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Guide to Senior Living in Tennessee

With a statewide population of 6,829,174 that has grown by 7.6% between 2010 and 2019, Tennessee is a vibrant southeastern state where seniors can find a wide range of senior living options. About 1,166,514 residents are age 65 or older, and that number is predicted to reach 1,488,370 by 2030 and 1,633,586 by 2040.

Senior living costs in Tennessee are slightly below the national average, which can make this state appealing for seniors who are seeking a budget-friendly retirement destination. Tennessee also offers a state Medicaid waiver that helps cover some of the costs of senior living, also known as assisted care living. In this guide, you’ll find in-depth information about senior living costs in Tennessee and neighboring states, financial aid programs for seniors and services that help seniors navigate their long-term care options.

Covid-19 Rules and Restrictions for Tennessee Senior Living Facilities

The following rules and guidelines were obtained from the TN Department of Health website, as well as other state-level government sites. Among others, these rules apply to nursing homes, retirement homes, long-term care facilities, assisted-living facilities.

This data has been most recently updated on 7/2/20, 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 (conditons 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?No, or with restrictions
Are facilities still allowed to host group activities within the community?No, or with restrictions

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 Tennessee

Tennessee seniors who require care have a number of in-home and residential care options to choose from. At $1,495 per month, adult day care is the most affordable option, followed by in-home care at $3,813 per month and home health care at $3,892 per month. The least-expensive residential care option is assisted living at $3,900 per month while semi-private nursing care costs an average of $6,836 per month.


Assisted Living


In-Home Care


Home Health Care


Adult Day Care


Nursing Home Care

The Cost of Assisted Living in Tennessee

The average monthly cost of assisted living care in Tennessee is $3,900 per month, which is $151 below the national average. Senior living costs in nearby North Carolina are similar at $4,000 per month, and costs in neighboring Kentucky ($3,497), Mississippi ($3,524) and Alabama ($3,250) are lower.




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North Carolina

The Cost of In-Home Care in Tennessee

At $3,813, the cost of in-home care in Tennessee is average for the southeastern part of the U.S., but lower than the national average of $4,290. While the cost of personal care and homemaking services in Kentucky and North Carolina are on par with Tennessee, both Mississippi and Alabama report lower average monthly fees. Seniors in those states spend $380 – $419 less than seniors in Tennessee for the same type of care. 




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North Carolina

The Cost of Nursing Home Care in Tennessee

For seniors seeking nursing home care, Tennessee has some of the lowest prices in the surrounding states, and the average care cost in Tennessee, $6,836, is $677 less than the national average. Alabama is the only nearby state with a lower monthly cost, $448 less than the fees in Tennessee. The rates for nursing home care in Kentucky and Mississippi are only slightly higher, while North Carolina, at $7,057, is closer to the national average of $7,513.




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North Carolina

Financial Assistance for Senior Living in Tennessee

TennCare CHOICES in Long-Term Services and Supports

TennCare CHOICES is Tennessee’s home and community-based services Medicaid waiver for seniors age 65 and older and eligible adults living with permanent disabilities. This waiver program provides funding for community-based services and supports to delay or prevent nursing home placement among seniors who are at-risk of institutionalization.

To qualify for CHOICES, seniors must first qualify for Medicaid by demonstrating financial need. As of 2020, seniors can earn up to $2,349 per month and own up to $2,000 in countable assets to be eligible for TennCare coverage. Alternatively, seniors can qualify for TennCare if they receive Supplemental Security Income payments from the federal Social Security Administration.

In addition to the financial criteria, TennCare-eligible seniors must also require the level of care normally provided in a nursing home to enroll in CHOICES. Seniors who reside in an senior living facility must pay their own room and board costs. CHOICES covers costs related to personal care, homemaker services, a personal emergency response system and adult day care.

Contact: For information on the TennCare CHOICES waiver, contact the Long-Term Service and Support Help Desk at 1-877-224-0219.

VA Aid and Attendance Benefits and Housebound Allowance

Veterans, their spouses, and survivors who qualify for a regular VA pension may be eligible for additional benefits under one of two VA pension top-up programs.

VA Aid and Attendance benefits and the Housebound allowance provide enhanced monthly VA pension benefits for applicants who are housebound, are bedridden or have a severe visual impairment.

For Aid and Attendance benefits, applicants must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Be a resident of a nursing home due to physical and/or mental deterioration caused by a disability
  • Be largely limited to bed as a result of chronic illness or disability
  • Require daily help from another person to eat, get dressed, bath, adjust a prosthetic device or perform other activities of daily living
  • Have vision tested at 5/200 or worse when wearing corrective lenses or have a field of vision of 5 degrees or less

For the Housebound allowance, applicants must have a permanent disability that limits them to their home, which can include an senior living facility, most of the time.

Note that applicants cannot receive Aid and Attendance and Housebound, even if they meet the criteria for both programs.

Contact: For more information, contact the nearest Tennessee Department of Veterans Services office or the VA at (844) 698-2311.

Senior Living Laws and Regulations in Tennessee

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.

All senior living facilities in Tennessee are regulated by the Tennessee Department of Health, Board for Licensing Health Care Facilities, which is comprised of 18 governor-appointed board members. This board oversees all health care facilities in the state and works to ensure compliance with the Standards for Assisted-Care Living Facilities (ACLFs).

Admissions Requirements

Senior living facilities are geared toward residents who require some daily assistance but who do not need continuous medical care. Tennessee seniors need to meet the following criteria to qualify for placement in an senior living community:

  • Be able to self-administer medications with limited assistance
  • Need help with some activities of daily living
  • Be free from behavior that could harm themselves or others, including verbal threats and sexually inappropriate behaviors
  • Have documentation from a licensed physician certifying that the seniors’ needs can be safely met in an ACLF setting

Some seniors who would otherwise be deemed inadmissible to an ACLF may qualify for placement on a short-term (maximum 21 day) basis. These seniors may require IV therapy, nasogastric or gastrostomy feedings and/or nasopharyngeal or tracheotomy aspiration, and eligibility for a short-term exemption to the usual admission rules is based on the availability of the required medical services.

Medication Administration

ACLFs in Tennessee may help residents self-administer prescription medications by opening containers, reading labels and providing prompts. Facilities that employ a licensed medical professional, such as a registered nurse, may be permitted to administer oral and topical medications under the direct supervision of that medical professional. At no time can unlicensed staff administer intravenous or injection medications.

Memory Care

Senior living facilities may admit seniors who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or another condition that causes memory loss. These residents must not display aggressive behavior or require chemical or physical restraints.

Staffing Requirements

Every senior living facility in Tennessee must have a designated administrator who has a current certification under the state licensing board. Administrator certification needs to be renewed on a biannual basis, and applicants must complete at least 24 hours of board-approved continuing education every two years on topics such as health care management, state regulations and nutrition.

Everyone who works in a state-licensed facility must be free of communicable disease, provide an annual record of flu vaccination and follow all infection control guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

ACLFs must have at least one on-site attendant who is awake and alert at all times and who is familiar with emergency procedures related to medical emergencies and evacuations.

Tennessee Senior Living Free Resources

Tennessee Agencies

Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability

The Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability is the state government agency mandated to protect the interests of seniors at the state level. The TCAD advocates for seniors, coordinates services, promotes the development of quality long-term care solutions in Tennessee and oversees the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program.

Contact: For general information about the TCAD, call (615) 253-4083. Seniors, family members and caregivers can call the Long-Term Care Ombudsman at (615) 837-5112.

Area Agencies on Aging in Tennessee

Tennessee seniors who need help navigating their long-term care options, accessing financial resources and connecting with local support services can contact their local Area Agency on Aging and Disabilities. These nine regional agencies provide free statewide assistance to seniors and people living with disabilities. AAADs also administer a number of programs including Medicaid counseling, legal assistance and nutrition services.

Contact: Call 1-866-836-6678 to automatically connect with the nearest AAAD.

Veterans Affairs Offices in Tennessee

The Tennessee Department of Veterans Services provides free services to veterans, their dependents and survivors. These services include information on state and federal benefits, including the VA Aid and Attendance and Housebound pension top-up programs. The Department can also help qualified veterans access VA health care services, obtain veteran discounts on state recreational facilities and apply for veteran burial benefits.

Contact: For more information, contact the nearest State Veterans Services Office.

Chattanooga Vet Center951 Eastgate Loop Road Bldg. 5700 – Suite 300
Chattanooga, TN 37411
(423) 855-6570(423) 855-6570
Johnson City Vet Center2203 McKinley Road, Suite 254
Johnson City, TN 37604
(423) 928-8387(423) 928-8387
Knoxville Vet Center1645 Downtown West Blvd #28,Knoxville, TN 37919(865) 633-0000
Memphis Vet Center1407 Union Ave., Suite 410
Memphis, TN 38104
(901) 522-3950(901) 522-3950
Nashville Vet Center1420 Donelson Pike Suite A-5
Nashville, TN 37217
(615) 366-1220

Social Security Offices in Tennessee

Tennessee seniors who have a low income and few countable assets may be eligible for monthly cash benefits through the Supplemental Security Income program. Administered by the federal Social Security Administration, SSI funds can be used toward the cost of senior living care. For more information, contact the SSA at 1-800-772-1213.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does assisted living cost in Tennessee?

The average cost of assisted living care in Tennessee is $3,900 per month. Costs are above the state average in Memphis ($4,113), Nashville ($4.150) and Kingsport ($4,248), but the average assisted living cost in cities such as Clarksville ($3,323) and Chattanooga ($3,225) and below the state average.

Are there financial assistance programs for assisted living in Tennessee?

Yes. Seniors who need help covering the cost of assisted living may be eligible for enrollment in the TennCare CHOICES in Long-Term Care Program, a Medicaid program that funds services to help seniors avoid placement in a nursing facility. Eligible veterans, their spouses and survivors may also qualify for one of two VA pension top-up programs, the Aid and Attendance benefit and the Housebound allowance.

Who should consider assisted living?

Assisted living facilities are geared toward seniors who need some assistance with activities of daily living, such as bathing, preparing meals and housework, but who do not require medical care. Seniors who are struggling to maintain their household, have mobility issues, are experiencing some memory loss or who have experienced age-related loss of function may want to consider joining an assisting living community.

What types of amenities are commonly in assisted living communities?

Amenities in assisted living communities vary depending on the size, location and monthly cost. Most facilities have at least one communal dining room, a recreational area with a television and outdoor space such as a patio, enclosed terrace or walking paths. Many communities also have fitness rooms, arts and crafts studios, non-denominational worship spaces and beauty and barber shops. Resort-style assisted living communities often have a swimming pool, putting green, private dining room and facility-wide Wi-Fi service.

What is the difference between assisted living and nursing homes?

While both assisted living facilities and nursing homes are generally geared toward the needs of seniors, there are some significant differences between these types of care. Assisted living residents are able to retain some independence and perform many activities of daily living either on their own or with limited assistance. Nursing homes provide around-the-clock medical care and supervision for those who require a high level of medical and non-medical support.

The Top Cities for Senior Living in Tennessee

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

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