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How to get help to pay for care home fees in France

There are a number of financial aid plans available and routes to explore

A model of an elderly man with a walking stick on piles of coins, to show the cost of elderly care

Residential care for the elderly can be expensive in France Pic: ShutterOK / Shutterstock

Care home fees can be onerous in France, especially for private homes for elderly people who still retain some level of autonomy. We explain how to apply for financial help for you or a family member.

The average care home fee - for an Ehpad, for example - is around €2,200 per month. Some can be far more, reports Ouest France.

Read more: How do retirement homes work in France? 

Yet, financial aid is available to help people with lower incomes. This includes:

1. L’aide personnalisée au logement (APL) 

This is personalised housing assistance, and is paid for by the Caisse d'allocations familiales (CAF) or Mutualité sociale agricole (MSA). It is calculated on the basis of: 

  • Income over the last 12 months
  • The price of the retirement home
  • The number of people living in the household 
  • Property assets

To qualify for the APL, the retirement home must be on the ‘approved’ list. The APL is typically paid directly to the retirement home.

2. L'allocation de logement sociale (ALS)

You may be entitled to the allocation de logement sociale (ALS, social housing allowance) paid for by the CAF or MSA, if you do not meet the conditions for receiving the APL.

The ALS is also paid on a means-tested basis, and requires that your income does not exceed certain ceilings defined according to your household and the location of your retirement home.

The amount of the ASL is also subject to the same conditions as the APL, with different qualifying criteria. In contrast, this housing benefit is paid directly into your bank account.

3. L’aide sociale à l'hébergement (ASH)

This is for people who are having difficulty paying their retirement home bill on their current income, once they have already moved in. The retirement home must be on the list of those that accept the payment.

An ASH request can only be made after the person has entered the home, for example:

  • If the person's income decreases
  • If their savings or pension amount no longer allow them to finance their stay.

To claim the ASH, you need to apply to your local Mairie, or local centre communal d’action sociale. Like the APL, the ASH is paid directly to the nursing home where the applicant lives.

4. L’allocation personnalisée d’autonomie (APA)

People who already receive the APA (l’allocation personnalisée d’autonomie, personalised autonomy allowance) can use it to help pay for a retirement home. However, conditions include: 

  • The elderly care home must be an Ehpad (établissement d’hébergement pour personnes âgées dépendantes, or an ‘establishment providing accommodation for elderly people without autonomy’)
  • The elderly recipient must be living with a loss of autonomy.

5. L’obligation alimentaire de ses descendants

The ‘obligation alimentaire de ses descendants’ could be described as a more ‘extreme’ option, as it states that, under French law, family members are obliged to help a relative in need. 

The amount of support to be paid must be agreed between the person in need and the family. In some cases, this can end up in court, and may lead to the elderly person (or others) being required to sell their home and any other assets to help pay for the care home accommodation.

The council may also pay the amount needed, and then demand reimbursement from the family.

There are some exceptions, for example, in the event of a serious breach of responsibility by a parent towards their child (abandonment, violence, etc.) or for children who have been removed from their family environment by a judge for at least 36 months during their first 12 years.

Read more: ‘€100,000 care home bill for father in France I do not know’ 

6. Selling or renting property ‘en viager’

Another possible solution is to rent out your property, and use that income to cover the cost of your retirement home - or at least, add the amount to your ASH or other aid if you still need a top-up. 

This could be difficult to coordinate, however, as a tenant still requires some management, as will the property for which the elderly person would now be a landlord.

However, you can also use the ‘en viager’ system in France, in which you sell your property but retain the ‘usufruit’ of the property until your death. To put it simply, this means that you sell the home but the new owner pays rent to you until your death and takes over the ownership afterwards. 

You can combine this income with other sources, such as the ASH.

Related articles

A guide to retirement homes in France
Care homes in France: Is living with a host family an alternative?
Can non-EU residents access French retirement homes?

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