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Guide to Senior Living in Illinois

The senior population of Illinois is large and growing. Over 15.5% of Illinois’ 12 million residents are seniors aged 65 and over, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Seniors who live in the Prairie State have their choice between the heartland rural communities that occupy most of the state, the urban excitement of Chicago, America’s second-largest city, and the prosperous suburbs in the Chicagoland area. As part of the Midwest, Illinois experiences four distinct seasons, with summer temperatures that average 84 degrees and winters that get 6 to 10 inches of snow. Senior-friendly cultural attractions in Illinois include the world-class Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Ernest Hemingway’s childhood home in Oak Park.

More than 500 senior living communities operate in the state of Illinois. The costs of senior living is comparable to or below the national average for most care types. For example, the average monthly cost of assisted living is $4,170. which is only $119 more than the national average of $4,051, according to Genworth Financial’s 2019 Cost of Care Survey.

This guide is intended to help elders and their loved ones find the senior living resources they need to live comfortably in Illinois. It also provides information about free and low-cost programs that can help seniors manage the cost of senior living.

The Cost of Senior Living in Illinois

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.

Illinois seniors have several options when it comes to long-term care. Independent living facilities offer some help with day-to-day maintenance and household tasks and are suitable for active older adults. Those who need more support with personal care might find that an assisted living community is more appropriate. Memory care communities are intended for those who are living with dementia and give residents a calming and safe environment to live in. Nursing homes provide 24-hour skilled medical care and support.

According to the Genworth Financial Cost of Care Survey 2021, the cost of senior living in Illinois is similar to the national average with seniors paying $4,488 for assisted living services. Independent living is more affordable and typically costs $2,917 per month. The additional supervision offered at memory care facilities means that seniors pay a small premium. Care in these facilities typically costs $5,610 per month. Nursing home services are the most costly with a semiprivate room that includes 24-hour skilled nursing care averaging $6,266 a month.


Assisted Living


Independent Living


Memory Care


Nursing Home Care

The Cost of Assisted Living in Illinois

Compared to neighboring states, assisted living facilities in Illinois are relatively costly. While the national average is $4,500, slightly higher than Illinois’ $4,488, seniors in Indiana pay slightly less at $4,283 per month. Kentucky ($3,448) and Missouri ($3,000) have even more affordable assisted living options.




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The Cost of Nursing Home Care in Illinois

Nursing home care in Illinois costs almost $1,700 less than the national average of $7,908 per month and is more affordable than similar services in Indiana ($7,270) and Kentucky ($7,178). Seniors in Missouri, however, pay even lower fees with a semiprivate room in a nursing home facility costing just $5,262 per month.




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Can You Use Medicaid to Pay for Senior Living in Illinois?

Illinois Medicaid covers nursing home care directly but not the cost of other types of senior care. The Illinois Supportive Living Medicaid Waiver can be used to cover the cost of senior care in some circumstances. Seniors who require a nursing home level of care and who reside in an assisted living or memory care community may receive support with part of the cost of their care, but room and board is not covered. Those residing in an independent living community are unlikely to receive support through Medicaid since these services are not medically necessary. The programs available to those living in nursing homes are the most comprehensive in terms of what they cover.

Medicaid Coverage LevelType of Medicaid CoverageEntitlement?* 
Assisted LivingPartialMedicaid WaiverNo
Independent LivingNoneN/AN/A
Memory CarePartialMedicaid WaiverNo
Nursing Home CareFullMedicaid WaiverYes

*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 Illinois

Medicaid does not directly cover the cost of assisted living or memory care. However, the Supported Living Program does cover many of the costs associated with receiving care in these facilities. The waiver can be used for personal care services, transportation, medication administration and assistive devices, but it does not cover the cost of room and board.

To be eligible, seniors must meet certain income and asset requirements and be assessed as requiring a nursing home level of care. The waiver is not an entitlement program, so there may be a waiting list to receive support. Seniors can apply online via the Illinois ABE web portal.

