Guide to Senior Living in Alaska
As the nation’s largest and most northerly state, Alaska is known for its stunning mountains, abundant wildlife and sprawling, unspoiled wilderness. About 291,538 of the state’s 731,545 residents live in the Anchorage metro area with the rest of the population spread out among smaller cities, towns and settlements throughout the state. There are 27 hospitals in Alaska, including cancer care centers, VA facilities and regional hospitals, that provide a full range of acute and emergency services.
Nearly 12% of Alaska’s residents are aged 65 or older, and the senior population is growing at a rate of 6% per year, which is higher than any other state. Between 2018 and 2025, the number of seniors in Alaska is expected to jump by 46.7%. With an average monthly cost of $6,000, assisted living costs in Alaska are significantly higher than the national average although there are a number of programs available to help seniors cover their care costs. In this guide, you’ll find information on the different types of care available to Alaska seniors, financial resources and links to programs that help seniors navigate their long-term care options.
The Cost of Assisted Living in Alaska
Note: There currently isn’t authoritative data on the average cost of Independent Living Facilities nationwide, so instead, we use the cost of Assisted Living to estimate it. Since the cost of Independent Living is typically 30-40% lower than the cost of Assisted Living, the numbers below were calculated by subtracting 35% from the cost of Assisted Living.
Note: Memory care is typically provided in communities licensed as assisted living facilities, and in general, costs 20-30% more than standard assisted living services. No authoritative cost data is available for this type of care, so we estimated memory care rates by adding 25% to assisted living fees in the Genworth 2021 Cost of Care Survey.
Alaskan seniors have several long-term care options available to them, depending on their needs and preferences. Independent living communities provide age-appropriate housing and recreational activities. Assisted living facilities provide residents with access to 24-hour assistance as needed, and memory care units provide enhanced security, supervision and therapy. Individuals with the greatest medical and functional needs are admitted to skilled nursing facilities.According to the Genworth 2021 Cost of Care Survey, Alaska is an expensive state for obtaining care. Independent living is the most affordable care option at $4,440 per month. Assisted living facilities cost slightly more at $6,830. Memory care prices increase by 25% to $8,538. Skilled nursing facilities in Alaska charge $31,512 per month, which is several times higher than the national average.
Nursing Home Care
The Cost of In-Home Care in Alaska
Assisted living in Alaska costs more than in other parts of the country, which isn’t surprising given the state’s above-average cost of living. At $6,830, the typical assisted living facility charges $2,330 more than the U.S. median of $4,500. Prices are lower than the national average in Montana and Idaho at $4,450 and $3,838, respectively, and respective monthly costs in Oregon and California are slightly higher at $5,045 and $5,250. In Washington state, assisted living costs are relatively high at $6,000, but they’re still $830 lower than in Alaska.
The United States
The Cost of Nursing Home Care in Alaska
Alaska is one of the most expensive states for obtaining nursing home care. Nationally, seniors can expect to pay $7,908 per month for a semiprivate room, which is $23,600 less than in Alaska. Prices are lower than the national average in Montana at $7,574, and in Idaho, nursing home care costs $8,517. Seniors in Washington and California pay less than $10,000 per month for skilled nursing. Nursing home prices in Alaska are about three times higher than in Oregon, where the average facility charges $10,342 per month.
The United States
Can You Use Medicaid to Pay for Senior Living in Alaska?
Medicaid pays for several senior living options in Alaska. Benefits depend on the senior’s age, income and personal needs, as well as which program they’re applying for. Alaska includes Personal Care Services as part of its Medicaid State Plan. These benefits are available to all residents who qualify. Typically, individuals who participate in the PCS Program have very low income and a medical need for care. The state offers both consumer-directed and agency-directed service plans, depending on whether a senior is willing and able to manage all aspects of their care.
Alaska also offers several home- and community-based services waivers. These programs cover residential assisted living services and related supports, but recipients must require a nursing home level of care to qualify. Additionally, waivers only cover the cost of personal care, emergency response systems and other medically necessary services. Recipients are still responsible for the cost of room and board. Although seniors in independent living aren’t eligible for Medicaid waivers, they may qualify for other financial assistance programs, such as monthly Senior Benefits payments. The state also funds programs that benefit dementia patients and their caregivers.
|Medicaid Coverage Level||Type of Medicaid Coverage||Entitlement?*|
|Assisted Living||Partial||Medicaid Waivers||No|
|Memory Care||Partial||Medicaid Waivers||No|
|Nursing Home Care||Full||Medicaid||Yes|
*Note: Entitlement programs mean that everyone who qualifies will receive coverage and be accepted into the programs. If the program is not “entitlement,” then participant caps could be in place, and there may be a waiting list.
