What's an Assisted Living Facility

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What's an Assisted Living Facility

An assisted living community usually combines housing, help with housekeeping and transportation, social activities and if needed, hands-on personal care. These services are designed to meet an individual's needs on a daily basis.

Residents in assisted living facilities may have their own rooms, suites or apartments, or they may share quarters with a spouse or roommate. In many assisted living facilities, 24-hour supportive services are available to meet the planned and unplanned needs of the residents. Assisted living facilities provide some level of ongoing supervision of residents and assume responsibility for their well-being.

Who Lives in an Assisted Living Facility?

Assisted living facilities offer a community living environment for many individuals who no longer want to, or are no longer able to, live at home. Assisted living is appropriate for someone who needs some assistance during the day, perhaps with dressing or bathing, but does not need 24-hour skilled nursing care. Some assisted living facilities offer a higher level of care and supervision within a designated section of the facility designed especially for residents with Alzheimer's Disease or other types of memory impairment.

What is the Cost of an Assisted Living Residence?

Most assisted living facilities charge by the month.  There is often a one-time entrance or community fee when a resident moves in.  Monthly fees usually can be prorated when moving in or moving out during the middle of month. If the resident is in the hospital for an extended period of time, the facility may lower the monthly cost, but generally will require ongoing payments to hold the unit.

Assisted living facility costs vary from one facility to another and as well within a facility.  Factors that influence monthly fees include:

  • Size and type of room – studio or one bedroom, with or without kitchen, shared or private bath
  • Level of care required – independent, some daily assistance, assistance several times a day or continual supervision for dementia
  • Facility amenities – organized activities, on-site grooming services, laundry services, transportation services, recreational facilities such as a swimming pool or gym
  • Special accommodations – allowance for pets, temporary guest rooms
  • Geographic location – rural or urban, regional cost of living, availability of land and labor

Who Regulates Assisted Living Facilities? 

Assisted Living Facilities are not regulated by the Federal Government. They are licensed by the state and licensure requirements vary greatly from state to state.  Many states issue more than one type of license. General requirements to operate an assisted living facility may include:

  • Provision of room and board
  • Development of an individualized service plan
  • Access to personal care assistance and medication management
  • Minimum of one meal per day (may be up to three)
  • 24-hour on-site staff and minimum qualifications for employees
  • Housekeeping and linen services
  • Social and recreational activities
  • Transportation to medical care

Many of the state regulations enforce a maximum level of care that can be provided by the assisted living facility.  In some cases, facilities are not allowed to accept or retain residents who are bedridden for more than a few days, who are not mobile without risk of falling, or who require consistent supervision outside of a dementia care unit.

Paying for Assisted Living?

Medicare does not cover any portion of assisted living costs.  In some states Medicaid programs will contribute to the cost of assisted living if both the resident and the facility, meet eligibility requirements.  Most assisted living residents pay the monthly fees with their own money or with long-term care insurance benefits.  Not all long-term care policies cover the cost of assisted living facilities.

See the Care Library articles titled "Questions to Ask an Assisted Living Facility" and "Assisted Living – Managing Your Transition" for help with questions to ask and what to look for when visiting the residences and reviewing the contracts.  If you're looking to find assisted living facilities in your area, visit our long-term care provider search page. 

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