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Guide to Senior Living in Wisconsin

Wisconsin has a total population of 5.8 million, and around 989,000, or 17%, of its residents are aged 65 or older. This number is projected to increase by 72% between 2015 and 2040, especially in rural areas. By 2040, older adults will represent more than 21% of the population in the majority of Wisconsin’s counties, and in 18 counties, it’s expected that at least 33% of the total population will be 65 or older.

Currently, there are more than 1,800 residential senior living facilities across the state. This number is expected to rise, which will give older adults access to even more senior living options. The average cost for assisted living in the state is $4,350 per month, which is higher than the national average, although some areas are more affordable than others. There are also programs available to help seniors manage the cost of senior living. This guide includes information about the cost of care, financial resources available and local programs and agencies that can support seniors in need.

Covid-19 Rules and Restrictions for Wisconsin Senior Living Facilities

The following rules and guidelines were obtained from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services website, as well as other state-level government sites. Among others, these rules apply to all long-term care facilities including assisted living facilities, supported living apartments, and more.

This data has been most recently updated on 7/13/20, 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?No (see restrictions) 
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?NA
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?Yes, but it is strongly discouraged 
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
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 Wisconsin

There are many different long-term care options available to seniors in Wisconsin who are looking for extra assistance. Assisted living is a popular choice, but some seniors prefer in-home care as it allows them to stay in the comfort of their own homes. Adult day care is budget-friendly, but it may not meet the needs of all seniors.


In-Home Care


Assisted Living


Home Health Care


Adult Day Care


Nursing Home Care

The Cost of Assisted Living in Wisconsin

Genworth Financial’s 2019 Cost of Care Survey shows that seniors in Wisconsin can expect to pay around $4,350 per month for assisted living. This is slightly higher than the national average of $4,051. Costs in Wisconsin are also higher than those in neighboring states. Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota have more affordable assisted living options with monthly costs that are $180 to $550 lower than the Badger State.




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The Cost of In-Home Care in Wisconsin

In-home care is an appealing option for senior citizens, and residents of Wisconsin may find it affordable at $4,767 per month. This is $477 higher than the national average, but Wisconsin’s prices match its neighboring state of Iowa and are $762 cheaper than nearby Minnesota. However, lesser prices can be found in Michigan ($4,767) and Illinois ($4,481).




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The Cost of Nursing Home Care in Wisconsin

When searching for affordable nursing home care, it is important to understand the options available. For Wisconsin residents, it can be helpful to know that the average monthly costs of nursing home care are $760 higher than the U.S. average. However, these costs are midrange for the surrounding area. Prices range from $100 – $1,803 higher in Michigan and Minnesota to $1,931 – $2,342 lower in Iowa and Illinois.




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Financial Assistance for Senior Living in Wisconsin

Wisconsin Medicaid

Wisconsin Medicaid provides health coverage, long-term care and other support services to eligible residents in Wisconsin. There are a variety of Medicaid programs available to seniors in the state, which may help seniors pay for care in senior living facilities. In particular, the Include, Respect, I Self-Direct (IRIS) program provides support to people who need long-term care but don’t want to live in a nursing home. People in certain senior living facilities may be eligible for this program.

To qualify for Medicaid, seniors must meet financial eligibility requirements. The income limit for regular Medicaid is $605.78 per month plus up to $261 as an Actual Shelter allowance, which includes the cost of mortgage, rent, property tax and utilities. There’s also an asset limit of $2,000. Seniors applying for waiver programs like IRIS have a higher income allowance of $2,349 per month. In addition, seniors must require a level of care typically provided by a nursing home or intermediate care facility to be eligible for waivers. Married couples have higher income and asset limits for all programs.

Contact: Call (888) 515-4747 for more information, or email [email protected]. Seniors can apply for Medicaid online, by mail or by contacting their local income maintenance or tribal agency.

Wisconsin Supplemental Security Income – Exceptional Expense Supplement

The Wisconsin Supplemental Security Income (SSI) – Exceptional Expense Supplement, known as SSI-E, is available to seniors who receive SSI and need at least 40 hours of in-home care or long-term support services each month. It’s available to people in a range of living situations, including those in adult family care or senior living residences, also known as Residential Care Apartment Complexes.

In addition to the care requirements, seniors must be eligible for SSI. Applicants must be a U.S. citizen, qualified alien or national and aged 65 or over. Their monthly income must be below the federal benefit rate of $783 for singles and $1,175 for married couples. Assets cannot exceed $2,000 for singles or $3,000 for married couples although this figure doesn’t include certain resources, such as a primary home, vehicle and home furnishings.

Contact: Applications and further information can be found at the local income maintenance or tribal agency or by contacting (608) 266-1865.

Senior Living Laws and Regulations in Wisconsin

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.

The state government sets rules and policies for senior living facilities to abide by to ensure that seniors receive the best care. The two main types of residential senior living facilities in Wisconsin are community-based residential facilities (CBRFs) and residential care apartment complexes (RCACs). The state also licenses adult day care facilities and adult family homes. All are overseen by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Bureau of Assisted Living, Division of Quality Assurance.

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements differ depending on the type of facility. CBRFs can admit people with a range of conditions, including dementia and physical disabilities. However, these facilities are designed for people who need an intermediate level of care, which is defined as no more than three hours of nursing care per week. There are people who cannot be admitted, including those who are bedridden, destructive, abusive or present an imminent risk of harm to staff and other residents.