Medicaid’s Coverage of Assisted Living & Memory Care in Alaska
Waivers for home- and community-based services are designed to give seniors an alternative to living in a nursing home or other long-term care facility. They cover a variety of services to help seniors live independently.
Alaskans Living Independently Waiver
Alaskans Living Independently is a home- and community-based services waiver designed to help disabled adults aged 21 or older and seniors aged 65 or older live in the least restrictive setting. Applicants must complete a functional needs assessment to prove they require nursing home care, and they must meet income and asset limits to qualify. The ALI waiver covers the cost of residential supportive living services, as well as medical equipment, accessibility modifications, transportation, meals, care coordination and private-duty nursing. Seniors can contact their Aging and Disability Resource Center or the Division of Senior and Disabilities Services at (800) 478-9996 to find out if they qualify.
Community First Choice Personal Care Services
Community First Choice is a Medicaid waiver program available to Alaskans who require a nursing home level of care. It covers personal care services, emergency response systems and case management. Because eligibility is based on medical need, individuals who have dementia or cognitive impairments may qualify for additional services and personal care time to help with the cost of memory care. Chore services to help seniors with instrumental activities of daily living, such as cleaning and housekeeping, were added to this program in 2021. Seniors who wish to apply for CFC Personal Care Services can contact their Aging and Disability Resource Center at (800) 478-9996.
Medicaid’s Coverage of Nursing Home Care in Alaska
Due to the very high cost of skilled nursing facilities in Alaska, Medicaid is an important source of funding for more than 83% of the state’s nursing home residents. According to estimates from the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 520 individuals rely on this coverage. Institutional Medicaid covers nearly all nursing home costs, including 24-hour care, room, board, meals, medical supplies and medications. However, beneficiaries must spend nearly all of their income on nursing home care, excluding a $200 monthly needs allowance and enough money to pay their Medicare premiums and support a spouse.
Eligibility for Medicaid in Alaska
Individuals who require a nursing home level of care and qualify for Medicaid based on their health status or functional needs can typically earn up to 300% of the federal benefit rate and still qualify for financial assistance. For 2022, this means that applicants can earn up to $2,523 per month and have $2,000 in countable resources. A spouse’s income may be excluded, and other exemptions may be available to prevent impoverishment and cover essential expenses.
2022 Alaska Medicaid Income Limits
|Income Limits*||Asset Limits|
(Only one applicant)
|$30,276 for applicant||$2,000 for applicant|
$137,400 for non-applicant
|$30,276 per spouse||$3,000|
To qualify for Medicaid long-term care, applicants must meet the following requirements:
- Be aged 65 or older or disabled
- Be certified for nursing home care
- Provide proof of citizenship and state residency
- Satisfy income and asset limits
Applying for Medicaid in Alaska
To apply for Medicaid, seniors will need to complete a Medicaid Application for Adults and Children with Long Term Care Needs. Seniors can complete a paper application and mail it to the nearest Public Assistance Office or apply for benefits online at Healthcare.gov or through the ARIES Self-Service Portal at My.Alaska.gov. Those who would rather apply by phone can call the Virtual Contact Center at (800) 478-7778. Inquiries about long-term care should be directed to (800) 478-4372.
Before You Apply
To expedite the application process, seniors should gather the following documents and records before they apply. Those who are applying for someone else will need to appoint an authorized representative using Appendix C in the provided form. The application for long-term care services asks for the following information:
- Contact information
- Household members
- Social Security number
- Date of birth
- Citizenship and residency information
- A complete list of property and assets
- All sources of income
- Monthly expenses
- Health insurance coverage
How to Get Help
Seniors who help with their Medicaid application can contact the following agencies for assistance. Local government offices typically process applications, and legal aid advocates are available to help with denials and appeals.
|Contact||What You Should Know|
|Medicaid Recipient Helpline||(800) 780-9972||The Medicaid Recipient Helpline can answer questions about benefits and provide assistance with account management. Those who have been denied benefits or covered services can contact a case manager to request a fair hearing.|
|Division of Public Assistance||(800) 478-7778||The state’s Virtual Contact Center is available to handle calls related to senior services and long-term care. It works with the state’s Public Assistance Offices to process benefits applications and address related issues.|
|Department of Health and Social Services||(800) 770-5650||For information about Medicaid eligibility and claims, seniors can contact this statewide helpline operated by the Department of Health and Social Services.|
|Senior and Disabilities Services||(800) 478-9996||The Division of Senior and Disabilities Services offers information about Medicaid waivers and home- and community-based services that can help seniors maintain their independence, whether they’re living at home or in an assisted living facility.|
Can You Use Medicare to Pay for Senior Living in Alaska?
