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.
The Cost of Senior Living in Tennessee
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.
Seniors who prefer to either live in a community with other seniors or who require residential care for round-the-clock treatment have several options for senior care. Assisted living and memory care typically go together. Assisted living communities are residential care facilities that offer varying levels of assistance depending on individual needs. They can provide housekeeping, grooming, transportation, meals and medication management. Memory care is usually offered within assisted living. It provides increased security and supervision for those with memory issues and also provides daily activities to stimulate the mind. Nursing homes offer the most comprehensive care, including skilled nursing, therapy and physicians’ visits. Independent living is generally not medically necessary, but allows seniors to live with others of the same age for socializing and housing benefits.
The cost of an assisted living community in Tennessee is around $4,105, while adding memory care increases the cost by 25% to $5,131. Independent living is the least expensive option at $2,668 per month, while a nursing home costs around $7,148, according to Genworth’s 2021 Cost of Care Survey.
Nursing Home Care
The Cost of Assisted Living in Tennessee
The location of the community plays a big part in the cost of care. In Tennessee, assisted living costs around $4,105, which is $395 less than the national average. Neighboring states all have very similar costs and are less expensive than those in Tennessee. Alabama and Kentucky residents pay $3,503 and $3,448, while seniors in Mississippi and Georgia pay $3,500 and $3,535 respectively.
The United States
The Cost of Nursing Home Care in Tennessee
Nursing homes can be expensive due to the amount of care involved. Georgia seniors pay on average $7,148 per month, which is less than the national average of $7,908. Kentucky residents pay on average $30 more a month at $7,178, while seniors in Mississippi pay $30 less at $7,118. Georgia residents pay around $7,011, while those in Alabama pay the least at $6,676 for a semiprivate room.
The United States
Can You Use Medicaid to Pay for Senior Living in Tennessee?
Tennessee’s state Medicaid program is referred to as TennCare. This state benefit program provides healthcare to low-income seniors and others who qualify for assistance. Long-term care can be expensive, especially for seniors on a budget, and TennCare is one of the top financial assistance programs that makes this type of care possible for some.
Seniors in long-term care may use Medicaid to pay for nursing home care, however, room and board is typically not covered for assisted living and memory care patients. Instead, they may use the CHOICES waiver to help pay for personal care services.
Independent living is not covered by Tennessee Medicaid. This type of residential care is for seniors who are able to live independent lifestyles without medical intervention of assistance.
|Medicaid Coverage Level||Type of Medicaid Coverage||Entitlement?*|
|Nursing Home Care||Full||Medicaid||Yes|
*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 Tennessee
State Medicaid generally only pays for necessary services in long-term care. Room and board in an assisted living community is typically not deemed essential, so this type of services isn’t covered. Those who need help with daily living may receive help paying for some services through the CHOICES waiver.
TennCare CHOICES is a waiver program that helps seniors pay for home and community-based services in their home or community to avoid or delay admission into a nursing home. The program pays for services like one-on-one assistance housekeeping, medication assistance, meals, transportation and therapy. Eligible seniors should meet the Medicaid income and asset limits and require nursing home care as determined by a personal needs assessment. To apply, seniors should contact their local Area Agency on Aging and Disability.
Medicaid’s Coverage of Nursing Home Care in Tennessee
TennCare covers the cost of a nursing home for all seniors who meet income and resource requirements and who require nursing home level of care. It covers skilled nursing, therapy and doctor visits, as-well-as personal care.
Eligibility for Medicaid in Tennessee
Individuals applying for TennCare must meet income and asset limits set by the state. The maximum income limit for a single applicant must not exceed 300% of the federal poverty level, or $30,276 per year. In a two-person household with both individuals applying, the total allowed income is $60,552 per year or $30,276 per applicant. Asset limits are $2,000 per person or $4,000 per couple. In a two-person household where only one individual applies, the non-applicant can have assets totaling up to $137,400, which makes it easier to maintain the family residence.