RCACs cannot accept anyone who has been deemed incompetent by a court, physician or psychologist. This is generally defined as someone who is unable to recognize danger, summon assistance, express a need or make their own care decisions. The only exception is if they intend to share an apartment with a competent person who takes responsibility for them, such as a spouse. RCACs can provide up to 28 hours of services each week.

Staffing Requirements

There are no minimum staffing ratios for senior living facilities in Wisconsin; however, facilities must have sufficient numbers available to meet residents’ needs as defined in the service agreement. All staff must receive training in safety procedures, resident rights, abuse reporting and managing challenging behaviors. Additionally, CBRF staff must be trained in medication management. Both RCACs and CBRFs must provide adequate training to ensure that staff can provide all offered services.

Memory Care Regulation

CBRFs that offer memory care must ensure that all staff receive specialized dementia care training. This should cover the characteristics of people with dementia as well as medication and treatment needs. The facility must offer structured activities for people with dementia that are integrated into residents’ daily routine.

Medication Management Requirements

Residents of CBRFs may self-administer medications; however, facilities are licensed to provide medication management. CBRFs can choose to have medication administration supervised by a registered nurse (RN), nurse practitioner or pharmacist, and these individuals will coordinate and inspect the process. If not supervised by one of these individuals, the facility must arrange for a pharmacist to package and label each resident’s medication in individual doses. Certain medications, mainly those not taken orally, must be administered by an RN, licensed nurse practitioner or unlicensed assistant if delegated by a licensed nurse.

RCACs can offer medication administration, which is defined as giving or assisting residents in taking the correct dosage of medication at the right time. Alternatively, they can provide medication management, which is defined as oversight by a health care professional to minimize the risks associated with taking those medications. In both cases, medications can be administered by an RN or an unlicensed staff member under the supervision of a nurse or pharmacist.

Wisconsin Senior Living Free Resources

Wisconsin Agencies

Bureau of Aging and Disability Resources

Part of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, the Bureau of Aging and Disability Resources has a range of programs available to assist people as they age. Some of these programs offer financial assistance, such as help paying for prescription medicines or services like the Senior Companion Program. Additionally, the department provides information and counseling to help older adults make decisions about their care and refers seniors to programs in their area.

In most cases, there are no costs associated with these services although some programs may charge a small fee. Anyone can contact the department to learn more about these programs or to apply for benefits.

Contact: Call (608) 266-2536 for more information, or email [email protected]. Seniors may also contact their local County or Tribal Aging Unit.

Area Agencies on Aging in Wisconsin

Wisconsin has three Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs). The AAAs in Milwaukee and Dane counties are single-county units. The third is the Greater Wisconsin Agency, which acts as a contract and oversight agency for the rest of the state. These agencies assess needs and services in their area, develop plans to address gaps and advocate for older people. They also arrange for providers to offer various services by financing and administering contracts for these programs.

Veterans Affairs Offices in Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Department of Veteran Affairs administers a range of programs that provide health, educational and economic assistance to veterans statewide. Senior veterans and spouses who are interested in senior living may wish to look at the state’s three veterans homes. The office can also help veterans identify and apply for federal benefits as a number of financial programs are available to help current and former service members in need.

Social Security Offices in Wisconsin

Seniors in financial need may be eligible for Social Security, which provides an income that can be used to pay for senior living. There are Social Security offices throughout the state for seniors seeking further information.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does assisted living cost in Wisconsin?

The cost of assisted living in Wisconsin averages $4,350 per month, which is higher than the national average. There are also significant regional price differences. For example, the average cost in Madison is $3,950, while seniors in Racine pay $4,788, or $838 more per month.

Are there financial assistance programs for assisted living in Wisconsin?

Yes. The Wisconsin Medicaid program Include, Respect, I Self-Direct (IRIS) can help pay for assisted living services. Additionally, the Wisconsin Supplemental Security Income (SSI) – Exceptional Expense Supplement is available to eligible seniors in some assisted living facilities.

What types of care are provided by assisted living facilities?

Most assisted living facilities provide a package of services that support residents’ physical, mental and emotional well-being. This includes assistance with activities of daily care, such as grooming and bathing, medication management and meals. Facilities also arrange activities that encourage socialization and engagement, and many have transportation available to take seniors to medical and other appointments.

What is the difference between assisted living and nursing homes?

The main difference between assisted living facilities and nursing homes is the level of care provided. Both offer assistance with activities of daily living and medication management, but nursing homes can also provide skilled nursing and limited medical treatments. Generally, the environment is different as well. Nursing homes typically provide services in a clinical setting, and assisted living facilities strive to maintain a homelike setting with plenty of social interaction.

Who should consider assisted living?

Assisted living is aimed at seniors who are still mostly independent but need help with some tasks. It’s a good choice for people who are having difficulty with some activities, such as meal preparation, bathing and housekeeping. People who are at risk in their own homes may also benefit from a move to assisted living. This risk may be due to falls, a health condition that requires monitoring or the possibility of forgetting to take an important medication. Lastly, many seniors choose assisted living because it provides a built-in social circle with many activities to keep them engaged.

The Top Cities for Senior Living in Wisconsin

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

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