Unfortunately, Medicare does not cover the cost of assisted living, independent living, or memory care. Unlike nursing homes, these care types are not considered to be “clinical settings” and so are not eligible for Medicare coverage. That being said, those who live in these communities can still use Medicare to cover the cost of approved medications, doctor visits, medical equipment, etc.
When it comes to nursing home care, it gets much more complicated. Medicare does provide limited coverage for a qualified stay in a nursing home,but there are strict rules and requirements of which you should be aware. This benefit is available to seniors who have been hospitalized for at least three days, excluding the date of discharge.
Once you’ve met the hospitalization requirement, Medicare will pay for up to 100 days in a skilled nursing facility (per benefit period). While the first 20 days are covered in full, there is a daily coinsurance rate that must be paid starting on day 21. After day 100, seniors are responsible for the entire cost.
|Medicare Coverage||Medicare Coverage Duration||Coinsurance Requirement?|
|Nursing Home Care||Limited||100 Days Per Benefit Period||Yes – After 20 Days|
What Nursing Home Care Services Does Medicare Cover?
Medicare covers a number of specific services, including:
- A semiprivate room
- Skilled nursing services
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Speech therapy
- Audiologist care
- Medical supplies
- Medical social services
- Nutritional counseling
- Ambulance transportation
What Nursing Home Care Services Aren’t Covered by Medicare?
Medicare does not cover long-term custodial care that addresses seniors’ day-to-day needs. This includes help with daily activities, such as bathing, dressing and using medical equipment.
Medicare Support & Resources in Alaska
The following agencies can provide a range of services to Alaskan seniors, including assistance with enrolling in Medicare, changing plans and understanding their benefits. For those with limited incomes, financial assistance may be available to help cover Medicare premiums and prescription drug copayments.
|Contact||What You Should Know|
|State Health Insurance Counseling and Assistance Programs||(800) 478-6065||This federally funded program provides free one-on-one counseling to help older Alaskans understand their insurance options under Medicare, including supplemental products offered by private insurance companies. Volunteers can also help seniors determine whether they qualify for Medicaid and financial assistance.|
|Medicare Information Office||(800) 478-6065||Alaska’s Medicare Information Office provides information about financial assistance programs, including Medicare Savings Programs and Extra Help. Seniors with very low income may qualify for the state’s Medicare Savings Programs. Extra Help benefits can help members with their Part D prescription drug costs and out-of-pocket expenses.|
|Medicare.gov||(800) 633-4227||This federal website helps seniors compare plans, estimate their costs and find local providers who accept Medicare. Customer service representatives are available to help with benefits questions, enrollment, billing concerns and other issues.|
Are There Other Financial Assistance Options for Senior Living in Alaska?
Depending on your unique situation, there may be other financial assistance options to partially or fully cover the cost of senior living in Alaska. Below, we cover some of the common ways that seniors can make senior living options such as assisted living or memory care more affordable.
|How to Get Started||What You Should Know|
|Aid and Attendance||Apply online at va.gov.||If you are a veteran and you receive a VA pension, you may also be eligible for the Aid and Attendance benefit. This benefit takes the form of a monthly cash allowance that you receive in addition to your standard pension. This benefit is used by veterans who need long-term care services, including care received at an assisted living facility.|
|Reverse Mortgages||Research and learn about the different types at ftc.gov.||If you own a home, you may be able to use a reverse mortgage to access some of the equity in your home. Like traditional loans, reverse mortgages do need to be repaid with interest, typically within 12 months, so seniors should carefully weigh this option alongside other financing methods.|
|Long-Term Care (LTC) Insurance||Learn about how to receive LTC insurance benefits at acl.gov.||While those who currently need assisted living will typically not be eligible, if you purchased an LTC insurance policy in the past, you may be able to use it to help pay for assisted living. While most policies cover at least a portion of the cost, you still need to check the specific terms of your policy.|
Free Senior Living Resources for Seniors in Alaska
Thanks to state and federal funding, as well as grants and donations, Alaskan seniors can access supportive services through the following organizations. Many free services are available starting at age 60.
