Assisted living facilities are designed for older people who are no longer able to manage living independently and need help with daily activities such as bathing or dressing, but don’t require the round-the-clock health care that a nursing home would provide.
“Typically, residents need a little bit of help,” says Rachel Reeves, director of communications for the National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL), an industry group. “Assisted living is there to offer that assistance, while maximizing their independence.”
Assisted living facilities usually provide residents with their own apartments or rooms, as well as some common areas. They offer around-the-clock supervision and a range of services, including meals, housekeeping and laundry, as well as assistance with personal care and help with medications.
Assisted living also aims to offer a “rich social environment” where residents can get plenty of interaction that’s beneficial to their health and mental well-being, Reeves says. That can include social and recreational activities, such as book clubs, trips to movies and concerts, and exercise and wellness programs.
Facilities typically offer multiple levels of care depending on what residents need and what they and their families can afford.
Assisted living facilities, which are mostly regulated at the state level, have a lot of variation among them.
To ensure that you find one that’s a good fit for your loved one, it’s important to follow a structured, methodical search process and ask a lot of questions. Carefully evaluate the facility’s contract before you sign it.
And “include your loved one, if you can, in the decision-making,” Reeves says. It’s imperative that the person who will be moving there be involved in choices about care.
Range of assisted living services
Nationwide, 28,900 assisted living facilities nationwide have nearly 1 million beds, according to the most recent data available from the National Center for Assisted Living.
They vary widely in size, from fewer than 10 residents to more than 100, with an average capacity of 33. More than half of assisted living facilities are part of national chains with the rest independently owned.
Most facilities provide some basic health care services, according to the organization.
- Access to a pharmacy: 83.6 percent
- Dietary and nutritional guidance: 82.8 percent
- Physical, occupational and/or speech therapy: 71.4 percent
- Hospice care: 67.7 percent
- Skilled nursing care: 66.1 percent
- Mental health services or counseling: 55 percent
- Social worker services: 51.1 percent
Some offer specialized services for people with dementia, sometimes called memory care. A little more than 14 percent of assisted living facilities have a special memory care unit, wing or floor, and another 8.7 percent accept only dementia patients.
Some also offer services tailored for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities or particular medical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease.