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Assisted Living Tennessee

Tennessee is a popular location for retirees thanks to its mild climate and affordable cost of living. Assisted living costs $4,105 per month, which is $395 lower than the national average. Although the Volunteer State ranks in the lowest quartile for its senior-friendly amenities, it receives more favorable ratings for its health care and affordability, and it’s the 18th-best state for senior living and housing according to our 2024 Senior Living Report.

Tennessee is home to some excellent hospitals, including the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, a member of U.S. News and World Report’s honor roll. Memphis, Knoxville and Chattanooga also have top-rated medical facilities. Given these world-class amenities, it’s not surprising that seniors represent 16.7% of the state’s 6.6 million residents. Additionally, the cost of living is about 12% lower than the national average, which benefits retirees who depend on a fixed income.

This guide takes a look at average long-term care costs in Tennessee plus government-sponsored financial assistance programs, such as TennCare CHOICES. It also provides a detailed look at assisted living regulations and free and low-cost resources that can help with long-term care planning and decision-making.

The Cost of Assisted Living in Tennessee

When trying to decide how to pay for assisted living, one of the first questions that comes up is "How much does it cost?" With the impact of inflation, it's more important than ever to have up-to-date information when making a financial plan for senior living. To help shed light on real senior living prices, Caring.com has compiled proprietary cost data from its network of over 75,000 senior living providers to offer insight into the average cost of assisted living in Tennessee and its 33 cities.

The Cost of Assisted Living in Tennessee's Top Cities

Assisted living costs vary across the state as demonstrated by Tennessee’s top cities. Seniors pay a premium to live in the state capital, with rates in Nashville averaging $4,925 per month. To the west, Memphis retirees can expect to spend $4,115, while to the east, those in Knoxville pay $4,313. The most affordable assisted living can be found in the south with communities in Chattanooga charging a monthly fee of $3,899.

Tennessee

$4,201

Nashville

$4,925

Memphis

$4,115

Knoxville

$4,313

Chattanooga

$3,899

Inflation's Impact on the Cost of Assisted Living in Tennessee

Inflation has a major impact on Tennessee's assisted living costs. Rates are expected to rise by 34.29% between 2022 and 2024, from $3,383 to $4,543, almost double the 17.98% U.S. average increase. However, costs still remain below the predicted 2024 national median of $4,802.

Kentucky also sees a huge increase of 33.73% in the two-year period. Other states in the region experience a more modest inflationary effect, with North Carolina rates set to increase by 17.49% and Arkansas expecting a 12.09% change. Georgia's assisted living is the least impacted, with just a 4.42% rise predicted by 2024.

Location2022 Cost (Historical)2023 Cost (Current)2024 Cost (Estimated)
Tennessee$3,383$4,201$4,543
U.S. Average$4,070$4,459$4,802
Kentucky$3,288$3,748$4,397
Arkansas$3,960$3,840$4,439
North Carolina$4,088$4,828$4,803
Georgia$3,730$3,952$3,895

The Costs of Other Types of Senior Living

It’s important to consider budget and personal needs when choosing residential care as costs vary depending on the level of services provided. At $2,629 per month, independent living is the most affordable option. Assisted living communities assist seniors with daily tasks to help them remain independent so charge $4,201, an additional $1,572. Memory care is the most expensive option at $5,115 as residents require more specialized care.

Assisted Living

$4,201

Memory Care

$5,115

Independent Living

$2,629

Does Medicaid Cover Assisted Living in Tennessee?

TennCare covers assisted living through its home- and community-based CHOICES waiver. This program is available to individuals who meet financial requirements and require a nursing home level of care but choose lower-cost alternatives, such as self-directed in-home care or assisted living. The Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly may cover similar services. However, it’s only available in certain geographic areas.

What Assisted Living Services Are Covered by Medicaid in Tennessee?

Tennessee’s Medicaid program will cover assisted living when these services are medically necessary. Waiver eligibility is based on need and medical criteria. There may be a waiting list. CHOICES includes provisions for self-directed care, so seniors have the freedom to hire their own caregivers and select the services and supports that best fit their needs. Here are a few of the long-term care services that Medicaid covers.

