Assisted Living Alaska
Seniors who prefer cold weather will likely see the appeal of life in Alaska. Older adults make up 12.5% of the state’s 732,000 residents, and newly arriving retirees may find there’s more to the state than snow. The 2022 Senior Living Report ranked Alaska No. 18 overall and No. 3 for the health care available to seniors. Access to world-class medical care from hospitals such as Providence Alaska Medical Center helped boost the health care rankings, as did the high number of physicians, dentists and other health care providers for every 100,000 residents.
Alaska’s distance from the rest of the United States does tend to make things more expensive. This includes assisted living care, which averages $6,830 per month. However, the state has a number of programs that provide financial support to seniors, and there are no state income or sales taxes, which can also help bolster the budget.
This guide provides an overview of the cost of assisted living in Alaska and how that compares to other states and senior living options. It also has information about financial assistance available, the rules and regulations governing assisted living and free resources available to seniors in the state.
The Cost of Assisted Living in Alaska
The Genworth 2021 Cost of Care Survey shows that assisted living in Alaska costs an average of $6,830 per month. This is $2,330 higher than the national average of $4,500. States in the lower 48 tend to be more affordable, with Washington averaging $6,000 and seniors in Oregon paying $5,045. Prices in Idaho, another state close to Alaska, are much lower. Seniors there pay $3,838 per month, or $2,992 less than those in Alaska.
The United States
Prices in Anchorage are lower than the state average at $6,765. However, seniors in Fairbanks pay $420 more than the Alaska average. Prices there sit at $7,250 per month. By comparison, prices in Washington and Idaho’s northern cities are significantly less than in Alaska’s cities. In Washington, Bellingham and Mount Vernon costs are $4,600 and $5,500, respectively. Prices in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, average $4,675 monthly.
Mount Vernon, WA
Coeur D’Alene, ID
Alaska offers alternative senior care options that may suit your needs. Adult day health care is the most affordable at $1,562 per month and serves people who only need care during the day. Seniors who prefer to receive care in the home pay $5,720 for home care and home health care in Alaska. Nursing home care is by far the least affordable option in the state. Both private and semiprivate rooms cost an average of $31,512 per month, almost $25,000 more than assisted living care.
Home Health Care
Adult Day Health Care
Nursing Home Care (semiprivate)
Nursing Home Care (private)
Does Medicaid Cover Assisted Living in Alaska?
Medicaid doesn’t directly cover assisted living in Alaska; however, there is a waiver program that can help seniors fund assisted living care. Known as the Alaskans Living Independently Waiver, this program is designed to help people remain living in the community when they need a nursing home level of care. There is a wide range of services available to help people living in their homes or assisted living facilities, but the exact support provided depends on an individual’s needs and circumstances.
What Assisted Living Services Are Covered by Medicaid in Alaska?
Medicaid is known as DenaliCare in Alaska. It offers health insurance to low-income people across the state, with particular programs aimed at helping older residents, children and people with disabilities. There are multiple waiver programs, and the Alaskans Living Independently waiver is focused on providing long-term services and support.
Assisted Living Waiver Programs in Alaska
Alaskans Living Independently Medicaid Waiver
The Alaskans Living Independently (ALI) waiver is available to people aged 65 and older, and those aged 21-64 who have a physical disability. Applicants must be in need of a nursing home level of care and meet the financial eligibility criteria of the program. It provides care to people living at home and those in residential supportive living, which includes assisted living. As the program is designed to delay entry to a nursing home, it’s not available to those already living in these facilities.
Waiver beneficiaries work with a care coordinator to identify the services they need and ensure that they receive them. Services available through the program include personal care, meals, home modifications and specialized medical equipment. Assisted living residence is listed as an available benefit, and care in a facility would include many of the other services mentioned. The exact care each person receives depends on their needs and living situation. The ALI doesn’t cover room and board.
People can apply for the program through a local Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Senior and Disability Services office. There are limited places available on the waiver, so applicants may be put on a waitlist. However, you may be eligible for other programs while waiting for a spot to open up.
How to Know If You’re Eligible for Medicaid in Alaska
As Medicaid is designed to assist low-income residents, an individual’s finances are the primary determining factor of eligibility. Applicants must meet both income and asset limits. The exact limits can differ depending on your circumstances and the program you’re applying for.
To be eligible for the ALI, single Alaskans must have an income below $2,523 per month and assets of less than $2,000. For two-person households when both people are applying, the income limit is $5,046 and the asset limit is $3,000.
When only one spouse of a married couple is applying, the financial criteria are the same as for single applicants. However, the non-applicant spouse may be entitled to a Minimum Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance. This allows part of the applicant’s income to be transferred to ensure their spouse can pay for expenses. The non-applicant can also have up to $137,400 of assets.
Although Medicaid counts all income when calculating eligibility, certain assets are exempt. This includes personal belongings, an automobile and a burial plot. A person’s home is exempt if they intend to return to it or if their spouse still resides there.
