Assisted living is a type of senior living, or senior housing, that offers personal care and hospitality services (dining, housekeeping, etc.) to senior citizens. Some of the personal care services provided in assisted living include assistance with bathing, grooming, and medication management among others.

Assisted living comes in many different forms and costs. Some assisted living communities are standalone communities that don't offer other types of care. Other assisted living communities are part of larger senior housing campuses that may include independent living, memory care, and skilled nursing.

Some assisted living communities are affordable and have smaller or semi-private apartments. Others are luxurious with large apartments, rich amenities, and convenient services.

Whether large or small, affordable or luxurious, standalone or part of a larger campus, almost all assisted living communities offer the same basic services.

Key Assisted Living Services
  • Personal care services
  • Medication management
  • Housing - apartment
  • Dining - 1-3 meals daily
  • Housekeeping
  • Laundry services
  • Maintenance
  • Transportation
  • Social activities
Who Needs Assisted Living?

Most assisted living residents are in their 70's or 80's and need assistance with 1-2 activities of daily living or more. The age requirement is not particularly strict, with most communities only requiring that residents be 55 or 62 or older. The care needs for the resident, however, is more exacting in who qualifies for assisted living.

Assisted living communities, or appropriate state laws, typically require that assisted living residents need assistance with 1-2+ activities of daily living. The activities include bathing, dressing, grooming, toileting, eating, and medication management among others. If an appropriate doctor or other qualified medical professional has determined that the senior needs assistance with 1-2 or more of these activities of daily living, then the senior typically qualifies for assisted living.

So, Who Needs Independent Living?

If the senior doesn't need much care, then independent living is usually a better fit. Independent living is designed around a maintenance-free lifestyle with many conveniences, such as restaurant-style dining, maintenance, housekeeping, and social activities. Independent living communities are not designed to provide care services by default, by definition, but many independent living communities incorporate those services through a third-party or by licensing their independent living apartments for assisted living.

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What if the Senior Needs More Care?

If a senior's needs are more intense, then he or she may need to find an assisted living community that provides care to high-acuity (high-need) residents. If that type of community isn't available or the resident needs 24/7 nursing care, then a nursing home may be the most appropriate type of care.

Assisted Living vs Nursing Homes

Many people think of assisted living communities as less care-intensive nursing homes. This is true in a sense that the residents in assisted living usually require less care than those in nursing homes. However, assisted living communities may differ in several other ways from nursing homes.

For example, assisted living communities typically offer larger apartments, more amenities, and better dining/social options. This makes the communities more attractive to prospective residents. Paying for these enhanced amenities and services, however, typically comes out of pocket.

How to Pay for Assisted Living

While nursing home care is typically more expensive than assisted living, most nursing home care is paid for by Medicaid, while nearly all assisted living is paid for primarily with private means. That means that residents need to come up with the funds from a couple of common sources.

Financing Assisted Living
  • Social security, pension, investment, or other income
  • Long-term care insurance
  • Sell a home or other asset
  • Receive assistance from friends or family
  • Veterans' benefit
How Much Does Assisted Living Cost?

The median cost of assisted living in 2019 is $4,051 according to Genworth. These costs vary greatly from state-to-state and community-to-community. For instance, according to Genworth the most expensive state for assisted living in 2019 is New Hampshire with a median monthly cost of $7,021. The least expensive state for assisted living in 2019 is Missouri with a median monthly cost of $2,881.

Between communities and even within a community the costs of assisted living can vary dramatically. Luxury communities with more amenities (pool, coffee shop, theater, etc.) will charge more on average than more affordable communities that only offer the essentials. Inside a community, residents renting larger apartments, such as two-bedrooms, will often pay significantly more than those residents just renting a studio.

In addition to rent, many assisted living communities have additional care charges called "levels of care". Levels of care are often broken into 3-5 levels, with the higher levels requiring more care and costing more. For instance, a resident with limited care needs may only need a level 1 of care that costs $300 per month (paid on top of rent), while a resident with many care needs may be a level 3 with a monthly cost of $1,000 per month.

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Personal Care Services

Personal care services are the primary form of care in assisted living. These services help senior residents get through their day by assisting them with daily activities that many of us take for granted; activities such as bathing, dressing, grooming, brushing our teeth, etc. The senior living industry calls these activities, the activities of daily living.

Getting assistance with the activities of daily living can be a big boost in the welfare and wellbeing of seniors in assisted living. For instance, receiving assistance with bathing and grooming can help residents avoid infections and other diseases.

Activities of Daily Living
  • Bathing
  • Dressing
  • Grooming
  • Personal Hygiene
  • Showering
  • Mobility
  • Eating
Medication Management

One of the most important personal care services offered by assisted living communities is medication management. Medication Management is the ordering, organizing, and administering of medications to seniors. Since consistent compliance with a medicine regimen can be key to better health for many seniors, this assistance can be invaluable. Many seniors, for instance, take 10+ medication pills or supplements daily. Keeping up with this can be very difficult, especially for someone that may be suffering with some memory loss.

What are Assisted Living Apartments Like?

Assisted living apartments are typically studios, one-bedrooms, or two-bedrooms with most apartments falling in the 250-800 sf range in size. Certain

Assisted living apartments typically include a living area, one or more sleeping areas, a bathroom, and a kitchenette or kitchen. That being said, there can be a larger variation in assisted living apartments and sleeping arrangements.

For instance, in more affordable assisted living apartments semi-private or companion suites are common. This means that two residents live in the same room or apartment. This is particularly true for memory care communities.

Studios are also common in most assisted living communities. Studio apartments feature a combined living and sleeping room as opposed to having a separate bedroom for sleeping.

More luxurious assisted living communities may offer two or even three-bedroom apartments. These apartments offer additional space and may give couples the extra bathroom that they need.

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