 

  • Personal care
  • Attendant care
  • Adult day health care
  • Companionship
  • Adult care homes
  • Assisted living
  • Skilled nursing
  • Community living supports
  • Residential or institutional respite care
  • Emergency response systems
  • Assistive technology
  • Home modifications
  • Meal deliveries
  • Pest control 

 

Assisted Living Waiver Programs in Tennessee

TennCare CHOICES

TennCare CHOICES supports seniors who want to remain at home, but it will also cover assisted living for individuals who are unable to live safely on their own. The program pays for personal care, one-on-one assistance, homemaker services or housekeeping and medication assistance. Beneficiaries are still responsible for the cost of room and board at their assisted living facility. Applicants must have limited income and assets and require a nursing home level of care as determined by a personal needs assessment. Seniors and disabled adults can contact their Area Aging on Aging and Disability to begin the application process.

How To Know If You’re Eligible for Medicaid in Tennessee

Medicaid is a state-funded and federally funded health insurance program available to residents who need help paying for health care. To qualify for long-term care benefits, you must meet financial eligibility requirements. Medicaid benefits for the aged, blind and disabled consider medical criteria, so they have higher income limits than traditional Medicaid. Income is capped at 300% of the monthly Social Security Income benefit rate. For 2023, this is $2,742 per month, per applicant. Although assets are limited to $2,000 per applicant, a house, car and some valuables can be excluded if only one spouse requires long-term care.

 

Household SizeNumber of ApplicantsIncome Limits Per Year*Asset Limits: Applicant(s)Asset Limits: Non-Applicants
One Person1$32,904$2,000
Two People1$32,904**$2,000148,620
Two People 2$65,808***$4,000****

*Depending on the facility setting, a recipient may not be able to keep income up to this level.

**Income limit is for applicant only.

***Income is limited to $2,742 per month per spouse. 

****Assets are limited to $2,000 per spouse

 

Medicaid is available to state residents who are financially needy or require a high level of ongoing care, such as:

  • Individuals who receive Supplemental Security Income
  • Adults with breast cancer or cervical cancer
  • Adults who are at risk for nursing home placement

The services TennCare CHOICES covers depend on the applicant’s eligibility category. Learn more about these standards below.

  • Group 1 includes individuals who receive care in a skilled nursing facility.
  • Group 2 includes adults and seniors who require skilled nursing but receive alternative services at home or in assisted living.
  • Group 3 includes adults and seniors who have moderate personal needs and receive SSI.

How to Apply for Medicaid in Tennessee

The easiest way to apply for TennCare is by contacting your local Area Agency on Aging and Disability. Staff members can make referrals and schedule a personalized needs assessment, which is required to participate in the program. The government offers an online application portal at TennCareConnect.TN.gov, and there are options for seniors who would prefer to submit a paper application. To reach TennCare, seniors can call (855) 259-0701 or dial (866) 836-6678 to speak with a staff member at their AAAD. Those who already have TennCare should call their managed care organization for more information.

Information You Will Need

Applicants should be prepared to provide the following documentation before applying.

 

  • Current address and phone
  • Social Security number
  • Date of birth
  • Information about income and assets
  • Proof of citizenship or legal immigration
  • Health insurance details 

 

How to Get Help Applying for Medicaid

If you need help applying for TennCare or if you aren’t sure whether you’re eligible for benefits, you can contact the government directly. Free assistance is also available through health insurance assistance hotlines and nonprofit consumer advocates.

ProgramContactServices provided
Long-Term Services & Supports, Division of TennCare(877) 224-0219The Division of Long-Term Services & Supports administers Medicaid programs available to seniors and disabled adults with ongoing medical needs. This agency manages the CHOICES waiver and the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly. These benefits are available to residents who require assistance with daily activities and meet medical and financial eligibility requirements.
Tennessee State Health Insurance Assistance Program(877) 801-0044SHIP is a federally funded program available to Medicare-eligible seniors statewide. Specially trained counselors provide free information to help residents compare available plans. They can also answer questions about long-term care insurance, prescription drug coverage and financial assistance, including TennCare.
Tennessee Justice Center(615) 255-0331The Nashville-based Tennessee Justice Center provides information and advocacy for residents who need help applying for TennCare or accessing covered benefits. It can assist with denials, appeals and notices. Staff may also screen residents for other government benefits that can help reduce the cost of long-term care and minimize out-of-pocket expenses.

Does Medicare Cover Assisted Living in Tennessee?

The short answer is that no, Medicare does not cover the cost of assisted living in Tennessee. Assisted living facilities are considered to be a “residential setting” and not a “clinical setting,” (think nursing homes). While Medicare doesn’t cover the cost of care received in an assisted living community, it does still cover things like approved medications, doctor visits, medical equipment, etc., just like it would if you lived at home.

For more information about when Medicare can be used to pay for senior living in a nursing home, and for Medicare-related resources, see our guide to Nursing Homes in Tennessee.

