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Guide to Senior Living in Massachusetts

In 2019, Massachusetts had a population of 6,892,503 residents; 16.5% of these residents were 65 and older. Based on data released by the U.S. Census Bureau, the UMass Donahue Institute expects seniors to make up 21.2% of the Massachusetts population by 2030. With 192 miles of coastline, more than 100 museums and easy access to some of America’s most treasured historical sites, the Bay State is ideal for active seniors. Because Massachusetts has nationally ranked research hospitals and no state tax on Social Security income, it’s also a great place to retire.

Despite the many benefits of living in Massachusetts, the state does have a high cost of living, which affects the cost of senior care. As a result, seniors can expect to pay an average of $5,640 per month for assisted living, which is significantly higher than the national average of $4,051. This guide provides information on the costs associated with senior living, compares assisted living with other types of senior care and describes several programs that can make senior living more affordable.

Paying for Senior Living in Massachusetts

The cost of senior care varies based on the level of assistance required. Adult day care is the most affordable option, but it’s not suitable for seniors who need overnight care. Nursing home care is the most expensive, but not all seniors need the level of nursing care provided by these facilities. Senior living is slightly more expensive than in-home care or home health care.

$5640

Assisted Living

$5186

In-Home Care

$5243

Home Health Care

$1473

Adult Day Care

$12473

Nursing Home Care

The Cost of Assisted Living in Massachusetts

According to Genworth Financial’s 2019 Cost of Care Survey, assisted living costs an average of $5,640 per month in Massachusetts. This is nearly $1,600 per month higher than the national average of $4,051. Due to variations in the cost of living, assisted living is more affordable in some states than others. At an average cost of $7,021 per month, New Hampshire is the most expensive state in the region. Vermont and Rhode Island are slightly cheaper than Massachusetts, while Connecticut seniors can expect to save nearly $800 per month.

$5640

Massachusetts

$4051

United States

$7021

New Hampshire

$5338

Vermont

$5199

Rhode Island

$4880

Connecticut

The Cost of In-Home Care in Massachusetts

Bay State seniors who want to hire an in-home care service provider to help with personal care and household chores will find the costs in Massachusetts to be almost $900 more per month than the national average of $4,290. While that may sound steep, the $5,186 that seniors here pay is in line with the fees in Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Hampshire: $5,148, $5,195 and $5,243, respectively. New York’s seniors do pay a little less for the same care at $4,767 a month.

$5186

Massachusetts

$4290

United States

$5148

Rhode Island

$5195

Connecticut

$4767

New York

$5243

New Hampshire

The Cost of Nursing Home Care in Massachusetts

Of all the care types, nursing home care is more costly than other care types, and this is especially true in Massachusetts where the monthly average is $12,473—a whopping  $4,960 higher than the United States average. As high as this cost is, Massachusetts’ southern neighbor Connecticut exceeds that rate by $266. There is more affordable care in other nearby states for seniors who prefer to keep their money in wallets. Nursing home care in New York is reportedly $11,613, but Rhode Island and New Hampshire offer bigger savings at $9,961 and $9,581, respectively.  

$12473

Massachusetts

$7513

United States

$9961

Rhode Island

$12699

Connecticut

$11613

New York

$9581

New Hampshire

Financial Assistance for Senior Living in Massachusetts

Massachusetts State Supplement Program

Massachusetts offers supplemental payments to eligible seniors who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) each month. Seniors who earn too much to qualify for SSI may be eligible for partial payments if they don’t exceed the state income limits.

The Massachusetts State Supplement Program is available to seniors who are at least 65 years old, as well as younger adults with disabilities. To qualify for supplemental payments, a senior must apply for SSI. If approved, eligible seniors will receive their supplemental payments by direct deposit or check. The payments can be used to pay for room and board at a senior living facility.

Contact: Seniors who haven’t applied for SSI can do so by calling (800) 772-1213 or visiting a local Social Security office. For questions about the State Supplement Program, call (877) 863-8310.

Moving Forward Plan Community Living Waiver

Traditional Medicaid benefits don’t cover room and board at senior living facilities. Still, Massachusetts has a waiver program that allows Medicaid recipients to use their benefits to cover some types of long-term care. To qualify for this program, a senior must be at least 65 years old and live in an senior living facility or similar long-term care residence. Younger seniors may qualify if they have certain disabilities.

