Assisted Living

Table of Contents

1. What Is Assisted Living?

2. What Are the Benefits Associated with Assisted Living?

3. What Activities Are Available in an Assisted Living Community?

4. What Services and Amenities Are Available in an Assisted Living Community?

5. What Is the Difference Between Independent Living, Skilled Nursing, and Assisted Living?

6. Is an Assisted Living Home Right for Me?

7. What Are the Signs It May Be Time for Assisted Living?

8. What Is the Cost of Assisted Living?

9. What Are Tips for Transitioning to a New Assisted Living Community?

10. How Can I Find Assisted Living Facilities Near Me?

1. What Is Assisted Living?

An assisted living home is a residential environment for seniors who want to remain independent while receiving assistance with performing everyday activities. Assisted living provides seniors with 24/7 access to medical care, as well as a wide range of useful services, quality amenities, and enjoyable activities. Each assisted living home offers its own unique accommodations designed to fulfill the needs, preferences, and budgets of seniors who can benefit from living in this community setting.

2. What Are the Benefits Associated with Assisted Living?

Assisted living offers a number of benefits for seniors who want to remain independent, have fun, and stay socially active while reducing the burden of caregiving on their loved ones. Here are key benefits associated with senior assisted living.

Help with Daily Living Activities

Assisted living homes can help seniors with performing routine daily activities such as bathing, grooming, getting dressed, taking medications, buying groceries, and eating at least three healthy meals per day. Many of these tasks can become more difficult with age, especially for those with health conditions such as vision loss, cognitive decline, and arthritis. The caregivers at assisted living homes can help seniors perform these tasks and will work with each senior individually to come up with a daily routine and schedule that works best for them.

Fun Social Activities

Regular outings to the movie theater, group luncheons, dance parties, happy hours, fitness classes, book clubs, and board game nights are some of the many fun social activities available at assisted living homes. Feelings of loneliness and isolation tend to be common among many seniors who live at home by themselves, especially for those who recently lost a spouse or close friends. The social activities available at senior assisted living facilities allow residents to meet new friends and connect with peers with whom they can relate, helping them to achieve greater emotional and mental well-being.

More Privacy

Assisted living homes provide seniors with a level of privacy to feel more comfortable and independent in their living quarters. Many seniors who live outside of assisted living homes are often subject to numerous visits from relatives who constantly check in, which can be frustrating for those who wish to maintain their independence. At senior assisted living homes, residents have their own private rooms or apartments, and can make plans to have staff members visit at specific times to help with certain daily tasks. Seniors can leave their apartments or rooms at any given time to socialize and be around other residents, and can retreat to their living quarters when they want a break from being around others and need time to themselves.

Access to Medical Care

Assisted living facilities are typically ideal for independent seniors in good relative physical and mental health who may need help performing specific tasks and activities. However, the older adult population tends to be more vulnerable to illness, disease, falls, and injuries as they continue to age. Assisted living homes provide seniors with 24/7 access to medical care in the event their health situation changes abruptly, as well as when age-related or chronic medical conditions require more intensive medical care. Many senior living communities are equipped and designed to quickly adapt to their residents’ ever-changing health needs.

Healthy Meals

Nutritious foods contribute to improved overall physical and mental health, and can stave off health conditions common among older adults, such as dementia and osteoporosis. Though many apartments in assisted living homes boast nice kitchens, these facilities also offer healthy, nutritious meals prepared by gourmet chefs and served in large dining rooms where residents can socialize with friends, family, and other residents. Cooking can grow more challenging with age and become tiresome when you’re cooking only for yourself, but assisted living homes can make mealtimes more fun and joyous for all residents.

Less Home Maintenance

Vacuuming, dusting, doing laundry, mowing the lawn, and changing light bulbs are routine household chores as well as tasks that can become increasingly difficult with age. Moving to an assisted living home eliminates these burdens for seniors because staff members are available to either help with these tasks or take them over completely. Seniors can spend less time doing household chores while reducing their risk for accidents and injuries related to these tasks, and can devote more time to their favorite hobbies and to spending time with friends and loved ones.

3. What Activities Are Available in an Assisted Living Community?

Every assisted living community offers its own set of activities for residents; therefore, it’s important to choose a facility with activities that align with your personal interests or those of your senior loved one. The best-assisted living communities offer a wide variety of activities that can keep residents busy and stimulated each and every day. Keeping the mind and body active can also help slow or prevent the onset of memory loss, dementia, depression, loneliness, and chronic health problems including high blood pressure, obesity, and heart disease.

