Assisted Living Explained
If your loved one is not doing well living independently and could use some help with the activities of daily living, assisted living might be the right choice. Assisted living facilities provide communal living with plenty of opportunities for socializing and planned activities. Meals, housekeeping, laundry, and transportation are all provided. Most assisted living communities also offer exercise and wellness programs, plus evening activities such as game nights and performances.
Assisted living facilities are designed to make it safe and convenient for seniors to continue living as independently as possible, given the limitations of aging and health problems. Moving to assisted living solves a host of problems such as isolation and boredom, difficulties preparing and eating meals, loss of driving skills, and the inability to pay bills and manage money.
Assisted living is a great choice if your loved one needs some help with activities of daily living, such as:
- Nail care
- Tooth care
Services vary from facility to facility. Generally, you can expect to see:
- Private or semiprivate rooms
- Meals, often in a shared dining room
- Kitchenette (or kitchen)
- Common spaces for socializing
- A calendar of activities including fitness, art programs, lectures, workshops, and cultural outings
- Transportation in a community van or shuttle
- Alzheimer's care or other dementia care for memory-impaired residents (some facilities)
- Gardens, walking paths, and on-site amenities such as pools, beauty shops, and general stores (some facilities)
- Ability to bring pets (some facilities)
Assisted living goes by different names in different states, and licensing requirements vary. Here in our assisted living directory, you'll find providers including: assisted living, personal care homes, board and care homes, B&C, and alzheimer's care facilities.
Note: Those needing extensive help with activities of daily living are best served in a skilled nursing or nursing home setting.
In most cases, assisted living will cost considerably less than nursing homes because residents don't require skilled nursing care. Depending on the location, size, and amenities offered, you can expect assisted living to cost $2,000 to $5,000 per month.
Medicare doesn't cover monthly rent for assisted living. However, many people are surprised to discover other creative ways to pay for assisted living, including veterans benefits and other options you may not have thought of yet.
If you and your loved one are having trouble making a decision about assisted living, one great option can be a temporary stay, also known as overnight respite care. Your loved one checks in to the community -- much as he'd check into a hotel -- and gets to spend one or more nights and days meeting people, trying out activities, and tasting the meals.
Assisted living respite is also a good option when you're traveling out of town and need someone to look after your loved one. You can go on a business trip or vacation and know that your loved one is in a safe place. Learn more about assisted living respite care.
The key decision-making question to ask yourself about assisted living is whether you feel it's safe and healthy for your loved one to be living alone. If your loved one is having trouble with balance or falling or has a chronic health condition such as COPD or heart failure that's worsening, assisted living can help.
Other signs that a senior is ready for assisted living include not eating regularly or losing weight unintentionally, becoming lonely or isolated, not bathing frequently enough, or having problems using the bathroom. For more help with this difficult topic, read 11 Signs It Might Be Time for Assisted Living. If your loved one has Alzheimer's or another form of dementia, see How to Tell if Someone With Alzheimer's Needs Assisted Living.
Keep in mind that assisted living is not the right option for everyone. If your loved one needs extensive medical care, a nursing home might be a better choice. Find out more about who does well in assisted living and who doesn't, and discover ideas to help your loved one adjust. You can also learn more about other residential care options in Nursing Home, Assisted Living, or Independent Living? Options Explained.
Start your search here in the Caring.com Assisted Living Directory. Look for communities near your loved one, and be sure to keep an eye out for ratings and reviews submitted by other families. Also remember to ask for word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and neighbors.
Be sure to check out our Assisted Living Checklist: What to Ask -- and What to Look for. You'll find expert guidance for the whole research and selection process. You'll also find printable checklists that you can take with you on tours.
If you have more questions before making your decision, seek help in our assisted living support group, where you can see what others have to say about how to know it's time, how to choose an assisted living facility, and how to feel good about your decision.