|Contact||What You Should Know|
|Aging and Disability Resource Centers||(800) 478-9996||The Aging and Disability Resource Center is a one-stop shop for information about long-term care, financial assistance programs and community-based services. These agencies can help with assisted living waivers and personal needs assessments. Additional supports are available to caregivers and disabled adults.|
|Access Alaska||(800) 770-4488||Access Alaska provides information, referrals and direct assistance. It’s designed to be the first point of contact for disabled adults and older Alaskans who need more information about housing, health care, transportation and personal assistance. It offers nursing home transition services, skills training, medical equipment loans, in-home care and Medicare insurance counseling, among other services.|
|Senior Voice||(800) 478-1059||Sponsored by Older Persons Action Group, Senior Voice is a monthly news publication that has been distributed to Alaskan seniors since 1978. It provides information about healthy aging programs, recreational activities, senior tax exemptions, tax preparation services and other resources.|
|Alaska Legal Services Corporation||(888) 478-2572||ALSC’s Elder Law Project focuses on helping residents aged 60 and older. It provides information and advice related to age-specific civil law issues, such as government benefits, health care, housing, nursing home rights and deceptive business practices.|
|Office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman||(907) 334-4480||The state’s long-term care ombudsman helps assisted living and nursing home residents aged 60 and older understand their rights. These volunteers also serve as impartial advocates to resolve disputes between seniors and long-term care providers.|
|Anchorage Senior Services||(907) 343-4284||Alaska’s most populous city offers several programs for older adults. It operates its own Aging and Disability Resource Center, as well as several recreation centers, and the city is actively working to increase its services and better meet the needs of its older residents.|
Covid-19 Rules and Restrictions for Alaska Senior Living Facilities
The following information is based on research done on several government websites, including dhss.alaska.gov and cdc.gov/coronavirus. These rules apply to nursing homes and other types of senior living facilities. We’ve most recently updated this data on 2/2/2022, but since COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving pandemic, contact your local senior living facility or Area Agency on Aging for more specific and up-to-date information.
Visiting Loved Ones
|Can I visit my relative in person if he/she wants emotional support from me?||Yes (Conditions Apply)|
|Can I visit my relative in person for end-of-life compassion care?||Yes|
|Will my loved one be required to self-quarantine after I visit him or her?||No|
|Do I need to wear PPE and/or a cloth mask if I do visit my relative in person?||Yes|
|Are hairdressers and other non-medical contractors still allowed in senior living facilities?||Yes (Conditions Apply)|
|Does the state recommend or require that senior living facilities assist families with setting up virtual visit alternatives?||Yes|
|Are visitors being screened for elevated temperatures?||Yes|
|Are visitors being asked questions about health, travel, and potential virus contact?||Yes|
Outings and Group Activities
|Are residents allowed to leave the facility for non-medical reasons?||Yes|
|Are residents of senior living facilities who leave and return required to self-quarantine?||Not Available*|
|Are senior living facilities required to cancel all group outings?||No|
|Are residents still eating together in the dining hall?||Yes (Conditions Apply)|
|Are facilities still allowed to host group activities within the community?||Yes (Conditions Apply)|
Safety Measures for Staff & Contractors
|Are staff members and contractors being screened for elevated temperatures?||Yes|
|Are staff members and contractors being tested for Coronavirus?||Yes|
|Are staff members and contractors being asked questions about health, travel, and potential virus contact?||Yes|
Safety Measures for Residents
|Are staff members required to regularly screen residents for coronavirus symptoms?||Yes|
|Are residents relied on to screen themselves and self-report potential coronavirus symptoms?||No|
|Are staff members required to take residents’ temperatures?||Yes|
|Are residents being tested for coronavirus?||Yes (Conditions Apply)|
*NOTE: This information was not available for this state, contact your local area agency on aging or senior living facility for more information.
Senior Living Laws and Regulations in Alaska
Note: All these rules typically apply to non-clinical senior living facilities, such as independent living, assisted living, and memory care facilities. Nursing homes and other senior living facilities with a clinical setting may have additional or slightly different requirements and regulations.