Examples of activities available in an assisted living community include:

  • Workshops and education:

    • Cooking
    • Foreign languages
    • Painting and drawing
    • Writing
    • Technology
    • Crafts
    • Woodworking
  • Dance lessons:

    • Ballroom
    • Tango
    • Swing
    • Jazz
    • Line dancing
    • Square dancing
  • Fitness classes:

    • Swimming
    • Aquatics
    • Aerobics
    • Yoga
    • Meditation
    • Tai Chi
    • Zumba
  • Outings:

    • Movies and theater
    • Museums
    • Concerts
    • Sporting events
    • Convention centers
  • Outdoor activities:

    • Walking
    • Hiking
    • Boating
    • Picnics
    • Sightseeing
  • Games:

    • Board games
    • Video games
    • Crossword puzzles
    • Sudoku
    • Card games
    • Bingo
  • Clubs and meetings:

    • Book clubs
    • Bible study
    • Support groups
  • Community events:

    • Barbecues
    • Holiday parties
    • Fashion shows
    • Happy hours
  • Sports:

    • Darts
    • Bowling
    • Billiards
    • Tennis
    • Ping-Pong
    • Shuffleboard

Before choosing an assisted living community, ask about the types of activities available and the frequency at which these activities take place. The best facilities should offer these activities to their residents every day or at least once per week.

4. What Services and Amenities Are Available in an Assisted Living Community?

The primary service offered by all assisted living communities is assistance with daily living activities, such as bathing, grooming, dressing, and taking medications. However, each assisted living community offers a full range of other services and amenities designed to enhance the lives of its senior residents. 

Many facilities offer essential services under one convenient roof to prevent seniors from having to drive or travel to outside destinations. Services typically available at assisted living homes include:

  • Haircare (beauty salon and barbershop)
  • Massage therapy
  • Prepared, nutritious meals
  • Medication management
  • Health services
  • Laundry and dry cleaning
  • Linen service (changing bed sheets and towels)
  • Housekeeping and maintenance
  • Emergency services
  • Social services
  • Religious and spiritual services
  • Driving and transportation
  • Fitness training
  • Security services
  • Yard and lawn care
  • Pet-grooming services
  • Dog-walking services

Many of the staff members and caregivers who perform these services at assisted living homes are experienced and professionally trained to work with the older adult population. As a result, many seniors find that these services are highly enjoyable and satisfactory, and report developing good relationships with the staff members who provide them.

The types of amenities offered at assisted living homes also vary from one facility to the next. Assisted living communities share the common goal of making seniors feel as comfortable and as happy as possible by providing them with plenty of amenities that bring joy, excitement, meaning, and purpose to their lives.

Amenities available at many assisted living facilities include:

  • Dining rooms (public and private)
  • Libraries
  • Computer rooms
  • Game rooms
  • Art rooms
  • Music rooms
  • TV and movie theater rooms
  • Fitness center and gym
  • Swimming pool, hot tub, and sauna
  • Ballroom
  • Bar/lounge areas
  • Mailroom
  • Pet-friendly areas (dog parks, dog runs)
  • Chapel
  • Garages
  • Keyed entries
  • General store
  • Walking paths
  • Gardens

5. What Is the Difference Between Independent Living, Skilled Nursing, and Assisted Living?

Senior living communities can be categorized as independent living communities, skilled nursing facilities, or assisted living communities, but what are the differences between each of these communities? Knowing how each facility works can help you choose the best residence for yourself or your senior loved one.

Independent living communities are highly similar to assisted living communities, but do not offer assistance with daily living activities like grooming and bathing. The senior residents who live in independent living communities are fully self-sufficient and prefer to live among other seniors who share like-minded interests. These communities offer many of the same activities, services, and amenities as assisted living homes, such as social events, housekeeping, and fitness centers.

Skilled nursing facilities (informally known as nursing homes) offer a higher level of care and support for residents who have regular and/or intensive medical needs. Residents in skilled nursing facilities receive 24/7 supervision, medical care, and daily prepared meals. Skilled nursing facilities offer many of the same services and amenities as assisted living communities, but ensure that residents are properly taken care of at all times by caregivers, nurses, and medical staff. If you or your senior loved one needs only minor assistance with accomplishing certain daily tasks, consider choosing assisted living rather than nursing home care for greater independence and more freedom.

6. Is an Assisted Living Home Right for Me?

If you are a senior who is ready to change your living environment, you may want to know whether you can benefit most from an assisted living home or another type of senior living environment. If you are caring for a senior friend or relative, you may want to know more about whether your loved one can benefit from assisted living.

An assisted living home may be ideal for you if you are capable of living on your own but need help performing specific daily tasks such as using the restroom, getting dressed, and remembering to take medications at the right times. An assisted living home may also be ideal if you do not suffer from any serious medical problems that require intensive care and continuous medical supervision.

Assisted living homes are a good choice for seniors who may feel lonely, have recently lost a spouse, or do not spend much time with friends and relatives. Assisted living homes can help these individuals rebuild their social lives, as well as offer fun, diverse activities that can bring excitement, new meaning, and purpose to those who feel as if they need positive changes in their lives. If you are a senior who wants to devote less time to maintaining your house or property and to performing mundane tasks related to housework, an assisted living community may be the right fit.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when determining whether an assisted living home is right for you.

  1. Do you want to reduce your homeowner responsibilities in regard to maintenance and repairs?

  2. Do you currently live with relatives but are capable of living on your own and want more independence?

  3. Do you want access to lots of fun activities and a social community all under one roof?

  4. Do you struggle with performing minor everyday tasks, such as shaving your face, taking a bath or shower, or remembering to take your medications?

  5. Do you want to experience a seamless transition from assisted living to skilled nursing care when you need more help managing an existing health or medical condition?

  6. Do you want to reduce the burden of caregiving on your spouse, friends, or relatives?

  7. Do you want to live in an environment that brings you closer to peers in the same age group as yours?

If you answered yes to one or more of the above questions, it may be time to start searching for assisted living homes near you.

7. What Are the Signs It May Be Time for Assisted Living?

When is the best time to transition from independent living to assisted living? Making the decision can be difficult, especially if you’re feeling nervous or anxious about the idea of leaving your current home and moving into a new community. However, an assisted living community can have a major positive impact on your overall livelihood and well-being if you’ve been struggling with performing certain activities and with meeting other seniors in your current community.

Here are signs it may be time for you or your loved one to transition to assisted living.

Poor Nutrition

Maintaining good nutrition can become more challenging with age, especially if it involves cooking, using complex kitchen appliances, and making frequent trips to the grocery store for fresh fruits and vegetables. Some seniors may lose the motivation to shop for healthy foods and cook healthy meals, and start reaching more frequently for convenient foods that are less healthy, such as frozen pizzas and fast-food hamburgers. Poor nutrition can be addressed and resolved at an assisted living home, where residents can be served healthy, nutritious meals at least three times per day.

Increased Bruising and Injuries

Seniors become more prone to experiencing falls and injuries as they get older. This may occur due to decreased balance and coordination, clutter in the home, side effects from medications, or weakened bone conditions such as osteoporosis. The increased presence of bruises and minor injuries in seniors can indicate it may be time to move to an assisted living community.

Decline in Personal Hygiene

Some seniors may experience difficulty with standing in the shower for long periods of time, or with getting in and out of a bathtub on their own—especially if they lack access to shower chairs or safety bars. These factors can make the idea of bathing stressful and unappealing. Additionally, shaving can become difficult for seniors with unsteady hands, while memory problems can make it tough to remember when one last showered. A decline in personal hygiene may be a sign that your senior loved one needs help performing these tasks at an assisted living home.

Untidy House and Yard

Piled-up trash, unpleasant odors, a sinkful of dirty dishes, and a neglected lawn often indicate that household chores may have become too overwhelming for the resident. When visiting your senior loved one, take note of whether they have been staying on top of housework or gradually falling behind. Many assisted living communities provide housekeeping services to reduce the burden of housework on seniors.

Problems with Medication Adherence

Many seniors suffer from multiple health conditions that require the use of several prescription medications. A study published in 2015 reported that 40% of older adults in the United States use five or more prescription medications. Managing a high number of medications can be difficult for anyone regardless of age, but factors such as poor memory and eyesight are extra challenges seniors may face in regards to medication adherence. Signs of problems with medication adherence include increased hospitalizations, expired medications, and pillboxes that have been neglected—all of which can be addressed at an assisted living home.

Driving/Transportation Issues

Has your senior loved one been in an increasing number of auto accidents lately? Has their vehicle accumulated a number of new dents and scratches? If so, they may be experiencing difficulty with operating a vehicle and could benefit from having a personal driver or other means of transportation. Many assisted living communities offer driving services to help seniors perform important errands and tasks outside of their homes.

Loss of Friends and Family

Seniors who live far from family members or who recently lost their spouses may experience increased feelings of loneliness and isolation. When not managed or addressed in healthy ways, these feelings can raise the risk for other serious problems such as depression and substance abuse. An assisted living community can pull seniors out of isolation and place them in warm, active environments where they can meet new people and avoid feeling lonely.

