Arizona is the nation’s second-most popular retirement destination, after Florida. The state offers seniors year-round warm weather and nearly 40% more sunny days than the U.S. average. For the 18% of residents who are over 65, excellent health care is another advantage of living in Arizona: Mayo Clinic Phoenix ranks among the 20 best hospitals in the country, according to U.S. News and World Report. While the state’s overall cost of living is close to the national average, health care costs are about 5% lower — a major perk for frail seniors and their families.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization that tracks health care data, there were 10,325 people living in Arizona’s certified nursing homes in 2019. For residents who stay in semi-private rooms, the average monthly cost of nursing home care is $6,844, per Genworth’s 2020 Cost of Care Survey. Private rooms are pricier at $8,213.

This guide offers caregivers an introduction to nursing home care in Arizona, including typical care costs in Arizona’s major cities and where to get help paying for care. Plus, it explains some of the key regulations nursing homes must follow.

The Cost of Nursing Home Care in Arizona

According to Genworth’s 2020 Cost of Care Survey, Arizona’s average nursing home cost is not only lower than the national average but also lower than in most neighboring states. At $6,844 per month, the state’s average cost is nearly 12% lower than the U.S. average of $7,756. Costs in nearby states are much higher than in Arizona. In California and Nevada, prices are about 35% higher at $9,247 and $9,262, respectively. New Mexico is also more expensive than Arizona at $7,406 monthly. Within the immediate area, only Utah, where nursing home care runs $6,388 per month, is more affordable.

$6844

Arizona

$7756

The United States

$9247

California

$9262

Nevada

$7406

New Mexico

$6388

Utah

Overall, Arizona is an affordable state for nursing home care, but prices vary from one city to another. In the Prescott Valley area, the average cost is the same as the state average of $6,844. Phoenix has the highest average cost in the state at $9,247 per month but further south, prices are much lower. Nursing homes charge a monthly average of $7,118 in Yuma, $6,565 in Tucson and $6,920 in the Sierra Vista area. Near the Nevada border in Lake Havasu City, the average monthly cost of nursing home care is $7,437. For seniors on a budget, Tucson may be an ideal destination. Its average cost, at $6,565 per month, is nearly 18% lower than the Arizona average.

$9247

Phoenix

$7437

Lake Havasu City

$7118

Yuma

$6920

Sierra Vista

$6844

Prescott Valley

$6565

Tucson

$5627

Flagstaff

Other senior care options in Arizona include in-home care, home health care, adult day care and assisted living care. In-home care, which includes help with housekeeping and other daily tasks, costs an average of $4,934, while seniors who require in-home assistance with basic medical care pay $4,957 for home health care. Seniors may choose to receive care outside of the home at an adult day care facility, which costs an average of $1,842 per month. Seniors who move to assisted living facilities pay an average of $3,900 per month.

$4934

In-Home Care

$4957

Home Health Care

$1842

Adult Day Care

$3900

Assisted Living Facility

$6844

Nursing Home Care

Financial Assistance for Nursing Home Care in Arizona

Most people do not pay for skilled nursing care entirely out-of-pocket. Rather, they utilize financial assistance programs to help cover the cost of nursing care. Of public financial assistance programs, Medicaid provides the most comprehensive coverage of nursing home care. However, not all seniors are eligible for Medicaid. And because each state operates its own Medicaid program within federal guidelines, eligibility and benefits vary from state to state. Below, we provide more information on Medicaid in Arizona.

Arizona’s Medicaid Program

The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) is the state’s Medicaid program. As of December 1, 2020, approximately 2.1 million people were enrolled in the program. This includes 66,005 people who received nursing home level of care services through the Arizona Long Term Care System (ALTCS). Some of the services covered by ALTCS may include case management, nursing services and hospice care. Seniors can receive ALTCS services in nursing homes, in alternative settings such as assisted living facilities or their own homes. 

ALTCS covers nursing home care for people who have a medical need for this level of care and are blind, disabled or 65 and older. An individual’s need for care is determined by a face-to-face interview with an AHCCCS nurse or social worker. As of December 1, 2020, there were 160 licensed long-term care facilities in the state, with a total capacity of 16,215 residents. Many of these providers are certified to accept Medicaid.

Medicaid Eligibility in Arizona

Seniors may be eligible for ALTCS if they’re U.S. citizens or qualified immigrants who live in Arizona. Seniors who don’t already have a Social Security Number must apply for one. In addition, seniors are expected to apply for any other cash benefits they’re eligible to receive. These benefits may include Supplemental Security Income or veterans’ pensions. 

The program also has financial requirements. For example, a single senior must:

  • Have less than $2,000 in countable assets.
  • Have a gross monthly income of no more than $2,349.

To apply, seniors can visit their local ALTCS office or call (888) 621-6880.

Alternative Financial Assistance Options

  • Medicare: Medicare will cover the cost of one’s care in a skilled nursing facility for the first 20 days of their stay, and a portion of the costs up until day 100. After 100 days, the individual is responsible for all costs. Seniors must also have a “qualifying hospital stay” of at least 3 days prior to their admission to a nursing home in order to qualify for Medicare coverage.
  • Aid and Attendance: 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 skilled nursing care.
  • Reverse Mortgages: If you own a home, you may be able to use a reverse mortgage to help pay for nursing care. 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. This type of funding can be especially useful for married couples when only one partner needs nursing care, as the other residents of the home may continue living there. Reverse mortgage loans do need to be repaid with interest, typically within 12 months of receiving the loan.
  • Long-Term Care Insurance: Seniors who already have long-term care insurance may be covered for skilled nursing care. Most policies cover at least a portion of the cost of nursing home care, but it depends on the specific policy terms. Note that older adults who are already in need of skilled nursing care will not be eligible to sign up for a LTC insurance policy.