2022 Tennessee Medicaid Income Limits
|Yearly Income Limits||Asset Limits|
|Two-Person Household(Only one applicant)||$30,276 per applicant||$2,000 for applicant$137,400 for non-applicant|
|Two-Person Household(Two applicants)||$60,552($30,276 per applicant)||$4,000($2,000 per applicant)|
Other eligibility requirements include:
- Must be 65 years of age or older
- Citizen of the United State or legal alien
- Resident of Tennessee
- Require nursing home level of care
Applying for Medicaid in Tennessee
Applications for TennCare may be processed online at TennCare Connect or by calling (855) 259-0701. Paper applications may be downloaded and submitted by mail to TennCare Connect, P.O. Box 305240, Nashville, TN 37230-5240 or faxed to (855) 315-0669. To apply in person, locate the local Department of Human Services office by searching online or calling the TennCare Connect number.
Before You Apply
Before applying for TennCare, gather as much information to prove eligibility as possible. Be ready to offer the following:
- Current address, phone number and email address
- Social Security number of each applicant
- Proof of income from jobs and other sources
- Government-issued photo ID
- Copy of birth certificate or proof of citizenship or legal status
- Proof of property ownership
- Health insurance information
- Other documents to show proof
How to Get Help
Tennessee residents can get help applying for state Medicaid through a variety of free resources and local organizations. The following contact provides help navigating the Medicaid process and additional state benefits.
|Contact||What You Should Know|
|Benefits.gov||800-342-3145||Benefits.gov is a federal website that provides information on state benefits. Individuals can get details about Medicaid, including eligibility details, contact information and how to apply.|
|Tennessee Justice Center||615-255-0331||The Tennessee Justice Center helps answer questions about Medicaid and Medicare and provides answers on additional state benefits. The justice center can also assist in the appeals process if an application has been denied and will investigate cases of insurance fraud.|
|Help4TN||844-435-7486||Help4TN is a free service for low-income Tennessee residents that provides information and help on a range of legal and social services. It includes a brief overview of Medicaid and Medicare, including eligibility, plan details and information on savings programs.|
Can You Use Medicare to Pay for Senior Living in Tennessee?
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.
Navigating Medicare can be tricky, especially for seniors who’ve never applied before. The following organizations can provide assistance with the different parts of the program, including prescription coverage and supplemental insurance options.
|Resource||Contact||What You Should Know|
|Tennessee State Health insurance Assistance Program (SHIP)||(877) 801-0044||SHIP is a state program that offers trained counselors who can answer questions about the Medicare application process. They can provide assistance with seniors who need to make coverage changes, those who need explanations about out-of-pocket costs and expenses and those who need help understanding eligibility criteria and elder rights.|
|Greater Nashville Regional Council||(615) 862-8828||The Greater Nashville Regional Council is provided to residents of Nashville and the surrounding area. The council provides free, confidential and unbiased information regarding eligibility and the Medicare application process.|
|Medicare.gov||(800) 633-4227||Medicare.gov is the official government website for Medicare. Seniors may call the toll-free number to get answers to questions about claims and other personal Medicare information. The website offers a live chat 24/7 for those who prefer to contact someone online.|
Are There Other Financial Assistance Options for Senior Living in Tennessee?
Depending on your unique situation, there may be other financial assistance options to partially or fully cover the cost of senior living in Tennessee. 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 Tennessee
Regardless of the need, Tennessee has multiple resources, including free programs and services, for seniors in the state. The following resources address a variety of needs including meals, transportation, counseling, housing and job training.
|Contact||What You Should Know|
|Tennessee Adult Protective Services (APS)||(888) 277-8366||APS investigates complaints of neglect, fraud and abuse for seniors in both long-term care and living within the community. They can help with safe housing during the investigation process and can help loved ones and caregivers understand elder rights.|
|Tennessee Senior Resources||Online Only||Tennessee Senior Resources is an online database of programs for seniors to improve their overall quality of life and to address individual needs. The database is searchable by county and need and provides a brief overview of each service and contact information.|
|Tennessee Long-Term Care Ombudsman||(615) 253-5412||The long-term care ombudsman provides help to Tennessee residents by working to resolve problems in long-term care facilities. Concerns can include quality of care, financial information, residents’ rights and improper transfers and discharges.|
|Tennessee Veterans Services||(615) 741-2345||Tennessee Veterans’ Services helps men and women who’ve served in the military sign up to receive state benefits. Veterans can get help with education, job searches, nutrition, healthcare and housing. The Aid and Attendance Benefit reimburses money spent on some home and community-based services in long-term care.|
|Tennessee Alzheimer’s Association||(800) 272-3900||The Tennessee Alzheimer’s Association advocates for seniors with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. The organization works to accelerate government research, reduce risks and create an initiative of early detection.|
COVID-19 Rules and Restrictions for Tennessee Senior Living Facilities
The following information is based on research done on several government websites, including tn.gov and cms.gov. These rules apply to nursing homes and other types of senior living facilities. We’ve most recently updated this data on 2/15/2022, 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?||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?||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 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Learn More About Senior Living in Tennessee
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.
