Arkansas, dubbed the Natural State, features dense forests and soaring mountains. It’s home to over 3 million people, and the size of its senior community exceeds the national average at 17.4% of the population. For the 20,000 residents who require nursing services in any given year, over 200 nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities are available, as well as several large health care facilities that feature a broad range of specialties. Little Rock’s UAMS Medical Center is nationally recognized for its innovation and areas of expertise, which include hearing and balance, heart and vascular care and senior health. The state is also home to other high-performing hospitals such as Baptist Health Medical CenterWashington Regional Medical Center and Baxter Regional Medical Center.   

Nursing homes provide around-the-clock long-term skilled nursing care and supervision. According to the Genworth 2020 Cost of Care Survey, Arkansas residents pay approximately $5,931 per month for semiprivate rooms in nursing homes, and those who opt for private accommodations pay $6,540.  

This guide covers nursing home care in Arkansas, including its monthly costs, options for financial assistance and local agencies that help individuals evaluate their long-term care options. It also outlines the state-mandated regulations that nursing homes in Arkansas must comply with.  

The Cost of Nursing Home Care in Arkansas

At $5,931 per month for semiprivate accommodations, Arkansas is among the most affordable states in the country for nursing home care. Nationwide, facilities charge nearly $2,000 more, with an average cost of $7,756. While Arkansas is affordable compared to the national median, it’s one of the pricier options in the region. Missouri, which borders Arkansas to the north, is the most affordable state for nursing home care, with fees at $5,080 monthly. Louisiana and Oklahoma are cost-effective options at $5,536 and $5,323 per month, respectively. Tennessee is the most expensive option in the region, but at $7,072 monthly, it’s still cheaper than the national average. 

$5931

Arkansas

$7756

The United States

$5536

Louisiana

$5323

Oklahoma

$5080

Missouri

$7072

Tennessee

Across Arkansas, nursing home fees vary widely depending on factors such as local living costs, the number of facilities and the care fee structure. In Fort Smith, which is situated in the northwestern corner of the state, fees are lowest at $5,551 monthly. In nearby Fayetteville, fees are several hundred dollars higher at $6,007. In Hot Springs and the Little Rock area, which includes Little Rock, North Little Rock and Conway, nursing homes charge $6,083 per month. In Pine Bluff, located in the northeast corner of the state, fees are the highest at $6,183 per month. Nursing home fees in Jonesboro are moderately priced at $5,779.  

$5551

Fort Smith

$6007

Fayetteville area

$6083

Hot Springs

$6083

Little Rock area

$6183

Pine Bluff

$5779

Jonesboro

Because of the comprehensive service and supervision that skilled nursing facilities provide, nursing home care is the most expensive type of senior care in Arkansas. Depending on the individual’s needs, other types of care may be more appropriate and more affordable. For seniors who prefer to live at home but need skilled nursing services, home health care is a relatively affordable option at $3,813 monthly for 44 hours of weekly care. Home care, which includes personal care services and housekeeping, has the same average monthly fees. Assisted living, which may be a good option for those who need short-term or intermittent skilled nursing services, is considerably more affordable at $3,500 per month. The most economically priced senior care option is adult day care, which costs $1,820 per month on average.  

$3813

In-Home Care

$3813

Home Health Care

$1820

Adult Day Care

$3500

Assisted Living Facility

$5931

Nursing Home Care

Financial Assistance for Nursing Home Care in Arkansas

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. 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 Arkansas. 

Arkansas’s Medicaid Program

As of September of 2020, there were approximately 850,000 people enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP, a 53% increase over the number of people enrolled in October 2013. Many Medicaid beneficiaries also receive Long-Term Services and Supports Medicaid Assistance, a program that covers home-based care, assisted living and nursing facilities.  

In Arkansas, the statewide Medicaid program covers nursing home care for eligible beneficiaries under its Nursing Facilities provision. To qualify for this benefit, an applicant must require around-the-clock skilled nursing care, rehabilitation services or a higher degree of care than what’s provided in assisted living as determined by the Office of Long Term Care. They must also meet age guidelines or have blindness or a disability. In addition to having nursing services covered, individuals receive the full range of Medicaid benefits to cover other health care expenses, such as medications, primary and preventative care and laboratory services. Medicaid also covers some or all of the services provided by nursing home vendors, depending on the beneficiary’s monthly income. 

Medicaid Eligibility in Arkansas

To be eligible for the Arkansas Medicaid Program, applicants must be permanent residents of Arkansas and live in the country legally, and they must be 65 years old or older, blind or disabled. While eligibility depends on income and assets, these limits are more generous for those applying for Institutional/Nursing Home Medicaid versus regular Medicaid. Individuals who are single can have a monthly income of up to $2,382 and up to $2,000 in countable assets and remain eligible. Married applicants can have a household income of $4,764 and $2,000 in countable assets for the applicant and up to $130,380 for the non-applicant.  

For information on qualifying and applying for Medicaid, Arkansas residents can visit Access Arkansas, schedule an appointment with their county’s Department of Human Services or call (800) 482-8988. 

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 Arkansas

Several nonprofit and government-funded organizations and resources serve Arkansas seniors who need skilled nursing services. Some of these programs help seniors and families pay for nursing home care, while others provide services and support that may help older adults obtain care in their homes or assisted living facilities.  

