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Long-Term Care for Older Arkansans Can Be Costly, Confusing

Many families find that private nursing-home care for loved ones can be prohibitively expensive, and home-based care costs less. (Morsa/GettyImages)
Many families find that private nursing-home care for loved ones can be prohibitively expensive, and home-based care costs less. (Morsa/GettyImages)
August 30, 2017

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Long-term care for the elderly can be very expensive for most families, and advocates say many Arkansans are confused about how to best support their aging parents.

As more Baby Boomers enter retirement, they'll be in for "sticker shock" if they haven't prepared for either home-based care or a nursing home for their loved ones. Herb Sanderson, state director of AARP Arkansas, said many families find that covering the cost of long-term care can be a complex issue.

"Medicare doesn't cover long-term care," he said. "Medicaid actually becomes a benefit for middle-class Americans by stepping in and starting to pay for long-term care, primarily after people have exhausted all their resources."

Sanderson said the cost of long-term care can vary, depending on whether it's delivered at home or in an institutional setting. A 2016 survey found that private nursing homes in Arkansas can cost almost $6,000 a month, while home health care is about half that. Medicaid pays for almost two-thirds of long-term care in Arkansas.

Sanderson said more people need to plan for covering their own long-term care costs, but buying this type of insurance might be out of reach.

"Most employers will help you pay for your health insurance but when it comes to long-term care, they don't offer to help. You have to pay the full cost," he said. "If you’re an individual out on the marketplace, it’s extremely expensive and consequently most people are uninsured."

Another study ranks Arkansas 41st in meeting the long-term care needs of its older residents. Sanderson said changes are needed at both the state and federal level to deal with the changing demographics of retirees.

"What we really need to do is change the way we deal with this issue in this country," he said. "First of all, we need to recognize that help is there through the Medicaid program. Secondly, we need to provide more home-based care that costs less money."

Sanderson said the vast majority of retirees say they prefer to live at home for as long as possible. As a result, unpaid family caregivers provide the bulk of long-term care. AARP estimates that more than 450,000 Arkansans provide uncompensated care worth about $4.7 billion each year.

The study about cost of care is online at, and the state rankings are at

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AR