Medicaid’s Coverage of Nursing Home Care in Illinois

Seniors who require financial assistance for nursing home care can receive this through Medicaid directly. Medicaid Long-Term Care is an entitlement program, so support is given to everyone who is eligible. To qualify, seniors must meet income and asset limits and be assessed as needing a nursing home level of care. Those who have assets or an income above the eligibility levels may qualify through the Medically Needy Pathway if they’re spending the majority of their income on nursing home care.

Eligibility for Medicaid in Illinois

To qualify for Medicaid in Illinois, seniors must meet certain income limits. The limit for a single person or a married person applying alone is $13,596 per year. A couple can have a combined income of $18,312 per year. There are also asset limits in place. The current limit is $2,000 in countable assets for a single person, or $3,000 for a couple. If one household member is applying, community asset protections apply for the spouse’s assets up to $109,560.

2022 Illinois Medicaid Income Limits

Income Limits*Asset Limits
Single Person$13,596$2,000
Two-Person Household
(Only one applicant) 
$13,596 (for applicant)$2,000 for applicant
$109,560 spouse allowance
Two-Person Household
(Two applicants) 

*per year

In addition to income and asset requirements, there are other eligibility criteria. Seniors must:

  • Meet citizenship and residency criteria.
  • Pass a clinical needs assessment.
  • Reside in a qualifying long-term care facility for waivers).

Applying for Medicaid in Illinois

Seniors can apply for Medicaid online via the Application for Benefits Eligibility portal. Those who prefer to make their application in person can do so by visiting their nearest Department of Human Services office or by calling the DHS at (800) 843-6154.

Before You Apply 

As part of the application process, seniors may be asked to provide evidence they meet the eligibility criteria. To speed up the application process, seniors should try to have relevant documentation to hand, including their passport/birth certificate, bank statements, property deeds, and evidence of any veteran’s benefits or social security income they receive.

Seniors who are unable to provide the proof of ID or residency asked for as a part of the application process can contact the DHS for advice. Alternative documentation options are available.

How to Get Help 

Several agencies and nonprofit organizations offer help and support for older adults who are struggling with the Medicaid process. Seniors may find these resources and helplines useful when they come to apply for Medicaid or one of its waivers.

 Contact What You Should Know is a national website with a wealth of information about benefits and assistance programs available in different states. The Illinois Medicaid page includes information about the state Medicaid program, the application process and eligibility criteria, as well as useful telephone numbers.  
Department of Healthcare and Family Services   Online OnlyThe website of the Department of Healthcare and Family Services in Illinois serves as a one-stop portal for residents to manage their benefits and healthcare programs and access services. The site includes useful information and contact links for those who are enrolled in, or thinking of joining Medicaid. 
BenefitsCheckUp (800) 794-6559 The BenefitsCheckUp website is run by the National Council on Aging. This website helps seniors find benefits that they may be eligible for, and covers the whole of the United States. It includes information about Medicaid and related waivers and programs.

Can You Use Medicare to Pay for Senior Living in Illinois?

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 CoverageMedicare Coverage DurationCoinsurance Requirement?
Assisted LivingNoneN/AN/A
Independent LivingNoneN/AN/A
Memory CareNoneN/AN/A
Nursing Home CareLimited100 Days Per Benefit PeriodYes – After 20 Days

What Nursing Home Care Services Does Medicare Cover?

Medicare covers a number of specific services, including:

  • Meals
  • A semiprivate room
  • Medications
  • 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 and Resources in Illinois

Seniors who would like to learn more about Medicare or who are unsure which plans are best suited to their needs and circumstances can contact one of the following organizations for free, unbiased advice.

ResourceContact What You Should Know 
Senior Health Insurance Program(800) 252-8966The Senior Health Insurance Program provides free, unbiased advice to Illinois residents who are unsure which Medicare plans or providers would best suit their needs. Trained volunteer advisers who are not paid a commission by any health insurance provider help seniors understand the Medicare system and pick the coverage for their needs.   (800) 633-4227 This federal website contains a vast array of information about Medicare and how the system works, including open enrollment periods, information about what is covered on each plan and how to find a provider. It also provides useful contact details and information about drug plans and local providers.
Good Start Medicare(800) 252-8635This state website provides information to help those who are approaching their 65th birthday understand the Medicare enrollment process. It offers information about how to sign up and also provides a list of useful contact details. 

