Savvy Tips Guru

Paying Nursing Home with Social Security: A Comprehensive Guide

how to pay for nursing home care with social security

Nursing homes can be very expensive, often costing thousands of dollars each month. While regular insurance might not cover everything, using Social Security benefits is a good option for many. You can use Social Security to pay for nursing home care, but there are some important factors to consider.

Can Social Security pay for nursing home care?

Social Security can help cover nursing home costs through both Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSDI is for people who have worked and paid Social Security taxes but can no longer work due to a disability. SSI is need-based and helps older, blind, and disabled people with little or no income.

However, Social Security alone might not be enough to cover the full cost of a nursing home, which often exceeds $8,000 per month. In 2024, the average monthly SSDI payment was about $1,379, and the average SSI payment was $1044 for retirees, as of May 2024. This means Social Security benefits usually need to be supplemented with other income or benefits.

The amount of Social Security benefits varies based on work history earnings for SSDI, and financial need for SSI. Understanding how much you will receive and how to use these benefits effectively is crucial for covering nursing home costs.

How will this be done?

  1. Paying for nursing home care with Social Security involves several important steps: 
  2. Direct Payment to the Nursing Home: The Social Security Administration (SSA) can send your benefits directly to the nursing home, ensuring the funds are used for your care. This simplifies the process, prevents mismanagement of funds, and gives peace of mind to residents and their families.
  3. Setting Up a Representative Payee: If the resident can’t manage their finances, the SSA appoints a representative payee. This person or organization receives the benefits and handles payments for the nursing home and other needs. Representative payees, often trusted family members or professionals, are closely monitored by the SSA to ensure funds are used correctly.
  4. Combining Benefits: Those eligible for both Social Security and Medicaid can use both programs to cover costs. Medicaid typically covers most nursing home expenses, while Social Security benefits can be used for personal expenses. Medicaid, a federal and state program, helps with medical costs for people with limited income and resources, often automatically qualifying SSI recipients.
  5. Spousal Protections: Medicaid offers protections for spouses of nursing home residents to ensure the remaining spouse (community spouse) maintains enough income and assets to live on. This prevents financial hardship due to the high cost of nursing home care for their partner.
  6. Personal Needs Allowance: After covering nursing home costs with Medicaid and Social Security, a small amount of income, known as the Personal Needs Allowance (PNA), is reserved for personal expenses. PNAs vary by state but typically range from $30 to $100 per month, providing some financial flexibility for residents 

Is this a good idea?

Using Social Security to pay for nursing home care has its benefits and risks that are important to consider based on your situation.


  • Reliable Source of Income: Social Security provides a steady monthly income that can be used directly for nursing home costs, ensuring there’s always some money available.
  • Ease of Management: Direct payments to the nursing home or through a representative payee simplify financial management, reducing the risk of misuse and helping meet the resident’s needs.
  • Supplemental Support: For those also on Medicaid, Social Security can cover extra personal expenses like clothing and toiletries, enhancing quality of life beyond basic care.


  • Insufficient Coverage: Social Security benefits alone may not cover all nursing home costs, which can exceed $8,000 monthly, necessitating additional financial support.
  • Asset Limits: SSI recipients face strict asset limits, risking benefit loss if exceeded, requiring careful financial management.
  • Complex Regulations: Understanding and navigating Social Security and Medicaid rules for nursing home care can be complex, impacting eligibility and financial planning.

Careful consideration of these factors can help determine if using Social Security for nursing home care aligns with your financial needs and goals.

What are your other alternatives?

If Social Security alone is not sufficient to cover nursing home costs, there are other options available:

1. Medicaid

Medicaid is a federal and state program that provides comprehensive coverage for nursing home care for those with limited income and assets. It’s often the primary payer for long-term care in nursing homes. Medicaid covers almost all costs, but eligibility requirements are stringent. Applicants must meet income and asset criteria, and there is often a “spend down” process where individuals must use up most of their assets to qualify.

2. Long-term care insurance

Long-term care insurance, if purchased earlier in life, can cover a significant portion of nursing home expenses. This type of insurance helps protect personal assets and provides a greater choice of care options. However, premiums can be high, and the cost increases with age. It’s best to purchase this insurance when one is younger and healthier.

3. Veterans benefits

Veterans and their spouses may qualify for additional benefits that can help cover the costs of nursing home care. Programs like the Veterans Aid and Attendance benefit provide monthly payments above the regular VA pension to help cover the cost of care. Eligibility depends on factors like service history, financial need, and care requirements.

4. Personal savings and investments

Utilizing personal savings, retirement accounts, or investments to pay for nursing homes can bridge the gap between Social Security benefits and the actual cost of care. Financial planners often recommend setting aside funds specifically for long-term care. Drawing from these resources can prevent financial strain and ensure that you can afford the desired level of care.

5. Family support

In some cases, family members may contribute to covering the cost of care. It is either directly or through setting up a trust or other financial arrangements. Family support can come in various forms, including financial assistance, co-signing for long-term care insurance, or setting up a pooled trust. This support can significantly alleviate the financial burden on the individual needing care.

You can use social security to pay for nursing home care

Using Social Security to help pay for nursing home care can reduce financial stress, though it might not cover all expenses. It’s important to understand how much Social Security will pay and consider other options like Medicaid, personal savings, or family support to fully cover costs. Direct payments, representative payees, and combining benefits with Medicaid are practical ways to use Social Security for this purpose. Consulting a financial advisor or Social Security representative can help maximize your benefits and manage long-term care expenses effectively.


  • RJ Sinclair

    RJ is our resident money guru, with a knack for keeping finances neat and organized. With previous experience as a budget manager in supply chain companies, he brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the table. Count on RJ as a trustworthy source for valuable money tips and advice to help you make the most of your financial journey.