Resource Contact Service 
Arkansas Association of Area Agencies on Aging (866) 379-3901 Arkansas seniors are served by eight Area Agencies on Aging, each of which provides a broad range of services to designated areas. While services vary from one region to another, all agencies provide information and assistance, home-delivered and congregate meals, non-emergency medical transportation and personal care services, which may help seniors delay or avoid nursing home placement. Local agencies also provide counseling to help seniors evaluate their care needs and connect with financial assistance, as well as a long-term care ombudsman program.
Arkansas Seniors Health Insurance Information Program (800) 224-6330 The state’s SHIIP is a federally funded program that provides free, unbiased counseling for seniors and their families and caregivers. Counselors aren’t affiliated with any insurance companies and aren’t licensed to sell policies, but they’re trained to answer questions about Medicare benefits and related programs, Medicaid and long-term care insurance, which may help seniors understand their options for paying for nursing home care or skilled nursing services at home. Counselors can also help seniors understand and reconcile their medical bills and dispute denied claims.  
Arkansas Community Action Agencies Association, Inc.  (501) 372-0807 Arkansas Community Action Agencies Association is made up of local agencies that administer programs for underserved or at-risk members in the community. Programs, which vary on the local level, typically include weatherization and utility bill assistance for older homeowners and renters, home-delivered meals for those who are housebound or unable to prepare their own meals, and non-emergency medical transportation. Agencies also helps older adults connect with local programs and services that provide long-term care options counseling.  
Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs (501) 683-2382 The Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs provides information and advocacy to qualifying veterans and their spouses or survivors. Through the department, veterans obtain assistance with applying for benefits that may help them cover nursing home fees, including the VA pension and the Aid and Attendance or Housebound benefits. Certified officers can also help visitors determine whether they qualify for VA health care services or long-term nursing care.  
Arkansas Legal Services Online (800) 952-9243 Arkansas Legal Services Online is offered through the cooperation of nonprofit law firms across the state. This website provides comprehensive information on issues relevant to older adults considering long-term care options, including assistance with accessing public benefits such as Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, disability benefits, Medicare and Medicaid. In addition to having free access to its online library, the organization operates a helpline that older adults can call for one-on-one advice or assistance. 

Nursing Home Laws and Regulations in Arkansas

Licensing Requirements In Arkansas, nursing homes are required to obtain licensing through the Office of Long Term Care. Separate nursing homes owned by a common management company must obtain separate licensing. If a nursing home is sold to a new management company, both the buyer and the seller must notify the Office within 30 days prior to the completion of the sale.  
Staffing Requirements Nursing homes are required to maintain specific direct care staff-to-resident ratios. During the day shift, there must be one direct care staff member for every six residents and a licensed nurse for every 40 residents. During the evening shift, there must be a caregiver for every nine residents and a licensed nurse for every 40 residents. The night shift must include one caregiver for every 14 residents and one registered nurse for every 80 residents. Enough direct care staff members must be available at all times to attend to residents’ scheduled and unscheduled needs.  
Staff Training Requirements Nursing homes are required to provide job orientation for all new hires. This orientation must include an overview of the facility’s layout, its disaster plan and the new employee’s duties and responsibilities. At least 90% of each shift’s caregivers must also receive training on a quarterly basis on the proper use of fire-fighting equipment and evacuation procedures. On an annual basis, all personnel must complete training pertaining to recognizing and reporting abuse. 
Admission Restrictions Residents can only be admitted to a nursing home on the recommendation of a licensed physician. Before admission, prospective residents must be screened for communicable diseases such as tuberculosis. Within 15 days prior to admission or 72 hours after, nursing homes must complete a comprehensive examination of the new resident that includes their hospital history and a physical exam.  
Care Planning Requirements Nursing homes must develop care plans based on the attending physician’s recommendations. Care plans must include the resident’s medications, treatment, rehabilitative services, dietary needs and restrictions, precautions that they must take, plans for continuing care and conditions for discharge.  
Dietary and Nutritional Services Requirements Nursing homes must provide three meals daily that are approved and appetizing and that include sufficient nutrients for residents. Daily food allowances must include two 8-ounce portions of milk, 5 ounces of meat, at least four servings of fruits and vegetables, at least four servings of bread or cereal, and snacks to round out meals and satisfy residents’ appetite between meals.   
Specialized Rehabilitative Services Residents have the right to receive rehabilitative services and restorative therapies. If the facility offers specialized rehabilitative services, they must provide administrative and patient care policies in writing. If they don’t offer rehab services directly, they’re not permitted to admit residents that need these services until they make proper arrangements.  
Medication and Pharmaceutical Services Nursing homes can’t administer medications without written orders from a physician or dentist. All medications must be given by authorized nursing personnel, and each resident’s medication must be stored in its original container in its own compartment or bin in a secured medication room.  
Activities Requirements  Nursing homes are required to provide at least two recreational activities daily. These activities must accommodate residents’ interests, needs and limitations. Residents must be informed of activities ahead of time and given the opportunity to participate.  
Infection Control Requirements  Nursing homes must have written policies and procedures for investigating, controlling and preventing infections. These must include aseptic and isolation techniques, proper disposal protocol for infected dressings, syringes and needles, and prohibition of the use of shared drinking cups, soap bars or towels.  
Medicaid Coverage Nursing home services are covered by Medicaid for residents who meet medical eligibility and income and asset guidelines under the Long Term Services and Supports Medicaid Assistance program.