Are There Other Financial Assistance Options for Senior Living in Illinois?

Depending on your unique situation, there may be other financial assistance options to partially or fully cover the cost of senior living in Illinois. 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 StartedWhat You Should Know
Aid and AttendanceApply online at 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 MortgagesResearch and learn about the different types at 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) InsuranceLearn about how to receive LTC insurance benefits at 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 Illinois

Illinois seniors can take advantage of a variety of services and programs regardless of their income and needs. These state organizations and nonprofits offer help and support to all older adults in Illinois.

ResourceContact What You Should Know 
AARP Illinois (888) 687-2277AARP Illinois is the state chapter of this national organization. It provides information, advice and helpful services to adults aged 50 and over. Seniors can access information on the website for free or join the organization to take advantage of discounts, educational courses on everything from Medicare to retirement planning, an informative magazine and a variety of events centered around the needs and interests of older adults.
Alzheimer’s Association Illinois Chapter (800) 272-3900The Illinois chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association provides free advice, support and advocacy for those who are living with dementia or Alzheimer’s and for their loved ones. It runs regular fundraisers and educational events and has an extensive knowledge base to help people understand what an Alzheimer’s diagnosis means, the care services they may need and how they can plan for the future.
Illinois Area Agencies on Aging (800) 252-8966 There are 13 Area Agencies on Aging in the state of Illinois. These agencies oversee a range of services for local older adults and their loved ones. The agencies can provide assistance with completing applications for Medicaid and other benefits. They offer signposting to services to senior transportation and care coordination and help seniors access other local services.
Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (800) 437-9824The Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs works with veterans and their immediate families by helping them access the support they’re entitled to. It can assist with claiming Aid & Attendance benefits, help veterans access health care and connect them with veteran-focused long-term care services.
Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program  

See Resource for Local OmbudsmanThe Long-Term Care Ombudsman works with seniors and their families to ensure that everyone who resides in long-term care facilities is receiving a high standard of care. It accepts complaints and concerns about care facilities, acts as a mediator in the event of disputes and helps patients or facility residents understand their rights. It also investigates concerns about elder abuse and neglect.
Illinois Department on Aging Senior Law ProjectSee Service Locator for Local AdvisersThe Illinois Department on Aging runs a legal helpline for seniors that provides free civil legal advice. Seniors can contact their nearest support hotline to request help with benefits, appeals, landlord/tenant disputes, estate planning, family law and other legal issues.

COVID-19 Rules and Restrictions for Illinois Senior Living Facilities

The following information is based on research done on several government websites, including These rules apply to nursing homes and other types of senior living facilities. We’ve most recently updated this data on 2/7/2022, 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
Does the state recommend or require that senior living facilities assist families with setting up virtual visit alternatives? Not Available*
Are visitors being screened for elevated temperatures?Yes
Are visitors being asked questions about health, travel, and potential virus contact?Yes

*NOTE: This information was not available for this state, contact your local area agency on aging or senior living facility for more information.

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?No (Conditions Apply)
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 (Conditions Apply)
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)

Senior Living Laws and Regulations in Illinois

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.

Senior living communities in Illinois are overseen, licensed and regulated by the Illinois Department of Public Health. Under Illinois’ Assisted Living and Shared Housing Establishment Code, all facilities that advertise themselves as providing assisted living services must carry a valid state license. To maintain a license, each facility must meet the state’s best practices guidelines for physical facilities, staff training and operating procedures. All facilities are subject to inspection, and they must adhere to strict continuum of care guidelines to remain licensed.

Admission Requirements

Illinois regulations impose strict terms on which residents may be admitted to a senior living facility. Residents must be adults whose needs can be adequately met by the admitting facility. This excludes residents with ongoing medical needs beyond the scope of the senior living community, residents who need total care for two or more activities of daily living, individuals with severe mental illness and those who require more than minimal assistance to escape fires and other unsafe conditions.