The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services oversees the licensing and inspection of senior living homes through the Division of Health Care Services Certification and Licensing. Senior living homes must comply with state laws and regulations regarding staffing, safeguards against resident abuse, management, care services and accommodations. Below you’ll find a brief overview of some of these regulations:
Every licensed senior living facility in Alaska must provide residents with the following:
- A room furnished in accordance with community standards using furniture provided by either the facility or the resident
- Adequate storage space for clothing and personal items
- Linens, soap and bathing facilities
- A device that residents can use to call for assistance from their room
- Single-occupancy bedrooms must be at least 80 square feet, and double-occupancy rooms must measure no less than 140 square feet
- If smoking is allowed, a designated smoking area that is not used as a common area must be provided
No more than two residents can be placed in each bedroom, and the entire property must be used only as a senior living residence or other type of licensed facility.
At least three nutritionally balanced meals plus snacks must be provided daily, and meals should be prepared in a way that respects health, cultural, religious or ethnic preferences.
Senior living homes may supervise the self-administration of prescription medications by residents, and provide limited medication management services. This includes storing all prescription and nonprescription medications in a secure location, providing medication reminders, opening pill containers and verifying the dosage listed on the label.
Staff must maintain a written record of any medications dispensed to residents, and staff can administer medications with the written consent of a resident or their legal representative. Medications can only be administered when prescribed by a physician and administered under the direct or indirect supervision of a licensed health care provider, such as a registered nurse.
Health-Related Service Regulations
Licensed senior living homes may provide limited health-related services, including intermittent nursing services to residents who do not require 24-hour nursing care. Residents who are expected to need 24-hour skilled nursing care for up to 45 days due to terminal illness or a temporary medical condition may be allowed to remain in a senior living facility for the duration if appropriate care is available.
Nursing services can only be performed by a licensed nurse or a person designated by a licensed nurse. Staff can help residents with activities of daily living, such as eating, getting dressed and bathing.
Everyone who works in a senior living home must complete a criminal record check and be trained in emergency procedures and infection control practices. At least one staff member needs to be on-site at all times, and that person must have a current CPR and first aid certification that’s renewed at least once every 2 years.
All senior living homes need to have at least one designated administrator who manages day-to-day operations, oversees compliance with state regulations and acts as a liaison between staff, residents, family members and the licensing agency.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does assisted living cost in Alaska?
The statewide average cost of assisted living care in Alaska is $6,000, which is nearly $2,000 more than the national average. Monthly costs in Fairbanks are $938 higher than the average cost in Anchorage, and actual costs vary depending on the location, accommodation, amenities and services.
Are there financial assistance programs for assisted living in Alaska?
Yes. Seniors who need financial assistance may qualify for the Alaska Senior Benefits Program, a state-funded program that provides monthly cash benefits to eligible seniors aged 65 and older. Seniors may also be able to access SSI benefits or enroll in a Medicaid Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) waiver that covers some assisted living and long-term care costs.
Who should consider assisted living?
Seniors who need help with everyday tasks, such as bathing and grooming, medication administration and meal preparation, but don’t require 24/7 skilled nursing might want to consider joining an assisted living community. Assisted living can also be a good option for older adults who have mild to moderate memory loss or require a barrier-free environment that accommodates mobility devices, such as wheelchairs, mobility scooters and walkers.
What are “Activities of Daily Living”?
Activities of daily living, or ADLs, are routine tasks that people need to perform every day to maintain basic hygiene and health. ADLs include bathing, using the toilet, getting dressed, shaving, eating and moving around one’s home. As people age, they may develop physical and cognitive issues that limit their ability to perform ADLs independently.
What types of amenities are commonly in Assisted Living Communities?
In Alaska, all licensed assisted living communities must provide residents with a semiprivate or private room that is at least 80 square feet and includes in-suite storage and a private bathroom. Because assisted living facilities are required to serve three meals daily plus snacks, most facilities have communal dining rooms or restaurant-style dining areas. Other common amenities include a living room or recreation room equipped with a television, one or more outdoor areas that may have gardens or garden paths and nondenominational worship spaces. Some assisted living facilities have guest suites that residents can reserve for visiting friends and family members, and larger facilities often have on-site barber shops and beauty salons.
Learn More About Senior Living in Alaska
The Top Cities for Senior Living in Alaska
Learn more about the cost of senior living in the top Alaska cities. Additionally, find reviews and information about assisted living facilities and other senior living communities across the state.