The Bluegrass State is a haven for older adults with its mild Southern climate, senior-friendly tax rates and strong health care system. Kentucky is home to more than 755,000 seniors aged 65 or older who account for approximately 17% of the population. Some studies suggest that about half of these individuals will require skilled nursing care at some point in their lives. Although home care has become a popular alternative in recent decades, skilled nursing is still a vital part of the long-term care industry.

Kentucky is home to licensed nursing facilities that provide intermediate or custodial care as well as skilled nursing facilities that provide subacute medical care, extended support and rehabilitation. These services include physical, occupational and speech therapy. The state has approximately 290 licensed nursing homes with more than 27,000 beds. Seniors in Kentucky pay $7,330 per month for a semiprivate room and $7,939 for private accommodations, and these rates are slightly lower than the national averages.

Families who are considering nursing home placement for a loved one will find more information about average costs in this guide. It also explores Medicaid long-term care benefits, financial assistance programs, licensing requirements and statewide resources that may help with or delay the need for nursing home care.

The Cost of Nursing Home Care in Kentucky

At $7,330 per month, the median nursing home rate in Kentucky is slightly lower than the national average of $7,756 and similar to neighboring states in the Ohio Valley. According to Genworth Financial, Illinois residents pay about $6,235 per month for nursing home care, which represents a monthly savings of over $1,000. In West Virginia, skilled nursing facilities cost $4,000 more per month. However, prices in other states are more moderate. Seniors in Ohio save almost $200 a month compared to those in Kentucky, and Tennessee residents pay over $250 less per month for skilled nursing home care.

$7330

Kentucky

$7756

The United States

$6235

Illinois

$7148

Ohio

$11376

West Virginia

$7072

Tennessee

Nursing home prices across the Bluegrass State vary by just over $1,000 per month. The highest average rate of $8,273 per month is found in Bowling Green. Louisville and Lexington are two of the most affordable cities, with average rates of $7,148 and $7,178, respectively. At $7,604, nursing home care in Elizabethtown is more expensive than the state median but falls short of the national average. Owensboro is moderately expensive with an average rate of $7,787, which is higher than the state and national averages.

$7178

Lexington

$7148

Louisville

$7604

Elizabethtown

$7787

Owensboro

$8273

Bowling Green

Kentucky seniors who require nursing home care can expect to pay $7,330 a month for a semiprivate room. Private accommodations cost about $600 more per month. However, there are more affordable alternatives. Seniors who want to remain in the community can turn to home health agencies, which charge $4,052 for homemaker services or $4,147 for home health care services that provide added medical care. Assisted living is competitively priced at $3,699, which is about 65% less than the cost of skilled nursing care, while adult day care programs cost just $1,603 per month, although they provide limited nonmedical support in a group setting.

$4052

Home care

$4147

Home health care

$1603

Adult day health care

$3699

Assisted living

$7330

Nursing home (semiprivate room)

$7939

Nursing home (private room)

Financial Assistance for Nursing Home Care in Kentucky

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. But, 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 Kentucky.

Kentucky’s Medicaid Program

Kentucky Medicaid covers more than 1.5 million adults and children. Since health care legislation changed in 2013, enrollment has increased by 150%. For many beneficiaries, Medicaid provides low-cost health insurance to pay for essential medical care, including diagnostics, doctors’ visits and medications. Traditional Medicaid typically requires beneficiaries to enroll in a managed care organization that’s operated by a private insurance company, such as Aetna or United Healthcare.

Medicaid also provides a variety of long-term care benefits, including coverage for skilled nursing facilities and optional waivers that allow seniors and disabled adults to receive similar services at home or in a community-based setting. Long-term care benefits are a vital part of Medicaid. Approximately 67% of the individuals who reside at the state’s 273 skilled nursing facilities, about 19,000 people, are covered by this program, and such services account for about half of Medicaid spending in Kentucky. Seniors who are looking for an alternative to skilled nursing but need this level of care may apply for the state’s Home and Community Based (HCB) waiver, which covers personal care attendants, home modifications, delivered meals and similar supports.

Medicaid Eligibility in Kentucky

To qualify for regular Medicaid, Kentucky residents must have a monthly income of $235 or less, and couples must earn no more than $291 per month. Seniors and disabled adults who require a nursing home level of care may qualify for Medicaid if they earn $2,382 per month or less per applicant. There’s also an asset limit for $2,000 per person for these programs. Individuals must be a Kentucky resident and a U.S. citizen or legal immigrant. Seniors can apply for Medicaid online or by calling (855) 306-8959.

