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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.

Covid-19 Rules and Restrictions for Illinois Senior Living Facilities

The following rules and guidelines were obtained from the Illinois Department of Public Health website, as well as other state-level government sites. Among others, these rules apply to skilled nursing, nursing, shelter care, assisted living, and shared housing as well as a variety of medical settings.

This data has been most recently updated on 7/11/20, but keep in mind that COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving crisis, so all of the below information can change at any time. For additional questions and up-to-date information, you can contact your loved one’s senior living facility or your local Area Agency on Aging.

Visiting Loved Ones

Can I visit my relative in person if he/she wants emotional support from me?Yes, outdoors (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?N/A
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?No
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?NA
Are residents of senior living facilities who leave and return required to self-quarantine?NA
Are senior living facilities required to cancel all group outings?Yes
Are residents still eating together in the dining hall?Yes, with social distancing
Are facilities still allowed to host group activities within the community?No

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

Paying for Senior Living in Illinois

Assisted living can be an affordable choice for Illinois seniors. Compared with many other options for senior care, the $4,170 a month seniors pay for assisted living is close to the monthly costs for both in-home care and home health services, at $4,481 and $4,576 per month, respectively. Adult day care in Illinois comes at an average monthly cost of $1,584. Skilled nursing is one of the more expensive care options in Illinois, with the cost of semiprivate rooms in nursing homes averaging $5,931 a month.


Assisted Living


In-Home Care


Home Health Care


Adult Day Care


Nursing Home Care

The Cost of Assisted Living in Illinois

The cost of assisted living in Illinois is similar to most nearby states. At $4,170 a month, the Illinois state average is only slightly higher than the Indiana average of $4,100 and the Iowa average of $4,078 per month. These prices are close to the national monthly average of $4,051. States near Illinois with sizable price differences include Wisconsin, where assisted living averages $4,350 per month, and Missouri, where prices can be as low as $2,881 for similar services.




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The Cost of In-Home Care in Illinois

Illinois seniors who would be better off staying in their homes than going to assisted living can expect to pay $4,481 per month for in-home care services like cleaning, grocery shopping and personal care. This is not too far off from the U.S. average of $4,290 and eastern neighbor Indiana’s average of $4,334. Seniors on a budget looking to stay in the region will find even lower costs in Missouri at $4,195 per month. The highest costs around Illinois are in Wisconsin and Iowa, both reporting costs of $4,767 each month. 




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The Cost of Nursing Home Care in Illinois 

Seniors whose health requires ongoing, skilled medical care in a nursing home will find affordable monthly fees in Illinois compared to the rest of the country. At $5,931, this rate is over $1,500 less than the national average, $7,513. Three surrounding states fall into the same category: Missouri ($5,061), Iowa ($6,342), Indiana ($7,021). Seniors north of Illinois, in Indiana, do pay the most ($7,021) in the area for the same care.




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Financial Assistance for Senior Living in Illinois

Illinois Medicaid

Illinois Medicaid provides comprehensive health services for seniors and other low-income residents of the state. Benefits include medical supplies, preadmission evaluations and Alzheimer’s services. Seniors in Illinois can also use Medicaid benefits to pay for prescription drugs and other maintenance services. To qualify for Medicaid in Illinois, seniors must meet basic income and asset limits and have a medical need for care.

Contact: Seniors can call 1-800-843-6154 to request an application packet for Medicaid. Seniors may also visit the state Medicaid website for an online application.

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.

Illinois Senior Living Free Resources

Illinois Agencies

HealthChoice Illinois

HealthChoice Illinois provides assistance for seniors in senior living facilities who are dual-eligible for Medicaid and Medicare. This program helps seniors who meet relatively strict income and asset limitations pay for the cost of long-term residential care. Covered services include caregiver assistance with activities of daily living, chore help, mobility and transportation assistance. Adult day care is also covered.

Contact: Call the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services Health Benefits hotline at 1-800-226-0768.

Illinois Medicaid-Medicare Alignment Initiative (MMAI)

The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services offers the MMAI program for seniors who receive benefits from both Medicare and Medicaid as a streamlined alternative for providing care. MMAI recipients have their Medicare and Medicaid benefits combined into a single care package, which reduces complexity and potentially expands coverage for senior care services. Program benefits include adult day care, personal care assistance and personal emergency response systems.

Contact: Call the Long-Term Care Medical Services desk at 1-217-782-0545 for program information and application assistance.

The HCBS Waiver for Supportive Living Facilities

The HCBS Waiver for Supportive Living Facilities pays for many of the services seniors need to live comfortably in senior living and other residential care settings. Although this program does not pay for the board and care costs at an assisted living community, it does cover many of the peripheral costs, such as personal caregiver assistance, medication monitoring and management and caregiver assistance with activities of daily living. To qualify for an HCBS waiver, seniors must be financially eligible for Medicaid and be medically qualified for admission to a skilled nursing facility. Beneficiaries must waive placement in a nursing care home and accept residential placement in a senior living facility.

Contact: Call the Bureau of Long-Term Care at 1-844-528-8444 for information about the Illinois HCBS waiver program or to request an application packet.

Area Agencies on Aging in Illinois

Illinois’ Area Agencies on Aging are nonprofit institutions that connect seniors with extensive resources. Staff at each office can provide valuable information about state, county and city-level resources seniors can use to help pay for senior living. AAA offices help seniors apply for Medicare, choose senior living facilities and sign up for financial assistance programs they may be eligible for. Seniors interested in visiting with an AAA worker can look up their local office online and call for an appointment.

Veterans Affairs Offices in Illinois

Honorably discharged veterans and their spouses can find valuable benefits through the Veteran Affairs office, such as the VA Aid and Attendance Benefit, which may be able to help with senior living. Seniors in Illinois can find a Veterans Affairs office online.

Social Security Offices in Illinois

The Social Security Administration can be very helpful for many Illinois seniors looking for financial and other assistance for senior living. Illinois SSA offices may be found online, and appointments can be scheduled remotely to meet with a benefit coordinator. These workers can assess seniors’ needs and help file applications for SSI/SSDI, cash assistance, Medicare, Medicaid and several other low-income assistance programs.

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.

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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