Free and Low-Cost Resources for Seniors in Arizona

In Arizona, there are many resources available to seniors who need nursing home care, as well as their family caregivers. Some resources can help families pay for care in a nursing home, while others can help seniors receive the care they need at home.

ResourceContact Service
Arizona Association of Area Agencies on Aging(928) 298-2574There are seven regional Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) in Arizona that work to meet the needs of older adults. Some of the many programs and services offered by Arizona’s AAAs include in-home care, home modifications and education about healthy aging. The state’s AAAs also offer services for caregivers, such as training and support groups. 
Arizona Caregiver Coalition(888) 737-7494As a community-based nonprofit organization, the Arizona Caregiver Coalition offers support for people caring for aging loved ones. Caregivers can call its resource line to learn about the supports that may be available to them. It offers no-cost respite care in an adult day care setting, as well as vouchers for families that need in-home respite care. The organization’s Family Caregiver Reimbursement program can help seniors to pay for assistive technology or home modifications.
Arizona Technology Access Program (AzTAP)(602) 728-9534AzTAP offers several programs for Arizonans with disabilities, including senior citizens. These programs include demonstrations and short-term loans of assistive technology devices, as well as financial help acquiring these items. AzTAP can help frail seniors access about 4,000 devices, including telephone handset amplifiers and TV magnifying glasses. The program also offers transfer boards, sliding bath benches and other devices to assist caregivers.
Arizona State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP)(800) 432-4040Arizona SHIP is a federally funded program that helps Medicare enrollees make informed health insurance choices. Seniors or their caregivers can contact this program for help with Medicare coverage options, including Medicare Advantage and Medigap. SHIP can also counsel Medicare enrollees about other insurance options that may be available to them, such as Arizona’s Medicaid program and the Arizona Long Term Care System.
Arizona Center for Disability Law(800) 927-2260The Arizona Center for Disability Law is a not-for-profit law firm that provides free legal help to eligible people throughout the state. One of its focus areas is advocacy for Social Security beneficiaries. Seniors or their caregivers can reach out to the firm for help with disability-related legal problems. The firm also offers an assortment of self-advocacy guides that can educate caregivers about fair housing and the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as how to resolve problems with Arizona Medicaid, such as service denials and appeals. 
Smile on Seniors(602) 492-7670Smile on Seniors offers in-home visits for older adults who live in the Phoenix area. Local seniors are paired with a volunteer buddy who visits them every week. This gives seniors an opportunity to socialize with someone other than their caregivers and develop new friendships. The organization also offers a support group called CAREful for family caregivers.

Nursing Home Laws and Regulations in Arizona

Licensing RequirementsTitle 9, Chapter 10, Article 1 of the Arizona Administrative Code requires all nursing homes to be licensed as nursing care institutions. Licenses must be renewed annually. The state has the right to suspend or revoke licenses of facilities that don’t comply with the nursing home laws laid out in Title 9, Chapter 10, Article 4.
Staffing RequirementsFacilities must verify that all staff have appropriate skills and education for their positions. For positions that require licensing, such as registered nurses, the facility must document staff members’ licenses. Employees must hold valid fingerprint clearance cards.During each shift, nursing homes must have enough staff on-site to provide adequate care to residents. The Arizona Administrative Code doesn’t mandate specific staff-to-resident ratios. A negative tuberculosis test is required for all staff who will interact with residents for at least eight hours per week.
Staff Training RequirementsNew staff members must receive orientation before caring for residents. Nursing home administrators must also provide appropriate continuing education for staff. 
Admission RestrictionsSeniors must be assessed by a registered nurse before being admitted to a nursing home. Seniors who need care outside of the facility’s scope of services can’t be admitted. 
Care Planning RequirementsWithin 14 days of moving into a nursing home, residents must be assessed by a registered nurse. A care plan must be created that addresses any health conditions identified in the assessment. This plan must aim to help the resident maintain or restore their abilities.
Dietary and  Nutritional Services RequirementsNursing homes that prepare meals on-site must be licensed as food establishments. Residents must be provided with three meals and one snack each day, and the menus must be based on the federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans policy and reviewed by a registered dietitian. Nutritionally similar substitutions must be available on request.
Specialized Rehabilitative ServicesNursing homes aren’t required to offer rehabilitation services, such as physical therapy. In facilities that choose to offer them, rehabilitation services can only be provided by licensed individuals.
Medication and Pharmaceutical ServicesNursing homes may only administer medications that a resident’s physician has prescribed. At least once every three months, residents’ prescriptions must be reviewed by a pharmacist. Residents have the right to be informed about their prescriptions, including possible side effects. If medication errors occur, residents’ physicians must be notified.
Activities Requirements Administrators must employ a qualified person to manage the facility’s recreational activities. All communities must create a monthly activity calendar and display it in a visible location. Recreational activities must meet residents’ needs. 
Infection Control Requirements Arizona’s nursing homes must create an infection control program that includes tracking of communicable diseases and procedures to control infections. These procedures must cover disinfection, hand hygiene and personal protective equipment, as well as policies for dealing with medical waste. 
Medicaid CoverageSeniors who meet medical and financial requirements can receive nursing home care through the Arizona Long Term Care System, a part of the state’s Medicaid program.