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How to Pay for Nursing Home Care With Social Security

Written by Chloe Clark
 about the author
4 minute readLast updated March 29, 2023
Reviewed by Letha Sgritta McDowellLetha Sgritta McDowell is an attorney practicing in both Virginia and North Carolina. She is a fellow of the American College of Trusts and Estates Council, a certified elder law attorney, and a past president of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.

Whether a parent has had a recent health scare or injury, or whether they are dealing with mental and physical changes due to age, decisions about their care and living situation may have recently come into conversation. Depending on their medical needs and ability to complete basic activities of daily living (ADLs), choices for care can include assisted living, in-home care, or a nursing home. All of these options require understanding the changes it will bring to your loved one’s life, as well as financial adjustments and considerations. Paying for nursing home care can be a particularly large financial burden, so it’s crucial to understand what payment options may be available. Your parent’s Social Security benefits are one payment avenue to look at more closely.

Key Takeaways

  1. There are many ways to pay for nursing home care. Private funds, insurance, and government assistance all may be available to help.
  2. Social Security benefits can be used to pay for nursing home care. However, the cost can rarely be covered in full by these benefits.
  3. Other assistance includes Supplemental Security Income. SSI benefits have an income-level requirement but offer financial help to those who need it.
  4. Having the right help is essential. Talking to a financial advisor or senior care specialist can help guide you and your loved one to a feasible financial solution.

Understanding the financial picture

According to the most recent Genworth Cost of Care Survey, the average monthly cost of a private room in a nursing home was $9,034 in 2021.[01] This cost can seem overwhelming for anyone. One of the first steps to making a plan to pay for nursing home care is understanding the bigger picture of your loved one’s finances.
Some options that may be available to help pay for the cost of nursing home care include:
  • Long-term care insurance
  • Private funds
  • The cash value of a life insurance policy
  • Home equity
  • VA benefits
  • Medicare
  • Medicaid
  • Retirement accounts
  • Social Security benefits

Financial guidance

Having a conversation with your parent and a financial advisor can often be helpful in navigating the process. If your parent’s difficulties have been increasing considerably, you may also want to discuss setting up a power of attorney so that you can legally help them make decisions about their care and finances when necessary.

Let our care assessment guide you

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Does Social Security pay for nursing homes?

In short, yes, a Social Security retirement check can be put towards the cost of a nursing home. However, the average benefit amount cannot typically cover the full cost of nursing home care.
Social Security is a program paid for by a portion of everyone’s taxes. It’s available to elderly or disabled people who have paid into Social Security through their jobs for a set minimum period of time. The period of time spent working, as well as total earnings during that time, are used to determine the amount of money that someone will receive through Social Security once they are eligible to receive it.
According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), the average monthly social security retirement benefit was $1,658 in December 2021.[02] This benefit can be used for whatever expenses the recipient chooses. However, this would only cover a portion of the average monthly cost of a room in a nursing home.

Supplemental Security Income

Not to be confused with Social Security retirement benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a separate needs-based program. SSI is available to older or disabled adults with limited incomes. This program is paid for by tax revenue, so eligibility is not contingent on having worked or paid into Social Security.
In order to be eligible for SSI benefits, one must:
  • Be 65 or older, disabled, or blind
  • Have limited income and resources
  • Be a citizen of the United States or a qualified alien
  • Not live in a publicly funded institution (including government-run hospitals) [03]
The amount of benefits that your loved one can get through the SSI program is determined by both state and federal regulations based on where they live and the level of their income. The monthly maximum federal amount that can be given for SSI per month is $914 for an eligible adult.[04] Additionally, if your parent will be in a nursing home for an extended amount of time (over 90 days) and Medicaid will be paying for more than half of the cost of their care, SSI payments will be limited to as low as $30 a month.
As long as someone meets the eligibility requirements for both Social Security retirement benefits and SSI, they can receive both up to the maximum payable SSI benefit monthly. That being said, it’s highly unlikely that the entire cost of a nursing home could be met by these two benefits alone.

Social Security Disability Insurance

If your parents are under the age of retirement, and therefore not eligible for retirement benefits, they may still be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). This program is based on the same eligibility requirements of work history and is not needs-based like SSI. SSDI is available to people who are unable to work due to a disability that is expected to last at least one year or a medical issue that will result in death.[06]
Please also note that while someone can technically receive SSI and SSDI at the same time, the amount of SSI benefits may be affected and in some circumstances it may also affect eligibility as an income threshold may be reached.

Talk with a Senior Care Advisor

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Other care considerations

If your parent has had a recent health scare but isn’t yet at the point where a nursing home is the right setting for them, then it’s important to consider how best to plan for the future. Depending on the type of care needed at the moment, it may be smart to start looking into in-home care options or assisted living facilities. Nursing home care is usually intended for older or disabled adults who require 24/7 access to skilled nursing care and are unable to do the majority of their activities of daily living without some form of assistance. Both in-home care and assisted living options offer more independence and also may make more financial sense for the time being.
A Senior Care Advisor can help you determine what options are best for your loved one, connect with local providers, and make the process of finding senior care as seamless as possible.


  1. Genworth. (2022, June 2). Cost of care survey.

  2. Social Security Administration. (2022, December). Annual Statistical Supplement to the Social Security Bulletin, 2022.

  3. Social Security Administration. SSI federal payment amounts for 2023.

  4. Social Security Administration. Disability benefits.

Meet the Author
Chloe Clark

Chloe Clark is a copywriter for OurParents. She has an MFA in Creative Writing, with a background in education and publishing. She has over a decade’s experience in writing for print publications and websites.

Reviewed byLetha Sgritta McDowell

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