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Long term care costs defy deflation

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MetLife’s 2009 survey of nursing home and eldercare costs shows that the deflation seen in the U.S. economy over the past year did not apply to long term care providers. The average cost of a private room in a nursing home rose 3.3 percent to $6,570 per month and assisted living was up the same percentage to $3,131 per month. Home health care aides now fetch $21 per hour, up 5 percent, and adult day services cost $67 per day, up 4.7 percent.

Nursing home costs varied by state, with Alaska, at $584 per day, being the most expensive; Louisiana, at only $132 per day, was the cheapest. Assisted living costs also varied, with Delaware having the top spot, at $5,219 per month, and North Dakota being the most economical, at $2,041 per month. Home health care aides commanded $30 per hour in Rochester, Minnesota, and only $13 in Shreveport, Louisiana. Adult day services ran $150 in Vermont and $27 in Montgomery, Alabama.

For the purposes of the study, assisted living communities were grouped into three categories: “basic,” with five or fewer services; “standard,” with six to nine services; and “inclusive,” with 10 or more services. Study results determined that more communities were classified as “standard” and fewer as “basic” as compared to the previous year. The study also revealed that patients in an assisted living community who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease can expect to pay more for their care, with an average monthly cost of $4,435.

Said Sandra Timmermann, director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute, “These across-the-board increases may be surprising to many given the economy over the past year. But, while the Consumer Price Index decreased overall during the past year, costs for medical care are 3.3 percent higher, which parallels our findings on long term care. The change in pricing methods at some assisted living communities may be another factor, a warning to consumers to carefully compare prices at all long term care service facilities by considering both the base price and the add-ins for additional services.”