Is Home Health Care Cheaper Than Nursing Home?

Whether you’re assessing a nursing home or assisted living facility for yourself or an elderly loved one, there comes a time when you’ll start asking yourself: what would be the best place for me and my spouse or partner.

Choosing between aging in place with home care and taking the bold step of moving into a nursing home is never an easy decision.

Nursing Home

There are many seniors who do not want to leave their homes but there are a lot of senior adults who insist on 24/7 access to medical care and the skilled nursing services that are provided in nursing homes.

Also, you have to take in aspects like you and your spouse’s personal preferences, your loved one’s health condition, the amount of professional care needed, proximity to family members, and, of course, the amount of retirement savings, cost of living, ltc insurance, etc are the financial matters that come into play.

Once elderly seniors start considering their retirement options, the one question that they ponder over the most is ‘Is home care cheaper than a nursing home?”

You need to know that there are a number of factors that need to be taken into account before you settle between home health care or a nursing home.

Before we answer this question, we want to tell you that this decision cannot be made solely on the basis of mathematical figures alone. While home care is widely seen as a cheaper option, several variables can easily change this equation.

So is home care cheaper than a nursing home? Simply put, we have to say ‘Yes’.

Now, allow us to elaborate on how the math works out.

Are you an older adult who is fairly in good health? What we are saying is that Home care can be cheaper than a nursing home but only if the senior requires 40 hours or less per week of paid home care. So if you only the services of a health aide for 8 hours a day, home health care may suit you well.

On the other hand, if you require skilled nursing care around-the-clock, then a nursing home can become the cheaper alternative.

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Keep in mind that you need to evaluate factors like you and your accompanying older adult‘s health conditions, whether you are a homeowner or renter, and the geographical location, as these can easily affect your decision.

In this article, Team HelpandWellness will discuss the differences between home care and nursing care, how much they cost, various payment options, and the pros and cons of each. At the end of this read, you’ll hopefully be in a much better position to make the best choice for yourself or your loved one.

  • First, we are going to outline three major considerations that need to be accounted for while making this decision.
  • Secondly, we will examine the pros and cons of staying at home or moving to a nursing facility.

Now, moving on to the three major decisions:

1. Ease of Access to Medical Care

In-Home Care:

The most important question to evaluate is how much medical care you will need. Sure, home health aide is always a possibility, but would you need it if your nursing care requirements are limited?

You can easily get in touch with agencies that provide a range of services to an older adult. These include care needs like assistance with personal care; from daily chores of cooking meals, taking medication, grooming, etc, to providing companionship, to more intensive medical care.

Nurse assisting her patient's lunch

You can even arrange for a skilled practitioner for physical therapy and occupational therapy to come to the house to provide therapy on a regular basis.

Care services can range from a few times a week, to daily, or even overnight. If you are looking for palliative care where you can have someone coming to stay with you and your beloved older adult for several hours to allow a caregiver personal time to run errands, make appointments, or just take a break, agencies can help with that too.

Setting up a care provider in an in-home care arrangement would be substantially more expensive than care in an assisted living facility or adult daycare, but there are pros and cons to both choices.

Nursing Home:

If you are an older adult who may need medical care at any moment and benefits from having a registered nurse close by to monitor, you could definitely consider moving to a nursing home.

Nursing homes offer 24/7 care options for you and your loved one. It is the most convenient way to ensure you always have immediate access to a registered nurse, skilled nursing assistant, and long term care.

senior woman with nurse staff

If you do have the need for close supervision, the next step is to review what a potential nursing home facility offers, since they widely differ in quality and services offered. You also need to assess the quality and the home care cost, including your long term insurance plan and health insurance coverage.

You also need to check whether the nursing home provides an additional range of care options, like allowing residents to move around the facility for medical reasons.

For example, in case you need to heal from knee surgery, would you have the option to move into the facility’s rehab wing for the next six weeks or so, and then return to your permanent room once you have recovered?

If so, that would be a great option as with old age you need to factor in the possibility of such situations arising at unexpected moments.

2. Familiarity of Surroundings

In-Home Care:

Guaranteed, as an older adult who spent the majority of your lifetime at home and has created so many memories and where you are familiar with the location of all necessities, furniture, light switches, and restrooms, moving to an assisted living facility or nursing home can be a daunting thought.

If your main worry is that it would get harder to clean and manage the house as you get older, with chores like lawn care, cleaning, and so on adding up, you can consider getting domestic help.

Also, you can safety-proof the house; this can make life easier for a senior.

Safety proofing would include ensuring that all rugs and carpets are removed or tightly secured, furniture is out of the way you move, and that handles and bars are installed in bathrooms to help with mobility.

If you live alone, we suggest that you invest in some wearable safety technology that can allow them to contact help with the touch of a button if for some reason they cannot reach their phone.

It is also a great idea to wear a medical bracelet or ring that would contain information about your illness, drug allergies, etc.

Nursing Home:

Now, if you take the familiarity aspect in a nursing home, this could take some getting used to; especially among those in the beginning stages of dementia. They can find change especially confusing and upsetting.

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Moving into a new living facility can cause substantial frustration and worry. There are several ways you can ease the transition, of course, but you might need to think of other options in case it doesn’t work out.

For more active seniors, downsizing to an apartment in an independent living community can work out better than moving into a long term care service. It can also offer freedom from maintenance and chores.

You could also explore the option of adult daycare where you would spend a limited part of the day with people your age

3. Cost of Care Services

You already know that the more care a senior requires, the more expensive the care service costs would amount to. Depending on where a senior is on the spectrum of care, different options might make the most sense.

You need to know that the costs of in-home care can often exceed the costs of a nursing home facility since providers often charge by the hour. 

