WHAT IS ASSISTED LIVING?

Assisted living is a special combination of housing, personalized supportive services, and health care designed to respond to the individual needs of those who require help with activities of daily living.

Assisted living care promotes maximum independence and dignity for each resident and encourages the involvement of a resident’s family, neighbors, and friends. Staff is available 24 hours a day to meet both scheduled and unscheduled needs.


WHO LIVES IN ASSISTED LIVING RESIDENCES?

It is estimated that over one million Americans live in more than 20,000 assisted living communities. Assisted living residents can be young or old, affluent or low income, frail or disabled. A typical resident is a woman in her eighties, and is either widowed or single. Residents may suffer from Alzheimer’s/dementia or memory disorders, or may simply need help with mobility, incontinence, or other challenges. Assisted living is appropriate for someone who is too frail to live at home or who wants the extra support.


WHAT TYPES OF RESIDENCES ARE THERE?

Assisted living residences can range from a high-rise apartment complex to a converted Victorian home to a renovated school. They may be freestanding or housed with other options, such as independent living or nursing care. There is no single blueprint because consumers’ preferences and needs vary widely. Most residences have between 25 and 120 units, varying in size from one room to a full apartment. They may be operated by nonprofit or for-profit companies.


HOW IS ASSISTED LIVING REGULATED?

Regulations and licensure requirements vary from state to state, contributing to a wide range of senior housing models that are considering assisted living. The most progressive regulations are consumer-oriented, balancing the safety concerns everyone shares with the consumer’s desire to retain maximum independence and freedom of choice. Most providers and their staff have specialized training based on standards of care established by their assisted living residence. In addition, some states require special training and staff certification. Residences also must comply with local building codes and fire safety regulations.


WHAT TYPES OF SERVICES ARE OFFERED IN ASSISTED LIVING RESIDENCES?

Assisted living residences generally provide more health-related services than an independent living retirement home. They offer a less expensive, more residential approach to delivering many of the same services available in a skilled nursing facility, by forming strategic alliances on an as-needed basis with home health agencies and other outside professionals.
The services available in assisted living usually include:

  • Three meals a day served in a common dining area
  • Housekeeping services
  • Transportation
  • Assistance with eating, bathing, dressing, toileting and walking
  • Access to health and medical services
  • 24-hour security and staff availability
  • Emergency cal systems for each resident’s unit
  • Health promotion and exercise programs
  • Medication management
  • Personal laundry services
  • Social and recreational activities

WHAT ARE THE COSTS?

Costs vary with the residence, unit size, and the types of services needed by the residents. Across the nation, daily basic fees range from approximately $16 to $215 – generally less expensive than home health services or nursing home care in the same geographic area. The basic rate may cover all services or there may be additional charges for special services. Most assisted living residences charge month-to-month rates, but a few residences require long-term arrangements.


WHO PAYS THE BILL FOR AN ASSISTED LIVING RESIDENCE?

Residents or their families generally pay the cost of are from their own financial resources. Depending on the nature of an individual’s health insurance program or long-term care insurance policy, some costs may be reimbursable. In addition, some residences have their own financial assistance programs. Some state and local governments offer subsidies for rent or service for income eligible elders. Others may provide subsidies in the form of an additional payment for those who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicaid. Some states also utilize Medicaid waiver programs to help pay for assisted living services.