Insider Tips for Lowering the Cost of Home Care

Page Reviewed / Updated - Jan. 2014

With a little insider knowledge about the home care business and some creative thinking, families can save considerable money on the cost of caring for a loved one at home.  Read on for 11 tips.

1) Independent Caregivers instead of Home Care Agencies

Families may achieve significant savings by using independent caregivers instead of caregivers retained through home care agencies.  Independent caregivers are typically 20% - 30% less expensive than agency provided resources. However, there are drawbacks to using independent caregivers and therefore this approach may not be appropriate for all families. Agencies perform background checks on their employees and provide substitutes when the home care aide is unable to work on short notice.

2) Home Care Aides instead of Home Health Aides

It is important to determine the needs of the individual requiring home care. Do they absolutely require a home health care aide or would their needs be met by using a home care aide (learn the difference)?  If they do require home health aides, do they need them daily or perhaps only some days each week and can use a home care aide for the remaining days. Depending on the state, home care aides are typically 5% - 10% less expensive than home health aides.

3) Tax Credits and Deductions

There are tax credits and deductions available to the elderly and their families depending on how they file their taxes. Filing as an individual, a married couple or a married couple filing separately can impact a family’s tax payments. There are tax prep programs available online that will make these filing decisions easier. In addition, if an elderly person can be claimed as a dependent on someone’s return, they can receive further credits. You can learn about these options on the following pages.

State Tax Credits for Elderly Dependent Care
Medical Expenses Tax Deductions
Elderly and Disabled Tax Credit

4) Make Home Modifications to Reduce Home Care Needs

Many states and non-profit organizations offer loans, grants and construction assistance to low income, elderly individuals to make home modifications which will make their homes safer and more accessible. Modifications to stairs, bedrooms and bathrooms can diminish, delay or eliminate all together the need for home care aides. The University of Southern California’s Gerontology Center maintains a database of home modification resources by state. You can visit their website here or search for home modification assistance programs locally.

5) Use Respite Care to Offset Home Care Hours

There are many respite care programs offered by state and non-profit organizations; Alzheimer’s Respite, Veteran Administration Respite and National Family Caregiver Support Respite to name just a few. These programs often provide free or low cost respite care to qualified families. Respite care can directly offset the need for home care aides; 5 hours of free respite care eliminate the need for 5 hours of paid home care aides. In addition to the respite resources above, one can use the Respite Program Locator Tool to find other programs.

6) Prescription Drugs from Canada

This discussion avoids the political, legal and ethical questions associated with obtaining prescription drugs from Canada. We are not advising families for or against, we are simply examining the subject from an economic and procedural perspective.

There is no question that some drugs can be purchased online from Canadian pharmacies with relative ease and at significant cost savings. One study found prices to be on average 25% less than in the US. For brand-name drugs, savings were as high as 50%. For generics, the saving were generally lower.

The process for purchasing medications is slightly different at each pharmacy but generally speaking, one mails, faxes or emails their prescription, pays with a credit card and receives the medication by mail a few days to weeks later. Given the delay in obtaining one’s medications, Canadian pharmacies are more appropriate for those with long term medicinal needs. Most Canadian pharmacies can provide all the refills on the prescription in a single order making ordering both more convenient and less expensive.

You can check the cost of medications at different Canadian and US pharmacies at this website that tracks medication costs to see if using a Canadian pharmacy would benefit your family.

7) Internet-Based Home Monitoring  to Lower Home Care Hours

Sometimes families use home care aides to monitor their elderly loved ones at home from their work location. It may not be necessary to have a home care aide for 6 or 8 hours / day if they are only providing direct assistance for part of that time.

Monitoring a loved one using an Internet based home monitoring system can do that same job at a lesser cost. Home monitoring systems use sensors and cameras to relay videos and send alerts over the Internet enabling a family member to monitor their loved one remotely from their place of work on the computer or from the road on their mobile device.  Learn more about this option.

8) Meal Preparation / Meal Delivery Services

Many families loved ones' require assistance with the preparation of meals, be that in the shopping and planning for meals or in the heating and serving of meals for consumption. Services such as Meals on Wheels (MOW) offer subsidized meals that may cost less than it would to prepare meals for oneself and certainly cost less and are more nutritious than purchasing frozen meals. There are 1000s of MOW programs across the country, each with its own eligibility requirements and meal benefits.

Alternatively, if paying for home care, one might ask a caregiver to prepare, label and refrigerate meals in advance for times when the care recipient is alone. Caregivers sometimes have downtime when looking after an elderly person and can perform double duty.

9) Shop Around for Caregivers

The difference in the hourly rates which caregivers charge can be significant even in the same city or county. A MetLife study found that within most geographic areas there is a 30% range in the hourly cost of home care.  Admittedly, shopping around can be difficult and time-consuming. However, there are many free services that help individuals to find the best and most affordable care for their needs. Get help finding the most affordable care in your area.

10) Lower Other Household Costs

Heating and / or cooling a house can be a major expense for elderly individuals living at home. Often times, they live in older homes which are not the most cost effective to maintain at a comfortable living temperature. There are public assistance programs available in almost every state called LIHEAPs that help with the energy costs for heating or cooling a home.  There are also weatherization assistance programs, that provide funds to make home modifications which result in a more weatherproof living environment and thereby further reducing heating and cooling costs.

11) Consider Adult Day Care

Adult Day Care is similar to receiving home care but instead the individual goes to a day care center during normal working hours. Many individuals who require care prefer going to a day care center several days a week for the social interaction and recreational activities that a group environment provides.

The cost savings of using adult day care is extraordinary. Nationwide the average cost of home care for 8 hours is $152 and for adult day care the cost is $70. If an individual who requires 40 hours of home care / week used adult day care just 2 days a week, the annual cost saving would be over $8,000.

While transportation to and from the day care center is a consideration, many adult day care centers provide shuttle services and most urban areas also have free or very affordable paratransit services for the elderly or disabled. Find adult day care in your area.