What Really Is Assisted Living?
Assisted living is a type of care for older adults who need help with normal daily activities that’s provided in a residential facility. To best understand what assisted living is, it can be helpful to define what it’s not. It is not a nursing home or a setting where residents need round-the-clock medical care. Instead, seniors in assisted living receive personal care and assistance with activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, grooming and toileting so that they’re able to live as independently as possible.
What’s more, a look around a typical assisted living community will reveal something far different from the clinical setting many imagine when they hear the words “retirement home.” While each community is different, assisted living facilities in the U.S. today typically offer a wide range of convenient services, comforts, amenities and enriching activities to ensure residents get the help and care they need, in a setting they can call “home.”
While there is no federal definition of “assisted living” in the U.S., the term generally refers to a type of personal care for people who need assistance with various activities of daily living — such as dressing, bathing and grooming — in order to live as independently as possible.
Assisted living care is typically provided in long-term residential facilities, where mostly elderly residents live and receive daily care and services from on-site staff. Unlike skilled nursing care, assisted living does not include medical care services (such as managing catheters, IVs or dressing wounds).
Who is a Good Candidate for Assisted Living?
Assisted living falls somewhere between an independent living community and a skilled nursing facility in terms of the level of care provided. If the person in your care is beginning to need help with the basic activities of daily living (bathing, dressing, grooming, walking, managing medications, toileting, and eating) — or expects to need that help down the line — she may find this support at a good assisted-living community.
If an older adult has a serious medical condition that requires specialized care, assisted living may not be the right choice, although some assisted-living communities do have specialized wings that provide skilled nursing or Alzheimer’s care.
Assisted Living Care, Services and Amenities
Today’s senior assisted living communities offer a wide variety of services and amenities to their residents. Oftentimes less expensive than skilled nursing facilities or in-home care, most assisted living communities have a full, round-the-clock staff trained to assist residents with a variety of daily activities, from eating, bathing and dressing to medication management, toileting and help with incontinence. Many assisted living centers also provide specialized care for residents with dementia.
Assisted living goes by different names in different states, and licensing requirements will vary. Here in our assisted living directory, you’ll find assisted living providers, personal care homes, board and care homes and Alzheimer’s care facilities.
Most assisted living facilities also provide housekeeping, three daily meals plus snacks, scheduled transportation, health and exercise programs, and a host of organized health activities and events. Many communities feature on-site amenities like gyms, swimming pools, common areas for socializing, beauty salons, pharmacies, libraries, pets and more.
Types of Care Provided
Since assisted living communities are not regulated nationally, there are some differences in the exact services and standards delivered from state to state. Some states, for example, require assisted living staff members to undergo more than 24 hours of training, while other states have zero training requirements.
Still, there are a number of standard services provided to residents at the vast majority of assisted living communities across the U.S. These include personal care services in the form of assistance with activities of daily living such as:
- Medication management
In addition to personal care, just about every assisted living community in the country offers the following services:
- Scheduled Transportation
- Cleaning services
- Organized activities
While some of these services are included in a resident’s monthly payment, others will cost more, so it’s important to check with community staff about any additional fees.