Here are some figures from around the internet for reference:

Here is an estimate based on what 15 averages tallied up to:

  • Home Care Aide Cost: $20 per hour or $160 per day
  • Assisted Living Cost: $119 per day, approximately $43,000 a year
  • Skilled Nursing Home Cost: $220 per day, approximately $80,000 a year

Now, we hope that you have carefully considered the three major factors that you need to evaluate thoroughly before deciding on home care or nursing home facility.

Whatever your final choice is, it is an incredibly important decision to make for yourself or a loved one, and thankfully, there are numerous free resources and options that you can consider as an older adult. 

We have compiled a list of the pros and cons of both options so that you may find arriving at the right decision a bit simpler.

Pros and Cons of In-Home Health Care

Pros

  • You continue living in a comfortable and familiar surrounding, it is especially beneficial if you or your loved one is a dementia patient
  • You retain your freedom and independence at home
  • There’s more scope for developing a more personal relationship with the caregiver
  • In-home care is generally more cost-effective than nursing home care, provided that all factors remain constant
  • If you select the in-home care option, the caregivers are qualified professionals (mostly licensed and registered nurses)

Cons

  • ‍Choosing to stay at home may not be as secure as a nursing home. The point is that your home does not have an arrangement in place to take you to the nearest medical facility in case of emergencies, as well as no security and staff available 24/7
  • The level of care is wholly dependent on one person; the person you hire.

The Cost of In-Home Health Care

As you may have guessed, aging in place (in-home health care) is the most desired option among elders as it comes with several benefits, most of which we already discussed above.

The Cost of In-Home Health Care

In-home care is definitely cheaper for those older adults who need nothing more besides basic medical care and attention.

  • Of course, the cost of in-home senior care will largely depend on the number of hours that the caregiver you hired is working for you.
  • Other factors that may determine the cost of in-home care include the necessary supplies that are required to ensure that the elderly lead a dignified, healthy, and happy life, as well as other added chore that the caregiver is required to perform.

Every state has its median cost associated with in-home senior care. Some states are known to be more expensive.

Pros and Cons of Nursing Home Care

Pros

  • ‍Nursing homes are more secure, especially as they have all around the close security staff, medical staff with a registered nurse, and so on
  • Families of older adults mostly prefer this arrangement since it gives them peace of mind knowing that their aging loved one is in a safe and professional environment
  • Nursing homes normally have a wide variety of medical professionals as part of the staff. You can access specialized treatment if required
  • Nursing homes generally have some of the best medical equipment so your aging loved one will be in proximity of any attention they require

Cons

  • ‍Many seniors feel that their freedom and independence is curtailed
  • The transition can take some getting used to; it can be overwhelming to some seniors
  • The costs of nursing homes are generally more expensive than in-home care

The Cost of Nursing Home Care

The average cost of a private room is about $8,500 per month, which is about $102,000 a year. Keep in mind that these prices may vary depending on where you live, the amenities provided by the nursing home, as well as the level of care that you or your aging loved one requires.

The Verdict: Is Home Care Cheaper than a Nursing Home?

As we noted earlier, the straightforward answer to this question is YES. The answer is in the affirmative, provided that the senior adult requires care for only around eight hours a day. In-home care can be more expensive than a nursing home in certain situations.

In case you require a skilled nursing staff and a high level of around-the-clock specialized care, the in-home care costs will also be higher. It will also be higher than normal if you require more than 8 hours of home care services.

Paying for Senior Care

Now that you have evaluated the pros and cons of at-home health care and nursing home, you need to get an idea of how much nursing homes and in-home care costs and how you can afford to pay for it.

There are several options when it comes to making senior care payments.

Medicaid funding for senior day care

You may use your own funds and also make use of financial assistance from the government, state, or local agencies to pay for senior care. While their benefits and coverages vary substantially, the most popular ways to pay for nursing homes and in-home care include:

  • HUD Senior Housing Benefits
  • Long Term Care Insurance (LTC insurance)
  • Medicare
  • Medicaid
  • Veterans Benefits & VA Senior Housing
  • Private Grants
  • Private Insurance
  • Renting Your Home
  • SSI/Disability Benefits

Exploring Assisted Living

An assisted living facility will offer a lot more privacy and independence than a nursing home while being fully equipped to provide on-site medical staff and services.

A big advantage is that the built-in community of older adults can be a big source of contentment and satisfaction to elders, as it prevents isolation and helps reduce depression.

Also, assisted living offers a nice alternative for older adults whose families don’t live close by, and who prefer to be in a community setting.

The arrangement offers peace of mind for the family members too as they can get a respite from caregiving duties, yet, know that their loved one is being cared for well in a professional setting by skilled nurses.

On average, assisted living facilities cost around $35,000 per year for basic health care. If your aging loved one needs only basic care, doesn’t have nearby family members, and isn’t already a homeowner, an assisted living facility may be a worthwhile choice.

Two senior woman with caregiver

The only drawback to living in a senior assisted living facility is that, if you or your loved one falls gravely ill and your health deteriorates, this option can become very expensive.

We know of some assisted living facilities that will quote a moderate price for basic health services offered to the older adult but significantly raises their charges when the person’s health conditions change and mode of treatment changes.

To sum it up, keep in mind that everyone is dealing with a unique situation when it comes to aging and moving to a senior care facility.

It’s therefore important to stay flexible, adapt to certain situations and conditions, and find the best option based on your situation or your aging loved one’s situation. At the end of the day, you deserve comfort, proper care, and a peaceful place to call home in your retired years.

We hope this article has provided you with the information and insights you seek to make an informed decision. Do let us know if you have any suggestions that can help us improve!

About Aswathy Suresh