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What is an assisted living facility?
Assisted living facilities (or assisted living homes) are housing options that bridge the gap between independent living and skilled nursing facilities. Assisted living facilities are a good option for people who are in need of some assistance with daily living, yet want to live as independently as possible. They typically offer various support services such as medication administration and personal care assistance, while providing residents with more freedom and privacy than a nursing home.
A typical assisted living facility will offer some combinations of the following services:
- Meals (often served in a restaurant-like setting)
- 24-hour supervision
- Personal care assistance (bathing, dressing, grooming, feeding)
- Housekeeping and laundry
- On-site health medical and therapeutic services
- Security and emergency call systems
- Health and exercise programs
- Social, cultural, and educational activities
Assisted living facilities have become very popular with seniors and people with disabilities. These facilities can range in size from a small residential house for a few residents to a very large facility providing services to hundreds of residents. They can also be part of a large retirement community for more active adults.
Some facilities offer only basic services like security and personal care services, while others offer on-site medical care and more elaborate programs. Facilities can range from modest to lavish, and they can also specialize in a particular type of client (for example, clients with mental health issues, physical disabilities, or memory problems).
What are the costs of assisted living facilities?
Assisted living facilities cost less than nursing homes, but are still very expensive. The price can range from less than $22,000 to more than $50,000 a year – depending on the state, the services that are needed, and the type of facility you choose. In the United States, the average cost for an assisted living facility is $3,300 per month.
In most facilities, individuals usually have their own apartment or room. You pay for only the support services you need, and choose whether or not to participate in social activities and meals services provided by the facility.
Does Medicare cover the cost of assisted living facilities?
Medicare will cover qualified health care costs while you are at the facility, but it does not generally cover the cost of the assisted living facility. In some states, Medicaid may pay for some of the costs if you have limited income. Medicaid is the joint federal and state program that helps seniors and some individuals with disabilities pay for health care when they are not able to pay for it themselves.
Some facilities offer funding options. However, most people end up paying the cost of living in the facilities out of their own pockets. If you have long-term care insurance, it may cover some of the costs associated with living in an assisted living facility.
How do I choose a facility?
When choosing a facility, you should visit each facility that you are considering more than once, sometimes unannounced. You may also want to bring a friend or family member for a second opinion. Try to visit at meal times to sample the food, and be sure to observe any social activities taking place. It's also a good idea to talk to some of the residents and observe them: Do they seem happy? Do they and their caregivers recommend the facility?
Keep in mind that the facility you choose must be able to provide the services you need, be affordable, and provide a safe, secure environment in which to live. Consider the following when searching for a facility:
- Will the facility meet your needs now and in the future?
- Where is the facility located? Is it close to family and friends?
- Is there shopping or restaurants within walking distance?
- Is the facility staff friendly and helpful in answering your questions?
- Are there written documents stating rules and regulations of the facility?
- Are the offered activities of interest to you?
- What types of training does the staff receive and how often do they receive training?
- Are the facility's state licenses up to date?
Once you have narrowed down your decision, ask your doctors, other health care providers, social workers, friends, and family for recommendations.