Other Financial Assistance Options for Assisted Living in Tennessee

Seniors who are not eligible (due to location, financial situation, or other factors) for other types of financial assistance, do still have some options. See the table below for an overview of some of the most common ways to make Assisted Living affordable.

NameHow To ApplyHow It Works
Aid and AttendanceLearn more and apply online at va.gov.Veterans who receive a VA pension may also be eligible for the Aid and Attendance benefit, a monthly cash allowance that veterans receive in addition to their standard pension amount. The benefit is intended for veterans in need of long-term care services and may be used towards paying for Assisted Living.
Reverse MortgagesLearn more about your options and how to apply at ftc.govIf you own a home, you may be able to use a reverse mortgage to help pay for Assisted Living. Reverse mortgages are loans that one can take out against the value of their home, essentially converting some of the home's equity into cash. Reverse mortgage loans do need to be repaid with interest, typically within 12 months of receiving the loan.
Long-Term Care (LTC) InsuranceLearn more about Long-Term Care Insurance and how to apply for a policy at acl.gov.Seniors who already have long-term care insurance may be able to use it to pay for Assisted Living. Most policies cover at least a portion of the cost, but it depends on the specific policy terms. Note that older adults who are already in need of Assisted Living will not typically be eligible to sign up for a LTC insurance policy.

Free and Low-Cost Resources for Seniors in Tennessee

There are many resources in Tennessee that assist seniors in their retirement. Caring.com has compiled information on local organizations, programs and agencies and categorized them into care types for easy reference.

Area Agency on Aging

Retirees can find support and advice on various senior-related issues from their local Area Agency on Aging. The agency provides advice on topics such as financial assistance programs, in-home care and long-term care planning. It also connects seniors and caregivers with community-based resources.

Program NamePhone NumberDescription
Tennessee Area Agencies on AgingThe Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability administers state funding for home- and community-based programs for seniors aged 60 and above. The program is administered by nine area agencies covering all 95 counties. The program aims to improve the quality of life and ensure independence for older Tennesseans through daily living assistance such as household cleaning, shopping, transportation, dressing and home health care. Other facets of the program include cooking, home delivery of meals, home accessibility and home maintenance.

Cash Assistance Programs

Cash assistance programs in Tennessee provide financial support to help low-income retirees remain in their own homes for as long as possible. Seniors and caregivers can apply for tax rebates and reductions, discounts on vital services and help covering the cost of heating and cooling their home.

Program NamePhone NumberDescription
Tennessee Families First866-311-4287Tennessee Families First, administered by the Tennessee Department of Human Services, is the state's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. This workforce development and employment program assists interested seniors in securing reliable employment. The program provides temporary cash assistance, transportation, educational support and job training that can help individuals find part-time or full-time jobs.
Tennessee Lifeline Program800-234-9473Lifeline provides a discount for eligible Tennessee customers who need help with their phone and internet bills. Once you enroll in the program, your discount is automatically applied to your bill. One enrollment is allowed per household, and benefits are not transferable.

Food Assistance Programs

Local organizations help ensure elderly citizens have a balanced diet and receive essential vitamins and minerals to remain healthy. Through nutrition programs, congregate meals, home-delivered meals and food pantries, these programs help Tennessee seniors afford the nutritious food they need.

Program NamePhone NumberDescription
Tennessee Commission on Aging & Disability866-836-6678The Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability offers a range of nutrition programs for seniors aged 60 or over and people with disabilities. Also known as Meals on Wheels, the home-delivered meal service in Tennessee is available for frail, sick or homebound residents who have undergone an assessment by a caseworker. In addition to daily meals, this service provides friendly visits and safety checks performed by the program's volunteer drivers.
Tennessee Meals on WheelsMeals on Wheels operates through a nationwide network of providers to combat hunger and isolation, particularly among seniors with a low income. Program volunteers visit their clients with prepared meals and sometimes food supplies they can prepare for themselves. Volunteers may also perform daily check-ins and some other support services for the public they serve
Tennessee Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)866-311-4287The Tennessee Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provides low-income seniors with funds to help them have reliable access to food. Seniors must meet income guidelines and have no more than $4,250 in resources, such as cash or money in checking or savings accounts. Qualifying seniors receive an electronic benefit transfer card that functions like a debit card, allowing them to purchase food at local grocers and some online retailers.
Tennessee The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)The federally-run Emergency Food Assistance Program offers food at no cost to low-income Tennessee seniors. Eligible individuals must have an income below 150% of the current poverty level or be enrolled in another assistance program, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture distributes food to 17 community agencies and five food banks, and eligible seniors can receive produce and shelf-stable goods from locations closest to them.
Tennessee Aging Nutrition Program866-836-6678The Agency on Aging provides a nutrition program for seniors in the Chattanooga area. Those seniors who are still physically able to leave the house can go to one of the congregate meal sites to enjoy a hot meal and socialize with other seniors. Volunteers deliver meals at around noon each day from Monday to Friday to seniors who are homebound and are no longer able to prepare a meal on their own. The volunteers provide a friendly visit and safety check at the same time as delivering the meal. All of the meals provide a third of the daily nutritional requirements of seniors. There is no charge for the meals but certain requirements need to be met in order to receive meals.