2022 Medicaid Income Limits for Seniors in Alaska
Annual Income Limits
(Only One Person Applying)
(Both People Applying)
Applicants for the ALI waiver must also meet certain other eligibility requirements. They must be:
- An Alaskan resident
- A U.S. Citizen, permanent resident or legal alien
- Require a nursing home level of care
How to Apply for Medicaid in Alaska
You can apply online for Medicaid in Alaska through the federal government website or the state’s ARIES Self-Service Portal. Paper applications can be returned to your local office by mail, fax, email or direct secure messaging or in person. Application forms for long-term care and regular Medicaid are available on the website. Alternatively, you can phone the virtual contact center at (800) 478-7778 to apply over the phone.
Information You Will Need
To assess your application, the Division of Public Service requires documentation about you and your finances. You will need to provide proof of your:
- Citizenship or residency status
- Medical expenses
- Health insurance
How to Get Help Applying for Medicaid
Alaska has assistance available to help people apply for Medicaid. These government resources can connect you with people who can answer questions, provide assistance filling out forms and give you an idea of whether you’re eligible.
The Division of Public Assistance operates a contact center and has offices throughout the state. Staff can answer questions about eligibility and applications, as well as accept phone applications.
ARIES stands for Alaska’s Resource for Integrated Eligibility Services. The Self-Service Portal lets you apply for benefits and view details about your case. It also has a self-screening tool that can help you see if you may qualify for any benefits.
The Recipient Handbook has detailed information about how Medicaid works, what’s covered by Alaska Medicaid and eligibility for the program.
The SHIP program provides free one-on-one health insurance counseling to older Alaskans. The intent is to help people take full advantage of their benefits. Trained volunteers can help seniors with Medicare and Medicaid questions.
Does Medicare Cover Assisted Living in Alaska?
The short answer is that no, Medicare does not cover the cost of assisted living in Alaska. Assisted living facilities are considered to be a “residential setting” and not a “clinical setting,” (think nursing homes). While Medicare doesn’t cover the cost of care received in an assisted living community, it does still cover things like approved medications, doctor visits, medical equipment, etc., just like it would if you lived at home.
For more information about when Medicare can be used to pay for senior living in a nursing home, and for Medicare-related resources, see our guide to Nursing Homes in Alaska.
Other Financial Assistance Options for Assisted Living in Alaska
Seniors who are not eligible (due to location, financial situation, or other factors) for other types of financial assistance, do still have some options. See the table below for an overview of some of the most common ways to make Assisted Living affordable.
How to Apply
How It Works
Aid and Attendance
Learn more and apply online at va.gov.
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 Assisted Living.
Learn more about your options and how to apply at ftc.gov
If you own a home, you may be able to use a reverse mortgage to help pay for Assisted Living. 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. Reverse mortgage loans do need to be repaid with interest, typically within 12 months of receiving the loan.
Long-Term Care (LTC) Insurance
Learn more about Long-Term Care Insurance and how to apply for a policy at acl.gov.
Seniors who already have long-term care insurance may be able to use it to pay for Assisted Living. Most policies cover at least a portion of the cost, but it depends on the specific policy terms. Note that older adults who are already in need of Assisted Living will not typically be eligible to sign up for a LTC insurance policy.
Free and Low-Cost Resources for Seniors in Alaska
Older Alaskans have a number of resources available to help them obtain the support and care they need. The state government has programs that provide financial and other assistance to older adults, as well as information, counseling and help finding local resources.
The Alaska Commission on Aging is the Area Agency on Aging for the state. It oversees a number of programs to assist seniors, such as the fall prevention program, advocates for senior issues and encourages interagency cooperation to ensure the needs of older Alaskans are met.
Alaska’s Senior Benefits Program provides low-income seniors with a monthly cash benefit. The exact amount provided depends on state funding and the individual’s income but can be as much as $250 per month. There are no limits to what the money can be spent on, meaning it can be used to pay for room and board in an assisted living community. Payments aren’t available for people who live in a nursing home, Alaska Pioneer Home or Alaska Veterans Home.
Alaska’s Senior Access Program is a home modification program available to people aged 55 and older. It can be used to make accessibility modifications in the home by adding grab bars, wheelchair ramps and assists. The grants are primarily intended to help people remain living in the home but can also be used to upgrade accommodations for a senior in small, state-licensed assisted living facilities that have less than five beds.
The Long-Term Care Ombudsman program advocates for people aged 60 or older who reside in a nursing home or assisted living community. Certified volunteers identify, investigate and resolve complaints and aim to provide a resolution that’s satisfactory to the resident. They also make unannounced visits to facilities to monitor conditions.
The ADRC helps seniors and their families find long-term support services that fit their needs. They can also help people access those supports. Regional offices can provide in-person meetings and ensure that older Alaskans are connected with resources in their local community.
Alaska Pioneer Homes are state-run assisted living facilities. There are six across the state located in Sitka, Anchorage, Juneau, Fairbanks, Ketchikan and Palmer. The Palmer location is also a Veterans Home. Facilities are open to any Alaska resident aged 60 and older who has resided in the state for a minimum of 12 consecutive months before applying. People residing in Pioneer Homes may be eligible for financial assistance through the Payment Assistance Program. This financial assistance is paid back to the government from the recipient’s estate.
