Does Medicare pay for assisted living care?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My mother has Alzheimer's and is 88 years old. She is in a rehab center after a fall. She was in ICU for a week and was extremely dehydrated and not eatting when all this happened. Since she is not able to care for herself at all anymore and Dad is not able to care for her either, does Medicare pay for assisted living care?

Expert Answer

No, Medicare doesn't pay at all for assisted living. Medicare coverage for long-term care of any sort is very limited, covering only short-term stays in a skilled nursing or rehabilitation facility while someone recovers from an illness, injury, or surgery. Medicare doesn't pay at all for what's called "custodial" -- meaning non-medical -- residential care in a nursing home or assisted living facility.

In some states, though, Medicaid can pay for assisted living in certain participating facilities. If the state Medicaid program where your parents live does cover some assisted living, you would have to find an assisted living facility that participates in Medicaid. But all this depends on whether your mother would qualify for Medicaid, which she can do only if your parents have low income and assets (other than their home). To see about the Medicaid eligibility rules for assisted living in the state where they live, you can go to the Medicaid information page at the federal government's Govbenefits web page.