A good friend of mine once said that everyone he knows wants to live a long life, but no one wants to become old. That’s the senior-care dilemma in a nutshell. But the truth is, if you want to live a long life, it’s sensible to make a long-term care plan and look for ways to save money on it — and if you’re shouldering costs for your parents, you should find ways to reduce those expenses too, without diminishing the quality of care.
(MORE: Finding Affordable Home Care for Your Parents)
What Long-Term Care Costs
The need is greater than ever. According to Genworth’s 2012 Cost of Care Survey, one year of long-term care ranges from $39,600 for an assisted living facility to $81,030 for a private room in a nursing home. (The median rate for that nursing home in 2007: $65,700).
Home care costs can be sizeable, too. Hiring an aide for 40 hours a week could run more than $40,000 a year. Adult day care costs, on average, $15,860 annually.
Fortunately, you can pursue savings in just about every scenario — at a facility or in home with a skilled professional, like a nurse, and even informal care provided by friends and family.
5 Ways to Save Money
Below are my five suggestions that could save you thousands of dollars; the rates cited are based on Genworth’s 2012 Cost of Care Survey, except where otherwise noted.
1. Negotiate. Many families hire a caregiver to handle such duties as light housekeeping and companion care. You may be able to work out a lower rate than the one you’re quoted — informal caregivers tend to be independent workers, so they don’t have to factor in a home-care agency’s overhead costs.
(MORE: Dividing Family Caregiving Costs Without Splitting the Family)
Tip: Ask for a 33 percent discount off of the homemaker/companion annual rate of $41,184, the national median cost based on a 40-hour week.
Potential annual savings: $13,590
2. Don't overpay for a home health caregiver. When interviewing a potential home health care aide, ask if the particular type of medical help you want qualifies for a lower hourly rate.
Tip: Negotiate a 10 percent discount off the home health aide annual rate of $43,472, based on a 40-hour week.
Potential annual savings: $4,347
3. Ask a long-term facility for a fee waiver. As an enticement, nursing homes and assisted living communities may waive or eliminate their one-time, upfront community fees. The amount varies from facility to facility, but the national average is $1,621, according to Genworth’s 2009 Cost of Care Survey.
Potential one-time savings: $1,621
(MORE: Could You Be Forced to Pay Mom’s Nursing Home Bill?)
4. Request a “private pay” discount. Some long-term care facilities will lower their rates if you pay for their services out of your savings or from a long-term care insurance policy, rather than through Medicare or Medicaid.
Tip: Ask the facility administrator for a 10 percent discount off the private room rate ($77,745 a year at a nursing home).
Potential annual savings: $7,745
5. Check into free subsidies at adult day health care centers. Many of these facilities are free for people who qualify. Otherwise, the median daily rate is $61.
Tip: Ask the manager about its rules and how to apply for a subsidy.
Potential annual savings: $15,860
Note: Discounts and savings are not guaranteed.