The Alaska State Office of Veterans Affairs provides services to military personnel, veterans and their families to ensure they receive the benefits that they’re entitled to. Veteran Service Officers provide free benefits counseling and can help people determine their eligibility and make claims. There are also Vet Centers in a number of Alaskan cities that provide counseling and other services to veterans and their families.
COVID-19 Rules for Assisted Living in Alaska
The following information is based on research done on several government websites, including dhss.alaska.gov and cdc.gov. These rules apply to nursing homes and other types of senior living facilities. We’ve most recently updated this data on 3/24/2022, but since COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving pandemic, contact your local senior living facility or Area Agency on Aging for more specific and up-to-date information.
Are loved ones allowed to visit to provide emotional support?
Are relatives allowed to visit for end-of-life care?
Are residents required to quarantine after visiting with a loved one?
Are visitors required to wear PPE (including masks) in order to visit residents?
Are non-medical contractors (such as hairdressers and entertainers) allowed in senior living facilities?
Are visitors checked for elevated temperatures?
Are visitors required to answer questions about health, travel, and potential virus contact?
Outings & Social Activities
Are residents allowed to leave (errands, visiting family, etc.) for non-medical reasons?
Are residents who leave required to quarantine when they return?
Are senior living communities required to cancel all group outings?
Are residents allowed to eat meals together in a common area?
Are residents allowed to gather in common areas for group activites?
*Note: This information was not available for this state, contact your local area agency on aging or senior living facility for more information.
COVID-19 Safety Measures for Staff and Residents
Are staff members regularly required to do a temperature check?
Are staff members regularly tested for COVID-19?
Are staff members members regularly required to do a health and safety screening, including questions about travel, contact with positive cases, etc?
Are residents regularly screened for COVID-19 symptoms?
Are residents regularly checked for elevated temperatures?
Are residents regularly tested for COVID-19?
Assisted Living Laws and Regulations in Alaska
Alaska’s assisted living facilities follow the regulations set forth by the Division of Health Care Services. These regulations establish standards intended to protect residents while promoting an environment that encourages growth and independence.
Assisted Living Service Plan Requirements
An assisted living service plan must be created within 30 days of an individual’s admission. It identifies the services that will be used to meet a resident’s reasonable wants and needs. Plans are developed in conjunction with a physician, a resident service coordinator, the resident and an administrator. Any plans that include health-related services must be reviewed by an RN. Plans must be reevaluated quarterly if health-related services are provided or annually otherwise.
Assisted Living Admission Requirements
A residential service contract must be completed and signed prior to the individual being admitted to a facility. This should include what services will be provided, the rates charged and the termination policy. Alaska doesn’t have any other mandated admission requirements.
Assisted Living Scope of Care
An assisted living community in Alaska is defined as a facility that serves three or more adults not related to the owner. Facilities must offer assistance with activities of daily living and instrumental activities of daily living. They can also be licensed to provide health-related services including nursing duties and medication administration.
Assisted Living Medicaid Policy
The Alaskans Living Independently waiver may fund assisted living in appropriately licensed facilities. Not all facilities can accept Medicaid waivers, so be sure to ask about acceptable payment options prior to deciding on a facility.
Assisted Living Facility Requirements
Alaska mandates the size of rooms based on the number of people sleeping there. All rooms must have storage space. There can’t be more than two residents per room, and residents must have privacy in a shared room. For every six people, the facility must have at least one toilet, one sink and one bathtub or shower. The grounds of an assisted living facility should be clean, safe and in good repair.
Medication Management Regulations
Medications must be stored in a manner that prevents access by residents. Only one employee per shift can administer medication. Prescription drugs can only be administered by licensed staff, either an RN or a certified caregiver under the direction of an RN. The administration of controlled substances can’t be delegated by the RN. Non-licensed staff who have had training can help residents self-administer medication by giving reminders, opening containers and reading labels.
Facilities must have the type and number of caregivers and other employees necessary to provide care to residents and comply with all regulations. They must also have at least one person on duty at all times who is CPR-certified.
Staff Training Requirements
A facility’s administrator must meet certain educational or experience standards. These differ based on the size of the facility but can include a degree or nursing certificate. They must also complete 18 hours of continuing education annually. Care providers must receive orientation training within 14 days of their employment and work with direct supervision for three working days unless they have previous experience in a facility. They must complete 12 hours of continuing education annually.
Background Checks for Assisted Living
All staff must pass a background check, which includes a fingerprint check. The state can provide provisional approval to work with residents if the initial check is clear. Final approval is granted after the fingerprint check is completed by the FBI.
Requirements for Reporting Abuse
Any incidents of abuse or suspected abuse must be reported to a local law enforcement agent. The facility must also make a report to its licensing specialist within 24 hours of the incident occurring.