Study Shows Nursing Home and Assisted Living Costs Grow in 2009

The price tag for nursing homes, in-home care and assisted living kept growing in 2009, according to a new study, potentially adding another hardship to retirees already hurt by financial losses amid the recession.

The survey, by Richmond, Va.-based insurer Genworth Financial Inc., says that except for home-based health care, the costs of long-term care are also poised for steady increases. The cost of labor is a key factor driving the price of care at facilities, though that has abated somewhat because of the availability now of workers as unemployment has risen and higher retention rates.

"The labor required in a facility is generally more skilled in nature," said Beth Ludden, senior vice president of long-term care product development at Genworth.

The study showed that the average annual cost for a private room in a nursing home is $74,208, or $208 per day, a 4.7 percent boost over the past year and 4.3 percent annually over the past five years. The costs range from $50,594 in Louisiana to $125,925 in Connecticut, the highest in the continental U.S. Overall, the Northeast is the most expensive region of the nation for nursing homes. The average for Ohio is $71,472.

The cost for a one-bedroom unit in an assisted living facility is $33,903 annually, or $2,825 monthly, marking an increase of 1.4 percent over 2008 and 4.7 percent annually over the last five years. North Dakota has the lowest annual costs at $25,049, with Massachusetts the highest in the continental U.S., at $55,137. Again, the Northeast led the nation in costs. Ohio's average is $35,845.

The recession highlights the expense of long-term care, Ludden said, with many people having counted on assets such as their homes to help pay for the costs. Many of those assets are now worth less for many people. The median sale price for a house fell 12 percent in March, according to a recent Commerce Department report.

"Historically people have thought they would have an asset to liquidate to pay for it, but those assets may now be devalued," she said.

A bright spot in the company's survey is the relatively flat cost of in-home care. The hourly cost for in-home care for non-Medicare certified workers rose a half-percent to $18.50 from a year ago and grew 1.7 percent annually over the past five years. Louisiana was the least expensive annually while Massachusetts topped the list.

More than two-thirds of the over-65 population will eventually need some form of long-term care, Ludden said. For more, read the story.

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Robert W. Carter, Jr. is a Virginia attorney whose law practice is dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of nursing home and assisted living neglect and abuse in Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, Lynchburg, Danville, Charlottesville, and across Virginia. 


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