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What is Assisted Living?

Assisted living is one of many long term care services and communities offered for people with ongoing health issues, disabilities, or simply for adults who are not capable enough or no longer wish to live independently. Assisted living communities can vary from location to location, however the majority provide a combination of services including housing, personal care, and on-call health care in the event a resident needs help with any day-to-day activities. While not quite independent living, assisted living actively promotes an independent lifestyle to its older adult population.

What Are Assisted Living Communities?

Assisted living services are offered in a number of housing scenarios including traditional communities, near or integrated skilled nursing homes or hospitals, retirement communities, or independent living communities. Some communities tend to be split with one half functioning as an assisted living facility, while the other remains an independent living facility. This situation works well for those interested in independent living, because in the event of a change in health, you can simply move over to the assisted living side. This transition will provide the personal and health care services now required, without the effort that comes with having to find a new home and moving.

At assisted living communities, residents can expect a sophisticated residential environment that provides personal care services, social activities, health care services, and 24-hour supervision & assistance if needed. Assisted living is a wonderful and dignified way of life for those in the midst of their late life chapters. Along with the convenience of assisted living comes an independence maintained while still being accommodated for in case of a sudden change in health, physical ability, or even personal preference. Residents and their loved ones can rest assured knowing independence and safety are maintained along with a certain quality of life and social involvement. Most assisted living communities offer a few different living spaces, each coming with a different cost. Whether you’re interested in your own room, an apartment, or sharing space with a roommate, these communities aim to be as flexible and welcoming to your requests and needs as possible. When you have family or friends visiting, assisted living communities are designed to make you feel at home just as much as you did within your own.

Assisted Living Residents

The majority of assisted living communities are for seniors, which is why they’re often referred to as nursing or elderly homes. But they do differ. A typical assisted living resident requires support with at least one aspect of daily life, but in general they still live a quality life full of social interaction and companionship. While a nursing home resident is more likely someone in the process of recovery and rehabilitation following a recent hospital stay, or someone in need of considerably more physical assistance and overall health care. However, assisted living communities can also cater to more specific demographics such as those living with Alezheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, as well as physical and developmental disabilities, and other serious medical conditions or needs which require 24-hour supervision and aid.

A Breakdown of Assisted Living Residents by Age & Gender

85 Years or Older54%
75-84 Years Old27%
65-74 Years Old9%
65 Years or Younger11%
Female Residents74%
Male Residents26%

Assisted Living Cost

Obviously assisted living sounds like a great option if you’re in the midst of old age but are still interested in living a social, community-based life. But the real question you’re probably asking is, “How much is this going to cost?” Unfortunately this clear-cut question doesn’t come with a definitive answer. There are a number of factors that contribute to the cost of your personalized assisted living experience.

  1. Where Do You Live? – The cost of an assisted living facility isn’t going to be the same in Los Angeles as it is in Topeka, Kansas. Cost of living in general tends to have a similar effect among assisted living communities.
  2. What Kind of Living Situation Are You Interested In? – Just like any house or apartment, the cost is going to differ between a studio apartment, a one-bedroom, two-bedroom, etc. Location within the facility can affect the cost as well.
  3. How Much Assistance Do You Require Throughout The Day? – Do you need help getting out of bed, showering, getting dressed, or eating meals? How about remembering to take or receiving your medication? Has memory care been discussed? The more assistance you require in a day, the more the cost is likely to be.
  4. General Services – Three meals a day, medication monitoring, housekeeping, laundry, social & recreational activities, transportation, personal assistance if/when needed, and 24-hour emergency care. Often bundled, these services can add up over time.

It’s also helpful to keep in mind that assisted living communities are “private pay,” more commonly referred to as “out-of-pocket.” Medicare and Medicaid rarely covers the costs of assisted living, which can range anywhere between $2,000 and $7,000 a month. The price often depends on the cost of living of the city and state in which you live. However, based off that price range, that’s an average price of around $4,000 a month, which breaks down to $133 per day and $48,000 per year. In addition to the myth that Medicare and Medicaid will cover the cost of assisted living, Social Security payments will likely only be able to cover a small amount of these monthly costs.

Many assisted living communities also require a community move-in fee. Whether you choose to pay this fee up front or prorated on a monthly basis, it can run upwards of $1,000 – $5,000. Oftentimes a portion of this community move-in fee can be tax-deductible as a medical expense, so make sure to bring this up to your accountant or tax professional come tax season. Depending on the facility, you may have the option of selecting a bundled package based on your specific needs. Other communities simply offer a flat monthly fee for all residents to pay the same amount for shared services.

A majority of assisted living residents pay out-of-pocket with either personal savings, from long-term care health insurance, or with help from their adult children. Another option is by researching if the state you live in offers home and community-based waivers for low-income residents.

Assisted Living vs Nursing Homes

Traditionally an assisted living facility will provide housing with some personal and health care. A nursing home on the other hand, is predominantly a caring facility that houses its patients. Assisted living communities are often looked at as a semi-permanent living situation between moving out of a house and entering a nursing home out of necessity. Assisted living communities feature elements of both independent living and rest homes. Although assisted living communities provide 24-hour emergency care, these communities usually don’t provide the skilled nursing care expected in a nursing home or hospital. You can expect a resident nurse on-call at assisted living homes, and possibly an onsite health clinic. But anything beyond that will likely be considered a nursing home or skilled nursing care center.