Caring for elderly parents can be a daunting prospect, but knowing your options in advance can help crystallize the trade-offs. Various degrees and levels of care are available; however, some of the most common ones include:


Depending on the type of care and where your parents live, the cost of care can range widely. According to the 2017 Genworth Study,1 the national median cost for a home health aide was $49,192 per year, while the cost for a private room at a nursing home was $97,455 per year (Display).

At first glance, these figures appear to suggest that having your parents stay home with a home health aide would be cheaper than securing a private room in a nursing home. However, that’s without factoring in the costs of home maintenance (mortgage, utilities, housekeeper, groceries, etc.). This could add $15,000–$25,000 per year or more, depending on where your parents live.

The figures could also rise with the level of care. For example, the average home health aide cost noted above assumes only a 44-hour work week. If your parent needs 24-hours-a-day live-in care, then the costs will rise significantly (e.g., $250–$650 per day or $91,250–$237,250 per year2 ). These costs vary considerably across the country, and when combined, can equal or exceed the cost of a private room in a nursing home.

Qualitative factors also play a role. For instance, telling your parents that they are moving to an assisted living facility or nursing home may be easier said than done. Their wishes, the amount of attention they need, and how many hours of weekly care they require are all important considerations.

For example, a home health aide can provide the kind of one-on-one attention that will be in shorter supply in a nursing home. In addition, your parents’ home—where they have likely lived for many years—represents a more comfortable environment that may promote faster recovery than in a nursing home (depending on their situation).

Either way, perhaps the most important decision is the one you can make right now: talk to your parents and get a sense of their wishes. It’s never too early to start the conversation.

1Source: Genworth 2017 Study,
2Source: Based on a survey conducted by Bernstein in 2018, which polled various caregiving organizations across the country

For more tips on becoming financially engaged, explore Women & Wealth, a new Bernstein podcast series designed to educate, empower, and inspire female investors, and for additional thought leadership, check out the related blogs here.

The views expressed herein do not constitute and should not be considered to be legal or tax advice. The tax rules are complicated, and their impact on a particular individual may differ depending on the individual’s specific circumstances. Please consult with your legal or tax advisor regarding your specific situation.

Clients Only

The content you have selected is for clients only. If you are a client, please continue to log in. You will then be able to open and read this content.