Assisted Living: Facilities, Cost and Services |

What Is Assisted Living?

Assisted living is senior housing, often in apartment-like communities, with on-site staff to help residents with activities of daily living. These activities can include bathing, dressing, getting in and out of bed, eating, and using the bathroom. Meals and housekeeping usually are provided. Other services in assisted living may include medication management, health monitoring, transportation, and social activities.

What Are Assisted Living Facilities?

Assisted living facilities help seniors with daily living activities in buildings that range from converted single-family homes to luxurious apartment complexes. Depending on the community, residents may live in studios, suites, or one- or two-bedroom apartments or homes. Common areas often include a dining room, laundry room, fitness center, game room, arts and crafts room, salon, movie theater, clubhouse, library, and computer room. Assisted living facilities may also be known as residential care communities or long-term care facilities. Some assisted living facilities also offer independent living, memory care, or nursing care.

When Is Assisted Living Needed?

Assisted living is best suited for aging adults who can no longer live alone for practical or safety reasons. However, these adults do not need a high level of medical care, such as in a nursing home. Residents still live independently, just with daily help available as needed.

The general test of whether someone would benefit from assisted living is an assessment of activities of daily living. Ask yourself or your loved one:

Do you need help with any of these activities?

  • Bathing: Showering, shaving, brushing teeth, etc.
  • Dressing: Putting clothes on without having trouble with zippers and buttons.
  • Eating: Feeding yourself without much difficulty.
  • Transferring: Walking or moving from a wheelchair to a bed and back again.
  • Toileting: Getting on and off the toilet.
  • Continence: Controlling your bladder and bowel functions.

The activities that assisted living residents are most likely to need help with are bathing and dressing, according to federal surveys. 37% of residents need help with one or two activities, while 37% need help with three or more activities.

Who Are Assisted Living Residents?

70% of assisted living residents are women

63% of assisted living residents are widowed

53% of assisted living residents are age 85+; 30% are 75-84

Common Health Issues for Assisted Living Residents

  • High blood pressure: 57% of residents
  • Alzheimer’s and other dementias: 42%
  • Heart disease: 34%

Also, 46% of residents use a walker.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studies, 2010 and 2013-14.

How Much Does Assisted Living Cost?

seniors gardening in assisted living

The average cost of assisted living nationally is $3,750 a month for a one-bedroom unit with a single resident, according to Genworth. Pricing is determined by the type of residence, the size of the apartment or unit, the services you need, and the amenities offered by the community. Some communities offer shared apartments, which cost less than private apartments.

Assisted living costs also vary greatly by state. Genworth’s 2017 study found the highest average price, $6,015 a month, in Delaware. The lowest average price, $2,700 a month, was in Missouri.

Who Pays for Assisted Living?

Most assisted living communities accept only private pay and don’t accept Medicare (unless they offer additional care services like skilled nursing). However, about 15% of people in assisted living facilities use Medicaid to help pay for care.  

Some assisted living facilities may accept the VA Aid & Attendance Benefit, which is available to wartime veterans and their surviving spouses. This option can help offset a significant portion of the cost of assisted living.

Otherwise, assisted living costs may be paid with long-term care insurance, personal income and savings, life insurance, annuities, and reverse mortgages.

Assisted Living Services

Often offered (dependent on the community):

  • Assistance with activities of daily living
  • Basic health monitoring
  • Medication management
  • Emergency call systems
  • Meals and snacks, accommodating special diets
  • Daily, weekly, biweekly or monthly housekeeping
  • Linen service or personal laundry service
  • Transportation to medical appointments and shopping
  • Fitness and wellness programs
  • Recreational, social or educational activities

NOT included:

Typically, unless there is a skilled nursing component to the community, medical care will not be provided in assisted living.

Additional fees possible:

Some assisted living communities have all-inclusive pricing for room and board and services. Others offer a la carte services or have tiered services with different levels of care. Some services or higher levels of care, depending on what a resident needs, will carry an additional cost above the base fee.

Some communities will allow outside services if the resident needs additional care and the community does not provide the services. These third-party services may include physical therapy, hospice care, podiatry or dentistry.

Where to Find Assisted Living


What services are provided for the monthly fee?

Are services all-inclusive, tiered or a la carte?

Is a reservation deposit or entrance fee required?

Are there additional costs for activities or outings?

What is the procedure for emergencies?

Is there an individual care plan for every resident?

Where are the reports from state inspections?

Full Assisted Living Checklist

Assisted Living vs. Other Senior Housing

To understand assisted living, it might help to understand how it differs from other forms of senior housing:

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