Before admission to an Illinois senior living facility, all residents must undergo a medical and mental health screening and receive the endorsement of a physician for placement. Recommending physicians must certify that senior living is an appropriate level of care and that the senior seeking admission does not require skilled nursing or other medically licensed arrangements. Residents who pose a danger to themselves or to others must be housed in specially licensed facilities and closely supervised.

Memory Care Regulation

Establishments that provide board and care for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are required to create a safe and therapeutic environment for residents. State law calls for adequate staff to look after the care needs of seniors with dementia, as well as for the training and care coordination needed to look after residents’ medical needs. Residents must be assessed by a physician prior to admission to a memory care unit and then again annually thereafter. Assessments are also required when a change occurs in the resident’s capabilities or mental state.

Medication Management

Illinois senior living communities are permitted to offer residents limited medication services. These include medication reminders, supervision of self-administered medication and direct administration of medication as an optional service. Nonmedical certified staff at a shared living facility may remind residents to take pre-dispensed, self-administered medication. They may also observe the resident taking the medication and record whether the dose was successfully taken. Nonclinical staff are not permitted to administer medication outside of their scope, nor are they permitted to perform medical interventions that go against a resident’s physician-approved care plan.

Staffing Requirements

Staff workers at Illinois senior living facilities must be at least 16 years old and meet minimum training requirements. Other requirements include health and tuberculosis screening. Workers must pass a health worker background check, maintain a current CPR certification and be physically capable of helping seniors with disabilities evacuate a fire and other unsafe conditions. Regulations also require an initial employee evaluation and orientation process to brief new staff members on the specific procedures in the facility where they are working.

All senior living facilities in Illinois must have a qualified facility manager who meets special requirements. Managers must be high school graduates aged 21 or older, meet all of the requirements of a staff worker and pass the health worker background check, if they provide direct care services. Additionally, state law requires all managers to designate a stand-in who can perform the necessary services in their absence. Prior to starting work, facility administrators must have at least one year of management experience in health care, housing, hospitality or similar services for seniors. This requirement may be met by two years’ experience as a nonmanagement staff worker in similar industries. Changes to manager positions, including hiring, firing and transfers, must be reported to the Department of Public Health within 10 days.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does assisted living cost in Illinois?

Assisted living costs an average of $4,170 per month in Illinois. This is more than the $4,051 a month seniors pay nationwide, although it is well below some of the more expensive states for assisted living.

Does Illinois Medicaid pay for assisted living?

Illinois Medicaid does not offer coverage specifically for board and care in an assisted living facility; however, the low-income health insurance program can help many seniors who qualify for it. Beneficiaries of Illinois Medicaid may be able to get help with medication costs, medical supplies and caregiver assistance through various waiver programs.

Does Medicare pay for assisted living?

The federal Medicare program does not directly pay for the cost of residential assisted living. Some Medicare Advantage plans may include an assisted living benefit, although these vary by the program and must be researched before committing to an option.

What are “activities of daily living”?

The term “activities of daily living” is used to describe the normal chores many seniors need help to accomplish on a daily basis. These typically include washing, dressing, cleaning and cooking. The term can also include some activities outside of the home, such as driving and shopping. Caregivers can often assist with these activities.

What is the difference between assisted living and nursing homes?

Assisted living is similar to independent living, although often with a caregiver who can assist with activities of daily living. Nursing homes usually offer more medically intensive care over a shorter period, such as during the rehabilitation many seniors need after surgery, illness or injury. Nursing homes often have staff who can see to residents’ medical needs in a way that nonmedical assisted living staff cannot, and admissions to nursing care homes are usually limited in duration, while seniors can spend years in an assisted living setting.

Learn More About Senior Living in Illinois

For more information about specific types of senior living in Illinois read our Guide to Assisted Living and Independent Living.

The Top Cities for Senior Living in Illinois

Learn more about the cost of senior living in the top Illinois cities. Additionally, find reviews and information about assisted living facilities and other senior living communities across the state.

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