New or Worsening Health Problem

The diagnosis of a new health problem or the worsening of an existing health problem means that your senior loved one may need additional medications and treatments. In some instances, intensive care down the road may be inevitable. Assisted living communities have protocols in place to help seniors adjust and transition to skilled nursing facilities should their health conditions progress. If your senior loved one has one or more medical conditions, it may be time to consider an assisted living home where they can get a headstart on receiving regular live-in health care.

8. What Is the Cost of Assisted Living?

The cost of assisted living will vary from one community to the next based on services and amenities offered, meals, utilities, pet fees, and geographic location. 

According to the 2019 Cost of Care Survey conducted by Genworth Financial, the median assisted living cost is $4,051 per month. The assisted living cost also fluctuates state-by-state — for instance, the median monthly cost is $4,500 for California residents, $5,169 for Maine residents, and $2,881 for Missouri residents.

Care level is another important variable that plays a role in the cost of assisted living. Seniors who require a higher care level will typically pay more for assisted living than seniors who require a lower care level. For instance, seniors who need daily assistance with administering injectable medications and bathing may pay higher costs than seniors who need assistance only once per week with washing and drying their hair or driving to the grocery store.

Does Medicaid Pay for Assisted Living?

According to the National Center for Assisted Living, an estimated 16.5% of residents in assisted living homes rely on Medicaid to cover the cost of their services, which equates to roughly 1 in 6 residents. As of 2018, 48% of assisted living communities were Medicaid certified. Medicaid does cover room and board, but it does pay for personal care and supportive services provided in assisted living facilities.

Does Medicare Pay for Assisted Living?

The majority of residents in assisted living homes are Medicare beneficiaries; however, Medicare does not cover long-term care services and supports associated with assisted living. Medicare beneficiaries who need help paying for assisted living can discuss their available payment options with the facility.

How Can I Save Money on Assisted Living?

The cost of assisted living can be made affordable based on behalf of insurance policies, move-in specials, and various discount programs offered by the facility. Here are a few tips that can help you or your senior loved one to save on costs associated with assisted living.

  • Look into long-term care insurance, which may help cover costs that are not covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or your current health insurance plan.

  • Ask the facility about move-in specials and incentives that may help lower the monthly or yearly cost.

  • Look into veterans (VA) benefits if you are a wartime veteran or the spouse of a veteran.

  • Explore your options for bridge loans and reverse mortgages.

  • Find out whether your life insurance policy or that of your senior loved one can help pay for assisted living.

  • Find a senior roommate who can split the cost of room and board.

9. What Are Tips for Transitioning to a New Assisted Living Community?

Transitioning to a new home and community is often a significant adjustment for most seniors, and may be accompanied by feelings such as anxiety and fear. However, being prepared and knowing what to expect can make the transition into an assisted living community seamless and far less worrisome. Here are important tips that can help you or your senior loved one experience a smooth transition into an assisted living home.

Choose the Right Facility

The transition into an assisted living home can be exciting if you choose a facility that offers all the services, amenities, and activities you need to feel comfortable, healthy, and happy. Invest plenty of time into researching various facilities, then arrange to visit and tour the facility before making your final decision. Spending time inside the facility before moving in will give you or your loved one a better idea of what life would be like after moving in.

Pack the Right Items

In most instances, your room or apartment at an assisted living community will be far smaller than your current home, which means you may need to downsize tremendously before moving. Start with packing the essentials, then make plans to store or donate what you don’t need. Many seniors who move into assisted living homes take this opportunity to distribute their belongings to various family members, which can be a highly meaningful way to connect with loved ones before moving into a new home.

Be Open to an Emotional Transition

The caregivers and staff at an assisted living home understand that transitioning to a new community can be an emotional time, as do your friends and family. Keep in mind that any emotions you may be feeling in regard to moving to a new community are completely normal, and allow yourself time to adjust. Talking about your feelings and anxieties as they relate to moving can make you feel better and help with the transitioning process.

Get Involved with the Community

After moving into an assisted living community, you’ll be surrounded by other seniors who once felt the same way you do at the beginning. After you settle in, start mingling and networking with neighbors and other community members, and attend events that interest you. The sooner you get involved with the community, the sooner you can establish a fun daily routine filled with activities you truly enjoy.

10. How Can I Find Assisted Living Facilities Near Me?

FindContinuingCare.com is a directory of senior citizen retirement housing options that can help you or your senior loved one find a new assisted living community. Click on “Find Communities” at the upper right corner of the page to browse nearby assisted living homes.

Using the "Find Communities" button search for a location of interest and narrow your search using "Community Types" field. You can search for Assisted Living in your specific area. Once you have done your research, see if the community has a red button "Request Tour/Brochure" here you can request a phone call, tour of the community or a brochure for more information.