An overview of assisted living facilities

by the Editor, SeniorInsider | Jun 01, 2011

Assisted living facilities can be considered the best of both worlds as they provide care to over one million people each year. There can be certain challenges in selecting the best facility for your particular needs, however the services offered from one facility to the next tend to be fairly standard across the board.

Assisted living—as we know it today—emerged in the 1990s as a viable alternative for seniors who were no longer able to live completely on their own, yet did not need the round-the-clock medical care which a nursing home would provide. Assisted living facilities were meant to promote independence and dignity, while offering critical help and support.

Although most states use the term “assisted living” for the purposes of licensure, others use terms such as “residential care home,” “assisted care living facilities,” or “personal care homes.” Not only do assisted living facilities go by a variety of names, they also vary widely in physical layout and the specific services provided. Assisted living facilities can be extremely large, providing services to hundreds of residents, or smaller, more like home.  Overall, assisted living facilities are in between an independent living community and a skilled nursing home. Newer assisted living facilities often offer residents their own private apartment.

The “Typical” Resident in Assistant Living Facilities


A senior who does not need the care level of a nursing home but still feels the need for more companionship and day-to-day living assistance might find an assisted living facility appealing. The average age of assisted living residents is 86.9 years, and female residents tend to outnumber males nearly three to one. Over three quarters of residents are widowed, and the “average” stay for assisted living residents is about two and a half years.  

Types of Assisted Living Facilities


Other than apartment-type living arrangements, the living spaces in assisted living facilities may resemble a college dorm room or a larger hotel room, consisting of a private sleeping area and possibly a shared bath, with common areas for socializing and a kitchen and dining room which all residents can use for preparing and eating meals. Private apartments are more likely to be self-contained, with a private bath, living area and small kitchen.

Services Offered in Assisted Living Facilities


Once you become a resident in an assistant living facility, you will help arrange your own medical, health and dental services by choosing your doctors and dentist. Should you have a period of temporary incapacity due to illness or an injury, you will probably be allowed to stay in most assisted living facilities, providing the appropriate services can be obtained. Typically assisted living facilities do not provide the level of skilled nursing care you will find in a hospital or nursing home.

What assisted living facilities do offer in the way of senior care is assistance with the basic daily activities, such as bathing, grooming, dressing, or preparing meals. Some facilities will offer reminder services for medication, or assistance with medication. However, they won’t offer more complex medical services. Most facilities have a wide range of social activities and chances to meet and interact with others.

When is the Right Time to Search for Assisted Living Facilities?


How do you know when assisted living may be the next logical step for your particular situation? If you are having increasing difficulty in personal care tasks, or housekeeping chores due to arthritis or other pain, it could be time to consider assisted living.  If you feel your reflexes aren’t quite what they once were, making it unsafe to drive, have noticed a certain loss in your mobility, or have a decreased appetite and loss of interest in cooking, then assisted living could be exactly what you need.  Assisted living could also be right for you if you have regular feelings of loneliness or are depressed, as there are many opportunities for social interaction in an assisted living facility.


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