Applicants must also need a nursing level of care, meet the financial requirements to qualify for the MassHealth Standard plan and be able to live in the community. Seniors interested in the MFP waiver must demonstrate a need for residential services offering 24/7 staff supervision.

Contact: Seniors can apply for MassHealth Standard on the Commonwealth of Massachusetts website. Older adults who live in long-term care facilities and already have MassHealth Standard coverage should submit their completed MFP waiver applications to the UMass MFP Waiver Unit, 333 South St., Shrewsbury, MA 01545.

Senior Care Options

Massachusetts offers the Senior Care Options program, a cooperative effort between Medicare and Medicaid. To be eligible for this program, a senior must be at least 65 years old, live at home or in a long-term care facility and reside in an area served by an SCO plan. The program is only available to members of MassHealth Standard who haven’t been diagnosed with end-stage renal disease.

Seniors who receive SCO benefits receive services through a network of providers who belong to a senior care organization. Although SCO doesn’t cover room and board at a senior living facility, it includes some of the personal care provided by staff members, which can help make senior living more affordable.

Contact: For more information about the SCO program, visit the Mass.gov website

Senior Living Laws and Regulations in Massachusetts


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.

In Massachusetts, the Department of Elder Affairs regulates senior living facilities. All facilities must follow the regulations outlined in the Code of Massachusetts Regulations to keep their licenses in good standing. These are some of the laws Massachusetts senior living facilities must follow.

Scope of Care

In Massachusetts, all senior living facilities must provide a minimum level of service. Required services include assistance with activities of daily living, housekeeping, laundry, management of self-administered medications and assistance with residents’ emergency needs.

Senior living facilities aren’t permitted to provide ongoing skilled nursing services. If residents require skilled nursing, it must be provided by a certified home health agency. Nurses employed by senior living facilities are prohibited from directing unlicensed staff members to administer medications or perform skilled nursing services.

Care Plan Requirements

Before a resident is admitted to an senior living facility, staff members must conduct an initial assessment to determine whether the facility can meet the individual’s needs. If the individual meets the facility’s admission requirements, staff members must develop a service plan based on the results of the assessment and an evaluation performed by a licensed medical professional. Every plan must include information related to the resident’s medical status, allergies, medication needs, personal care needs, psychosocial history, ability to manage medications and level of assistance required during emergencies.

Requirements for Memory Care Units

Facilities with special care units for residents with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia must meet additional requirements. For example, a special residence must have at least two staff members awake and on duty at all times. The facility needs to have a detailed plan describing the physical environment, the building’s physical design and the safety features available to protect residents. Memory care units must also have secure entry and exit doors in all common areas.

Staff members who work in special care units and have direct contact with residents must receive seven hours of initial training to help them meet the specialized needs of residents with dementia. All staff members must receive 10 additional hours of training each year.

Staffing Requirements

All prospective staff members must undergo a background check before starting work at a senior living facility in Massachusetts. Senior living facilities may not employ staff members who have been convicted of offenses that are reasonably related to the health or safety of residents. Individuals with felony convictions are prohibited from serving as managers of senior living facilities.

Every senior living facility must designate a manager and a service coordinator. Staff members who provide direct care to residents must be licensed health care professionals or complete a 54-hour training program. Licensed health professionals include registered nurses, certified home health aides and certified nursing assistants. Massachusetts has no minimum staffing ratio for senior living facilities. Still, every residence must have enough staff members on duty at all times to meet the needs of residents and respond to any emergencies.

Training Requirements

All direct-care staff must complete a seven-hour orientation that includes training in resident rights, elder abuse and exploitation, the aging process, emergency preparedness and other relevant topics. Staff members who provide personal care must also complete one hour of training in medication management.

Medication Management

All facilities are required to provide assistance with the self-administration of medications. Only staff members who have completed the necessary training are permitted to provide this type of care. Massachusetts also allows senior living facilities to offer limited medication administration services. If a facility chooses to provide this optional service, medications must be administered by a licensed nurse or another individual who meets the definition of a licensed practitioner.

