Learning About Assisted Living
En Español (Spanish Version)

Assisted living is a long-term care option for seniors. When the medical care provided by a nursing home is more than is needed, but the resources in a retirement community are not enough, a person can opt for assisted living. Assisted living is a combination of housing, personalized support services, and healthcare designed to provide 24-hour assistance and supervision if needed.

Because each resident’s needs are different, assisted living residences provide a variety of services with varying levels of assistance for seniors. Services offered may include:

  • Three meals a day served in a common dining area
  • Medication management
  • Housekeeping and maintenance services
  • Transportation
  • Assistance with personal care, such as bathing, eating, dressing, using the toilet, and waking
  • Access to health and medical services
  • Exercise and educational facilities
  • Laundry and linen service
  • Social, recreational, and religious activities
The residential setting of an assisted living facility can range from an apartment complex to a renovated brownstone to a converted school. The units are typically either studios or one-bedrooms that are furnished or unfurnished and include a private or shared bathroom and a kitchen. Regulations and licensing requirements vary from state to state.

How Much Is It and Who Pays?
The cost of assisted living varies according to the room size and types of services needed, and is highly variable across regions. For a one-bedroom apartment it may cost around $3,022 per month based on research from senior living organizations. This can vary greatly though depending on the location and level of service you get. You can learn more about costs and financial assistance by visiting the Assisted Living Federation of America website.

What Should I Look For in Assisted Living?
Here are some tips for what to look for in an assisted living setting:

  • Make an accurate and honest assessment of your needs, including physical, financial, and lifestyle. If you are not sure how to begin, contact a private geriatric care manager. Visit the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers' website for a referral (http://www.caremanager.org).
  • Visit as many facilities as you can. This will help you to get a sense of what is available in your area.
  • Consider the proximity of the facility to those who will visit you.
  • Narrow down your selection to the top two or three choices, return to those facilities and speak with residents and staff. Ask lots of questions. Try some of the services offered, like eating a meal or taking an exercise class.
  • Ask for a copy of the resident agreement or contract.
  • Ask to review the licensing or certification inspection reports.
  • Call the local long-term care ombudsman’s office (the person who investigates complaints) and ask if there are complaints about the facilities you are interested in.
  • Make an unannounced visit to the facility. Visit at different times of the day and weekend.
  • Choose the facility that comes closest to your needs.
If you want to continue to live independently but require assistance with some activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, meal preparation, managing medications, and housekeeping, assisted living may be right for you. Assisted living can provide security and independence, privacy and companionship, and physical and social well-being.

Assisted Living Federation of America

National Center for Assisted Living


Assisted living information. Assisted Living Federation of America website. Available at: http://www.alfa.org/alfa/Assisted_Living_Information.asp. Accessed January 14, 2014.

Assisted living services and amenities. Assisted Living Federation of America website. Available at: http://www.alfa.org/alfa/Lifestyles_and_Amenities.asp. Accessed January 14, 2014.

Choosing an assisted living residence: a consumer's guide. National Center for Assisted Living website. Available at: http://www.ahcancal.org/ncal/resources/Documents/Choosing%20An%20Assisted%20Living%20Residence%202013.pdf. Accessed January 14, 2014.

Cost of assisted living. Assisted Living Federation of America website. Available at: http://www.alfa.org/alfa/Assessing_Cost.asp. Accessed January 14, 2014.

Last Reviewed January 2014

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