Free Used Medical Equipment

Due to the high cost of purchasing new medical equipment, several organizations in Tennessee collect lightly used medical devices such as wheelchairs, ramps and walkers and distribute them to local seniors and residents in need.

Program NamePhone NumberDescription
ALS Association Tennessee Chapter877-216-5551ALS Association has a large inventory of durable medical equipment to lend out to members and a robust financial aid program to help registered members buy new equipment that might not be in stock. Equipment loans are offered at no cost to members.
Tennessee Technology Access Program (TTAP)800-464-5619TTAP operates statewide to provide access to needed assistive technology. The program links together more than 30 local groups to cover the state and maintain the largest possible inventory. TTAP volunteers also demonstrate technology for users and may be able to deliver to members' homes.

Home Repair and Modifications

Seniors and those with disabilities can access a variety of local resources to help them pay for home repairs and modifications. Programs in Tennessee have different eligibility criteria and often assist retirees by providing grants or loans.

Program NamePhone NumberDescription
Tennessee Home Modifications & Ramps Program800-228-8432The Tennessee Home Modification program provides state-backed home improvement loans seniors can use to upgrade their home's safety and access. Loan amounts can be as high as $25,000 at a 5% interest rate.

Many organizations offer free or low-cost legal services to Tennessee seniors. Older adults can access advice on issues such as estate planning, living wills and power of attorney. Some firms also act as long-term care ombudsmen, advocating for the rights of seniors in senior living communities.

Program NamePhone NumberDescription
Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS)888-395-9297The Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services works with private legal nonprofits to provide free legal advice and aid to seniors. Lawyers can help seniors with housing, estate planning, long-term care and advance directives. Referrals to local legal help are also available through the hotline.
Tennessee Long-Term Care Ombudsman615-253-5412The statewide long-term care ombudsman program advocates on behalf of seniors who reside in assisted living facilities. Seniors can contact the ombudsman for help with researching local facilities, identifying options for paying for care and resolving issues related to care planning and intake or discharge procedures.

Senior Engagement

Senior engagement resources and programs in Tennessee help older adults remain active and ensure they contribute to the community. Resources include wellness programs, volunteer opportunities, support groups and organizations that help residents connect with the community to live fulfilling lives.

Program NamePhone NumberDescription
Alzheimer's Support and Educational Programs Tennessee Chapter800-272-3900The Alzheimer's Association of Tennessee provides support for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Peer and professionally led support groups help older adults and their caregivers navigate an Alzheimer's diagnosis, and these sessions are hosted virtually or in person at several locations across the state. The organization also publishes a resource finder that connects Tennessee's seniors with programs in their local communities. Fundraisers support the organization and bring together residents to fight Alzheimer's and help those coping with the disease.
University of Tennessee Knoxville One Stop Student Services865-974-1111Under Tennessee law, Tennessee adults aged 60 and up are eligible to take non-credit classes at all public colleges in the state without paying tuition. Adults aged 65 and up can take credit classes without paying tuition, although some fees and class-size limitations apply.

Social Security Offices

Social Security offices in Tennessee help seniors and disabled people access the benefits they're entitled to. Older adults can contact their local office for information about receiving retirement benefits, disability allowance and Supplemental Security Income.

Program NamePhone NumberDescription
Tennessee Social SecuritySocial Security is a source of income available to retirees and people who can no longer work because of a disability. The money for Social Security comes from a payroll tax levied on employers, employees and self-employed individuals. When you retire, you'll receive monthly payments based on how much you earned when you were working.

Tax Assistance

Seniors can apply for tax assistance from several Tennessee resources. Elderly residents and those with disabilities could be eligible for tax exemptions on medical expenses, reductions on property tax and other tax assistance programs.

Program NamePhone NumberDescription
Tennessee Property Tax Relief615-747-8858Tennessee's Division of Property Assessments helps senior homeowners with an annual direct payment to help offset the cost of their property taxes. Amounts vary depending on the value of your house and the area of the state where you live.

