What is assisted living?

If you’re overwhelmed with the process of understanding care offered in all of the different settings, you’re not alone.  It’s a daunting process, but it’s not impossible!  You might have seen several ads for local assisted living residences.  What is “assisted living” and what types of care are offered?

Assisted living is the step in between independent living and nursing.  It’s best for people who can no longer live alone but don’t need nursing care or constant supervision.  Assisted living residents receive help with what are called “activities of daily living.”  These include things like personal hygiene, dressing, eating, moving around the home, walking, and bladder/bowel control.

Charges are usually decided based on levels of care.  For instance, if you only need basic help (occasional grooming assistance or similar services), then you might pay $2,500 per month (prices change based on the community, room, and whether or not you have a roommate).  Adding on things like medication reminders, bathing assistance, and other services will cost more.  Sometimes the community charges different rates depending on what is being provided.  Other times, it’s calculated on a “level” basis, where Level 1 receives no services and Level 4 or 5 receives the maximum amount of services.  Occasionally, communities will charge an all-inclusive rate which applies regardless of how many services you receive.

Assisted living (or “residential care,” as it’s called in some states) is regulated by the state department of health or a similar organization.  There are tons of regulations regarding staff-to-patient ratios, resident care, and resident rights.  You’ll probably get a packet of legally-mandated disclosures upon move-in, and you’ll want to make sure to read through those so that you’re familiar with the legal stipulations associated with care.

Also, assisted living is not covered by Medicare or Medicaid.  It’s a strictly private pay service.  Therefore, you’ll have to have some fairly deep pockets to be able to afford this type of care.  Long term care insurance can definitely help defray some or all of the cost, but since most people in assisted living cannot return home, it’s not uncommon for residents (or their families) to sell their home to pay for the care.