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 Kentucky

Kentucky offers a number of government-sponsored senior services that are provided by Area Agencies on Aging and other community partners. These resources can help seniors access long-term care, Medicaid benefits and services that may delay the need for nursing home placement. Learn more about your options.

ResourceContactService
Kentucky Department for Aging and Independent Living(502) 564-6930The Department for Aging and Independent Living works with the state’s Aging and Disability Resource Centers and other partners to coordinate senior services and administer state and federal benefits at the county level. It supports the long-term care ombudsman and manages self-directed waiver programs that let seniors coordinate their own supportive services.
Kentucky Area Agencies on Aging(502) 564-6930Kentucky is home to 15 Area Agencies on Aging that support seniors and family caregivers in designated counties. These government-backed nonprofits provide information and referrals as well as help accessing Medicaid long-term care benefits and related programs.
Nursing Home Ombudsman Agency of the Bluegrass(877) 787-0077Supported by United Way and state and federal funding, this agency represents more than 100 volunteer advocates who serve nursing home residents in 15 districts and 120 counties. Seniors can contact the agency to locate a local ombudsman, file a complaint or find a qualified facility in their area.
Kentucky State Health Insurance Assistance Program(877) 293-7447The statewide SHIP program is a free resource available to all Medicare beneficiaries. It offers unbiased plan comparisons and informational materials to help seniors understand their options and maximize their coverage. It also provides information about Medicare supplements and Extra Help benefits that can reduce premiums and copays.
Kentucky Senior Living Association(502) 938-5102The KSLA represents a statewide network of long-term care providers that are dedicated to delivering resident-centered services. It provides a comprehensive directory of participating facilities as well as a variety of consumer resources to help seniors and their families understand their options and plan for the future.

Nursing Home Laws and Regulations in Kentucky

Licensing RequirementsThe Kentucky Office of the Inspector General licenses, inspects and regulates intermediate care facilities, nursing homes and nursing facilities in the state.
Staffing RequirementsFacilities must have a charge nurse on-site for each shift. Qualified charge nurses include RNs or LPNs with an on-call RN for backup. Facilities must employ a sufficient number of nurses, nurse aides and orderlies to meet residents’ needs at all times.
Staff Training RequirementsTo satisfy federal minimum requirements, nurse aides in Kentucky must complete a 75-hour training program that includes at least 16 hours of clinical experience.
Admission RestrictionsResidents are admitted by physician referral, and services are only available to individuals who have a variety of medical conditions and require continuous medical care below inpatient hospital service levels. A facility may not admit a person if it cannot adequately meet his or her needs.
Care Planning RequirementsSupervising nurses are responsible for ensuring that each resident has an adequate, up-to-date plan of care on file. Nursing facilities must receive a comprehensive medical evaluation dated within five days of admission, or they may obtain a copy of the resident’s medical records within 48 hours of admission.
Dietary and Nutrition Services RequirementsNursing facility administrators must appoint a full-time culinary director who is responsible for food service operations and works at least 35 hours each week. Residents must be offered three daily meals plus snacks. Facilities that use an outside food service contractor must employ a qualified dietitian to oversee operations.
Specialized Rehabilitative ServicesFacilities may provide physician-ordered rehabilitative services, including physical, speech and occupational therapy. Such activities should be overseen by a multidisciplinary team of licensed medical professionals and therapists. Services may be provided by in-house professionals or contractors.
Medication and Pharmaceutical ServicesNursing facilities must supply and administer all physician-ordered medications. Medication plans must be reviewed by an RN or pharmacist at least monthly, and facilities must employ a pharmacist on a full-time, part-time or contractual basis.
Activities RequirementsAdministrators must provide a variety of meaningful social and recreational activities as well as reading materials, games and other items that are needed for leisure pursuits and pastimes. Activities should also be available to residents who are unable to leave their rooms.
Infection Control RequirementsNursing homes must have written policies and procedures for preventing and managing infectious diseases that are consistent with CDC guidelines. They must provide infection control training for employees, and they are prohibited from admitting patients who have infectious diseases.
Medicaid CoverageKentucky Medicaid’s nursing facility (NF) program covers room, board, medications and medical services provided in participating nursing homes. Individuals must require a nursing home level of care and meet income and asset limits to qualify.