In a recent post I addressed the odds of needing assisted living. I cited several statistics and arrived at the conclusion that somewhere between 50-70% of people over the age of 65 will require fairly significant long-term care services at some point in their life; meaning they’ll need assistance with at least a couple of activities of daily living, such as eating, dressing, or bathing, and possibly even a higher level of care.

But now that we know the odds of requiring long-term care, the next logical question is: for how long? After all, the cost of long-term care is not inexpensive. According to Genworth’s Cost of Care Survey for 2023 the average monthly cost for 44 hours of in-home care is around $6,000 (up from $4,500 when this post was originally written in 2016.) The average monthly cost in an assisted living facility is around $5,000, although the actual total cost could be much higher depending on necessary services, the quality of the provider, and the region. A private room in a nursing facility? Upwards of $10,000 per month, also significantly higher in certain regions. You can see how the costs can begin to add up, particularly if you require care for an extended number of months or years.

>> Related Post: The Cost of Assisted Living- What You Need to Know

Your Experience Will Likely Differ from the Averages

Before going further I should point out that it is important to keep in mind that regardless of what the averages reveal, your own experience could fall well outside of the averages on either end. Even though knowing the averages can help you plan you should not assume that your experience will match the average. It is important to plan for a variety of potential scenarios.

The Average Stay in Assisted Living

According to a 2009 report jointly prepared by a group of advocacy and research organizations within the assisted living industry, the average length of stay for residents in an assisted living facility is about 28 months. (The median is 21 months.) A separate statistic provided by the National Investment Center (NIC) in their 2010 Investment Guide cited the average length of stay in assisted living as 29 months. These stats are a bit outdated, but they provide reasonable insight into average lengths of stay. It’s surprising how little updated data exists publicly on this topic.

Keep in mind that many residents of assisted living communities received care in their own homes for some period of time before making the move to the community. Therefore, the total amount of time in which they received assisted living care, at home and then in a facility, could easily exceed 3 years for many people.

Care Often Doesn’t End with Assisted Living

According to the American Health Care Association (AHCA) and the National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL), 59% of all assisted living residents will eventually move to a skilled nursing facility. A 2019 report by the National Center for Health Statistics shows that 43% of nursing home residents will need less than 100 days of care, while 57% will need care for 100 days or longer, although research also reveals that the average length of stay in a nursing home varies a great deal based on sex, marital status, net worth, geogrphic location, and more.

After removing the number of those who have been discharged or who required only rehab care, the average stay in a nursing home ranges between about 13 months to just over two years, depending on the source. Again, this discrepency is likely due to the factors mentioned above, yet is’s also surprising at how little up-to-date data is available publicy on this statistic.

Putting it All Together

In summary, it is not uncommon for someone to receive care at home for several months or longer, followed by a stay of about two and a half years in an assisted living facility, with almost 60% then requiring a nursing home stay of somewhere between about a year and a little over two years (although some may only need nursing care temporarily for a shorter period of time.) All combined, this is a total of approximately 3-5 years of long-term care across all settings. In this scenario, the total cost could easily exceed $350,000, depending on the cost of care in your region.

This is daunting considering that it would be in addition to the approximately $315,000 that Fidelity Investments estimates the average retired couple will spend on healthcare- not including assisted living or nursing care expenses– during the span of their retirement years.

Care Services You May Need, All in One Place

If you or a loved one is considering a continuing care care retirement community (CCRC or ‘life plan community’) as a possible solution for access to long-term care services possibly needed in the future, be sure to learn more about CCRCs. Many retirees like the peace of mind that comes with knowing that the care services they may need in the future are all available within the community in which they live.

Updated May 1, 2024

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