Utility & Energy Bill Assistance

Low-income seniors who are struggling to meet the costs of maintaining their homes can find support from organizations that offer assistance with utility and energy bills. Tennessee retirees could also qualify for emergency funding programs if they're in danger of losing utility services due to unpaid invoices.

Program NamePhone NumberDescription
Tennessee Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)800-228-8432The Tennessee Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program provides financial support that helps seniors pay heating and cooling bills. The program can also provide funds for seniors facing emergencies due to pending utility disconnection notices or malfunctioning equipment. Payments are made directly to the energy providers. To qualify for the program, seniors must prove they fall below maximum income limits, which are set at 60% of the state median income. Seniors already on SSI or SNAP may qualify automatically.

Veteran's Services

Tennessee retirees who have served in the U.S. military can find support from local veteran services. These offices and organizations help vets access the benefits they're eligible for and provide advice and information on a variety of issues.

Program NamePhone NumberDescription
Tennessee VA Benefits and Health CareTennessee VA Benefits and Health Care provides support to senior veterans throughout the state to ensure they receive quality health care and the financial support they need for a comfortable retirement. Veterans aged 65 and older can access comprehensive health care services, including specialized geriatric care, at VA medical centers and clinics. Seniors can also benefit from financial assistance through pension programs, Aid and Attendance payments and other government benefits to help cover the costs of long-term care or in-home care services.

Assisted Living Laws and Regulations in Tennessee

The Tennessee Department of Health, Board for Licensing Health Care Facilities is responsible for regulating the state’s assisted living facilities. State laws require long-term care providers to meet specific standards for resident care and staff training, including the following.

TopicRule
Assisted Living Service Plan RequirementsAssisted living communities must perform a comprehensive needs assessment within three days of admission and prepare a detailed plan of care within five days of admission. All assessments must be performed by a qualified direct-care staff member. Assessments are designed to determine the level of assistance and types of services that each resident requires.
Assisted Living Admission RequirementsResidential care facilities may only admit residents who are able to live safely in the community. Seniors who have complex medical needs, require continuous medical monitoring or have been diagnosed with late-stage dementia may be ineligible for admission. In most cases, residents must be able to safely evacuate the building and take their own medications with some assistance.
Assisted Living Scope of CareAssisted living facilities and residential homes for the aged must provide a comprehensive range of services to meet residents’ day-to-day personal and medical needs. Facilities typically offer room, board, medication assistance, intermittent nursing, rehabilitative care, physical therapy and help with the activities of daily living.
Assisted Living Medicaid PolicyTennCare CHOICES is a Medicaid waiver program that covers the cost of assisted living and personal care provided in licensed health care facilities and community-based settings. Seniors and disabled adults must meet medical and financial eligibility requirements to qualify.
Assisted Living Facility RequirementsAssisted living facilities may provide private or shared bedrooms for up to two adults per unit. Residents must be able to unlock their own doors, and the facility must provide curtains or privacy screens upon request. Bathrooms may be private or shared by up to six residents.
Medication Management RegulationsLong-term care facilities may assist residents with the self-administration of prescription medications. Qualified health care professionals, including nurses and certified medication aides, can provide reminders and help residents read labels, open containers and determine dosing.
Staffing RequirementsAssisted living facilities in Tennessee must employ a certified administrator and a sufficient number of support staff to meet residents’ needs. There’s no minimum staffing ratio, however, the facility must employ 24-hour awake caregivers, on-call nurses and a dietitian or nutritional consultant.
Staff Training RequirementsAssisted living administrators must meet licensing requirements and complete at least 24 hours of continuing education every two years. Certified nursing assistants in Tennessee must complete at least 75 hours of training, including 35 hours of clinical work experience. Additionally, staff must be trained in facility protocols for health, safety and emergency management. Specialized training is required for anyone who works in a memory care unit.
Background Checks for Assisted Living StaffTennessee requires background checks for all workers who provide patient care. Assisted living facilities and other staff members must not have any convictions for criminal offenses related to abuse or neglect. Facilities are prohibited from hiring anyone who has been listed on the state’s abuse registry.
Requirements for Reporting AbuseTennessee requires health care workers and members of the public to report all instances of suspected abuse or neglect. Reports can be made to the Tennessee Department of Adult Protective Services by calling (888) 277-8366. Concerns related to assisted living communities and other licensed facilities can also be reported to the Long-Term Care Ombudsman by calling (877) 236-0013.

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for legal, financial, professional, or medical advice or diagnosis or treatment. By using our website, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

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