Abuse and Neglect Reporting

Staff members are required to report allegations of abuse, neglect and exploitation to Elder Protective Services. Reports can be made by telephone at (800) 922-2275 or online at the Executive Office of Elder Affairs website.

Massachusetts Senior Living Free Resources

Area Agencies on Aging in Massachusetts

Massachusetts has 31 Area Agencies on Aging to help seniors navigate the many services available to them. Trained staff members are on hand to answer questions about senior living and help seniors search for senior living facilities capable of meeting their needs. For seniors who need help paying for senior living, staff members can also research state and federal assistance programs, help residents determine if they qualify for these programs and provide assistance with filling out applications.

Each Area Agency on Aging has a dedicated service area to ensure that seniors receive information on facilities and programs available in their regions.

Veterans Affairs Offices in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services coordinates benefits for veterans residing in Massachusetts. Department staff members are also available to help Massachusetts veterans determine if they qualify for federal benefits administered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Veterans who need help paying for senior living may qualify for a pension supplement known as the VA Aid and Attendance benefit. Funds from this program can be used to pay for personal care or room and board at a senior living facility.

This benefit is available to veterans and surviving spouses who need a nursing level of care and qualify for a traditional VA pension. Veterans may qualify for this benefit if they are blind, confined to bed due to an illness, live in a nursing home due to a disability or need help with feeding, bathing or other activities of daily living. To apply for this program, veterans must fill out the application form and mail it to the Philadelphia VA Pension Management Center at the Department of Veterans Affairs Pension Intake Center, PO Box 5365, Janesville, WI 53547-5365.

VETERANS AFFAIRS OFFICEADDRESSPHONE NUMBER
Boston Vet Center7 Drydock Avenue, Suite 2070
Boston, MA 02210-2303
(857) 203-6461
Brockston Vet Center1041L Pearl St.
Brockton, MA 02301
(508) 580-2730
New Bedford Vet Center73 Huttleton Avenue, Unit 2
Fairhaven, MA 02719
(508) 999-6920
Cape Cod Vet Center474 West Main Street
Hyannis, MA 02601
(508) 778-0124
Lowell Vet Center10 George Street, Gateway Center
Lowell, MA 01852
(978) 453-1151
Springfield Vet Center95 Ashley Avenue, Suite A
West Springfield, >MA 01089
(413) 737-5167
Worcester Vet Center255 Park Avenue, Suite #900
Worcester, MA 01609
(508) 753-7902

Social Security Offices in Massachusetts

Seniors who receive benefits via the Social Security Administration may be able to use some of those funds to pay for senior living. For example, seniors who receive traditional Social Security income can spend their monthly payments without any restrictions. Seniors receiving benefits through the Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Insurance programs may also be able to use some of their funds to cover the costs of senior living.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does assisted living cost in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts seniors can expect to pay $5,640 per month, on average, for assisted living. This is higher than the national average of $4,051 per month, but assisted living is more affordable in Massachusetts than it is in nearby New Hampshire.

Does Massachusetts Medicaid pay for assisted living?

Seniors with traditional Medicaid coverage can’t use their benefits to pay for assisted living; however, Massachusetts does have a Medicaid waiver program that aims to keep residents in their communities. The Moving Forward Plan Community Living waiver is available to seniors who are at least 65 years old and meet the Medicaid eligibility requirements.

Does Medicare pay for assisted living?

Although Medicare pays for nursing home care, it doesn’t provide coverage for assisted living.

What types of care are provided by assisted living facilities?

Assisted living facilities typically provide assistance with personal care, arrange for transportation to off-site appointments, take care of cleaning and laundry duties, help residents with the self-administration of their medications and plan social activities for residents. Some facilities have special care units that provide additional support to residents with dementia. In Massachusetts, an assisted living facility may also offer medication administration services, but a nurse or other licensed practitioner must administer all medications.

What is the difference between assisted living and nursing homes?

Nursing homes provide ongoing medical care to residents who need more assistance than an assisted living facility can provide. Although assisted living facilities provide personal care and assistance with some activities of daily living, they don’t offer skilled nursing services on a regular basis.

The Top Cities for Senior Living in Massachusetts

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

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