- Adams (1)
- Adamsville (3)
- Alamo (1)
- Alcoa (1)
- Algood (1)
- Antioch (2)
- Ashland City (1)
- Athens (8)
- Bartlett (4)
- Benton (1)
- Blountville (1)
- Bolivar (2)
- Brentwood (7)
- Bristol (9)
- Brownsville (3)
- Byrdstown (2)
- Camden (4)
- Carthage (2)
- Centerville (3)
- Chattanooga (41)
- Chuckey (1)
- Church Hill (1)
- Clarksville (17)
- Cleveland (17)
- Clinton (4)
- Collegedale (1)
- Collierville (4)
- Columbia (5)
- Cookeville (4)
- Cordova (5)
- Covington (3)
- Crossville (9)
- Cumberland City (1)
- Dandridge (2)
- Dayton (3)
- Decatur (1)
- Decherd (1)
- Dickson (5)
- Dunlap (1)
- Dyer (2)
- Dyersburg (11)
- East Ridge (1)
- Elizabethton (5)
- Erwin (3)
- Etowah (1)
- Fairview (1)
- Fayetteville (3)
- Franklin (12)
- Gainesboro (1)
- Gallatin (10)
- Gates (1)
- Germantown (5)
- Goodlettsville (3)
- Greeneville (8)
- Halls (1)
- Harriman (1)
- Hartsville (3)
- Henderson (3)
- Hendersonville (13)
- Hermitage (4)
- Hixson (6)
- Hohenwald (4)
- Humboldt (2)
- Huntingdon (1)
- Huntsville (2)
- Jacksboro (2)
- Jackson (14)
- Jamestown (3)
- Jefferson City (3)
- Jellico (2)
- Johnson City (19)
- Jonesborough (2)
- Kingsport (20)
- Kingston (5)
- Knoxville (64)
- La Follette (2)
- La Vergne (1)
- Lafayette (2)
- Lafollette (1)
- Lawrenceburg (7)
- Lebanon (9)
- Lenoir City (3)
- Lewisburg (2)
- Lexington (2)
- Linden (1)
- Livingston (3)
- Loretto (2)
- Loudon (5)
- Madison (8)
- Madisonville (6)
- Martin (5)
- Maryville (12)
- Maynardville (1)
- Mc Kenzie (2)
- Mc Minnville (1)
- Mcewen (1)
- Mcminnville (4)
- Memphis (95)
- Milan (2)
- Millington (1)
- Monterey (2)
- Morristown (7)
- Moscow (1)
- Mount Juliet (3)
- Mountain City (1)
- Murfreesboro (11)
- Nashville (59)
- New Tazewell (1)
- Newbern (1)
- Newport (4)
- Oak Ridge (13)
- Old Hickory (2)
- Oneida (1)
- Paris (6)
- Parsons (2)
- Pikeville (3)
- Portland (2)
- Powell (4)
- Pulaski (4)
- Ridgely (1)
- Ripley (2)
- Roan Mountain (1)
- Rockwood (3)
- Rogersville (4)
- Rutledge (3)
- Savannah (5)
- Selmer (1)
- Sevierville (9)
- Seymour (2)
- Shelbyville (6)
- Signal Mountain (1)
- Smithville (5)
- Smyrna (4)
- Somerville (2)
- South Fulton (2)
- South Pittsburg (2)
- Sparta (4)
- Spring City (1)
- Spring Hill (3)
- Springfield (5)
- Sweetwater (5)
- Tazewell (1)
- Tiptonville (3)
- Tracy City (1)
- Trenton (4)
- Tullahoma (5)
- Union City (8)
- Wartburg (2)
- Waverly (4)
- Westmoreland (1)
- White House (1)
- White Pine (1)
- Whitwell (1)
- Winchester (4)
- Woodbury (2)