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Assisted Living FAQs
Researching Assisted Living Options

You and a loved one have questions about assisted living. No matter if you're just beginning the research about senior living, or you've spent a lot of time looking into senior housing, questions frequently come up. You can never know enough, that's why digged deep into what matters most to you and to your senior loved one when learning about housing options.

There's a lot of surface information on the web about senior living. We intend to serve up the facts and the need to know core data that critically affects you or your loved one's decision to move to assisted living.

What are my state's regulations on assisted living?

Resident requirements

Although many federal laws impact assisted living, oversight of assisted and senior living occurs primarily at the state level. According to the National Center for Assisted Living, more than two-thirds of the states use the licensure term "assisted living" or a similar term. The second most used term is "residential care." Other licensure terms include basic care facility, community residence, enriched housing program, home for the aged, personal care home, and shared housing establishment.

In 2012, the federal government released data from the first national survey of assisted living /residential care facilities. The study found that in 2010 there were 31,100 facilities with 971,900 licensed beds serving 733,400 residents. Learn about your State Policy Developments in 2012 on assisted living.

How do assisted living facilities differ from nursing homes?

Seniors living in assisted living communities do not require 24-hour skilled nursing or medical services. Residents enjoy enriched programs that enhance independence and a safe lifestyle. If residents need assistance with personal care tasks, like bathing, dressing, taking medications and arranging medical appointments, the facility employs staff to readily help. For those with acute conditions, requiring medical personnel, like nurses or doctors, then a nursing home or a Special Needs Assisted Living Residence fits their lifestyle.

Resident requirements to live in assisted living

If an individual does not meet these standards, an assisted living facility cannot admit them, unless the residence has training or certified to meet special needs of residents.

  1. Does not have a medical condition that requires 24-hour skilled nursing or medical care;
  2. Is not a danger to themselves or others;
  3. Does not chronically need help from another person to walk, transfer or descend stairs.
  4. Capable to participate in developing a service plan; and
  5. Have stable health and free from communicable disease.

What are the different assisted living models in my state?

Many states report making regulatory, statutory, or policy changes impacting assisted living and residential care communities from January 2012 through January 2013. A state-by-state summary of 2012 legislative and regulatory changes and copies of NCAL Assisted Living State Regulatory Review are available on the NCAL website: State Policy Developments in 2012 on assisted living.

What is an assisted living residence?

Assisted Living Maintains Independence
Assisted Living Maintains Independence

An assisted living facility is a senior living option for those with minimal needs for assistance with daily living and care. It's purpose is to help adults live independently in a safe environment.

An ALF is a residence that serves clients who do not require 24-hour skilled nursing care and have a stable medical condition. The residence allow people to age in place using on-site home care services to address their personal care needs. This program provides care at less than half the cost of the Medicaid nursing home rate.

A resident's Supplemental Security Income covers room, board and some personal care in certain situations and in some states, Medicaid contributes to funding for assisted living.

It provides long-term residential care, including housekeeping, laundry, supervision, assistance with medications, personal care assistance, case management services, and structured activity programs.

What are special needs assisted living?

Facilities that are not licensed as specialty care facilities may neither admit nor retain residents with severe cognitive impairments and may not advertise themselves as a "Dementia Care Facility," an "Alzheimer's Care Facility," or as specializing in or being competent to care for individuals with dementia or Alzheimer's disease.

After screening and approval, residents can move into the specialty care facility. The screening includes a clinical history, a mental status examination including an aphasia screening, a geriatric depression screen, a physical functioning screen, and a behavior screen. After completion of a Physical Self-Maintenance Scale and the Behavior Screening, the resident's results must meet the state's scores.

What types of care is given to Alzheimer's patients?

Many assisted living residences can safely accommodate residents in the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer's disease. They're integrated into the general population of the residence and receive the same general supervision, personal care assistance and structured activity programs that are typically provided to all residents. However, as Alzheimer's or dementia progresses, a resident living with Alzheimer's may develop the need for more specialized services because they have the tendency to wander, are less able to receive direction, and require more frequent monitoring or one-on-one assistance. Residences with a Special Needs Assisted Living certification tailor programs to serve them in a secured environment.

What are the services and amenities offered in the monthly rate?

  • Two or three nutritious meals in the community dining room
  • Medication management
  • Regular wellness activities, social events and devotional services
  • Shopping and leisure excursions in the community van
  • Coordination with a resident's personal physician
  • Utilities (excluding telephone and cable TV)
  • Housekeeping
  • Room and board
  • Supervision Services
  • Security
  • Assistance with activities of daily living
  • Additional nursing services (by either staff or outsourced)
  • Transportation

For more information, see our sections on assisted living costs and services offered.

How much does assisted living cost?

Base rates of assisted living fluctuate depending on the unit size: studio, one or two-bedroom apartment. Base rates cover room and board and two to three meals. Additional charges can include entrance fees up to one month's rent, deposits, and fees for other services like housekeeping and laundry, though many providers include those services as well.

The average cost for a private one-bedroom apartment in an assisted living residence varies from state to state but typically is between $3,000 and $6,000 per month. Assisted living is of often less expensive than home health or nursing home care in the same geographic area

What happens if my health needs change?

Depending on how much a resident's health changes, it's not necessary to make a move. Maybe you receive physical therapy, home health, or hospice in your current assisted living residence. If you leave for a post-surgical rehabilitation, you can return to the residence.

Can I live in assisted living if I need a wheelchair or walker?

Yes. seniors who need assistance with mobility continue to live in assisted living.

Do I give notice if I move out?

Yes, most facilities require a notice. Check your Resident Agreement, for details.

Do I sign a lease?

Most communities offer month-to-month leases and offer short-term respite stays. Check the agreement (before signing) to confirm no hidden costs and no fluctuating fees after you move in.

Can I bring my own personal items and furnishings?

Yes. Most assisted living facilities allow residents to bring personal items and furniture.

Find Assisted Facilities

Assisted living facilities are a good option for seniors who are no longer willing or able to live by themselves, but do not require the comprehensive level of care provided in a nursing home. Browse our comprehensive online directory to find assisted facilities across the United States and Canada.

Carol Marak
Carol Marak

After seven years of helping her aging parents, Carol Marak has become a dedicated senior care writer. Since 2007, she has been doing the research to find answers to common concerns: housing, aging and health, staying safe and independent, and planning long-term.