Page Reviewed / Updated - April 14, 2009
By considering the following insider tips from assisted living professionals, families can save money on assisted living, independent living and other types of senior living residential care. To find financial assistance for assisted living, please use our Resource Locator Tool.
Almost all assisted living communities offer residents a choice of room size. Modern communities typically offer enough public spaces and activity rooms, that residents often find they don’t require a large private room. Renting a “studio” instead of a one-bedroom apartment can reduce monthly payments by 15% - 20%. Annually, this can result in a savings of $6,000 - $8,000 for a community that charges the national average of $3,600 / month.
Most assisted living residences offer two-bedroom apartments and while a shared living situation is not appropriate for everyone, sharing an apartment can save 10% - 20% over a single unit. For a community of average cost, this saves $4,000 - $8,000 / year. An additional benefit of sharing a two-bedroom unit is the increased living space and a separation of sleeping and socializing areas. Furthermore, many seniors find a social benefit in having a suite-mate.
One might think that larger assisted living communities can provide care services at a lower cost due to economy of scale. However, because regulations differ for smaller and larger communities this is not the case. One may find “lower bed count” assisted living residences to be less expensive even when they are offering the same quality of care in the same geographic area. Free assistance is available to help families locate these smaller residences.
The same level and quality of care usually costs more in urban areas due to higher real estate values and the increased cost of living. Finding an assisted living residence just an hour away from a city can reduce costs as much as 25%. An additional benefit is the increased personal space in suburban or rural assisted living communities. Typically, non-urban assisted living communities are built specifically for this purpose while city residences are conversions of existing properties.
There exist very large cost variations in assisted living across the 50 states. In addition to the local cost index, different state regulations play a role. This makes it possible for families living near state borders or those living in small states to save money by finding assisted living communities in neighboring states. Families with adult children living in different states may also benefit from this approach. To see the average cost of assisted living by state, look at our Assisted Living Cost Calculator. One might even consider leaving the country; learn about assisted living in Mexico.
Assisted living residences, especially larger ones, are subject to many of the same financial pressures as other businesses. Residences are often willing to give price breaks at the end of month, end of the calendar quarter or their financial quarter.
For families that are looking for assisted living without a time constraint, this can result in significant savings. While most communities resist negotiating on the monthly rent, they will often waive the “community fee” which can equal several months rent or offer "move-in" credits.
Assisted living residences need to maintain a certain occupancy level to optimize their operation. When they have a lot of “empty beds”, they become willing to make concessions such as waiving community fees or offering move-in credits. These can reduce initial costs by as much as $2,000 - $10,000.
Assisted living communities do not share their occupancy rate information with potential residents but they often share it with assisted living referral services and private geriatric care managers. One such referral service is the organization, Caring.com. Working with this service is free to the family and may help reduce the cost of admission to an assisted living community.
Another option is to find an assisted living community that is just opening. Usually communities have around 10% vacancy, a new community will have to fill 100% of its rooms. Therefore, in addition to being in new condition, the management may be willing to negotiate. Again, Caring.com can help families to find brand new communities.
In some cases, when an individual is already living in an assisted living residence and is no longer able to afford the monthly rent payment, the community will provide a credit to enable the resident to remain at a lower monthly cost. This reduction could be $300- $500 / month. Not all residences will offer this credit but usually those communities that are struggling to maintain high occupancy rates will do so. If a resident is in the position where they might have to move out for financial reasons, they should always ask if a reduction is possible.