center or a hospital to receive care. Because palliative care is considered a medical treatment, Medicare and Medicaid will both cover at least some of the costs. As a result, the cost will vary hugely depending on the type of health insurance you have. If you're entirely without health insurance coverage, expect to pay several thousand dollars a month for such care.
Skilled nursing facility (SNF)
A skilled nursing facility, aka a nursing home, is often the last stop for long-term care patients. Nursing homes are the best choice for someone who needs around-the-clock monitoring and immediate access to medical care. Unfortunately, nursing homes are also the most expensive long-term care option: The 2016 Genworth Cost of Care Survey found that a semiprivate room in a nursing home cost an average of $6,844 per month.
While a nursing home may become necessary eventually, stick to less extreme -- and cheaper -- forms of long-term care as long as possible. Choosing the long-term care option that's the best fit for your condition will not only spare your wallet, but allow you to remain independent and at home as long as possible.