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Your Complete Guide to Assisted Living

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What is assisted living?

Assisted living provides personalized care for seniors in a residential setting, along with activities and services to make life more enjoyable.

“Assisted living offers a level of safety and security as well as peace of mind for families,” says Niki Gewirtz, who served in leadership roles at assisted living communities for over a decade before joining A Place for Mom. “So they’ll have around-the-clock caregivers, nursing oversight, and assistance with personal care needs that seniors may need on a daily basis that keep them from being able to live at home safely.”

Seniors in assisted living can also expect nutritious meals, a wide range of social activities to cater to a variety of interests, and a sense of community.

What are the benefits of assisted living?

While each community is different, assisted living offers services and amenities to focus on important aspects of senior wellness, including physical health, intellectual stimulation, and social connection. These three foundational pillars help slow cognitive decline and keep seniors healthier and happier longer.

  • Assisted living services

  • Help with personal care
  • Care coordination
  • Medication management
  • Mobility assistance
  • Nutritious meals
  • Social activities and outings
  • Complimentary transportation
  • Housekeeping
  • Laundry
  • Home maintenance and repairs

Many facilities offer comfort and convenience and eliminate the need for transportation. Assisted living amenities vary among communities, but some may include:

  • Beauty salons and barbershops
  • Movie theater
  • Library
  • Communal garden or courtyard
  • Pool or spa
  • Fitness center
  • Art studio
  • Chapel
  • Private event spaces

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What's the difference between assisted living and other senior care types?

Assisted living is a popular care type with a growing demand. According to the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA NCAL), more than 818,000 seniors live in an assisted living facility. While other senior care types may offer similar services to assisted living, there are some important differences worth noting.

ServicesAssisted livingNursing homesMemory careIndependent living
Meal servicesxxxx
Housekeeping and laundry servicesxxxx
Social activitiesxxxx
Exercise and wellness classesxxxx
Medication managementxxx
Help with daily activities (ADLs)xxx
Specialized care for patients with memory lossxx
24-hour care and supervisionxx
Secured entrances and exits to prevent wanderingxx
Transportation to appointmentsxxx
Memory-enhancing therapiesx
Unique facility layout and design to reduce confusionx

Assisted living vs. nursing homes

Assisted living and nursing homes differ in many ways, although some people may think of these two senior care types as synonymous. Both assisted living and nursing homes offer housing, meal services, and help with ADLs, such as bathing, toileting, and walking.

One of the biggest differences is that seniors in assisted living don’t require the skilled nursing services that people in nursing homes do. While they may have some health problems, seniors in assisted living don’t require 24-hour medical care and supervision.

Like assisted living, nursing homes also offer activities for residents, but assisted living communities usually have more diverse options to cater to all tastes and preferences, including exercise classes, cooking workshops, outings to theaters, and more.

Additionally, assisted living accommodations may feel homier and more spacious, while nursing home residents often have to share a room.

“Assisted living doesn’t have that clinical feel that you’re going to have in a skilled nursing environment. It’s a very homelike setting. People bring all their own furniture and belongs to make their apartment feel like home,” says Gewirtz.

The cost of care at nursing homes is also significantly higher when compared to assisted living. This is because seniors at nursing homes often need a higher level of care than what’s offered at assisted living. In fact, a physician’s prescription is a requirement for nursing home admission.

Assisted living vs. memory care

Like assisted living, memory care is also a residential facility that provides meals and help with daily activities. The main difference between assisted living and memory care is the specialized support memory care facilities offer people with memory loss.

Assisted living may be a good solution for some seniors with early-stage dementia or Alzheimer’s. However, as their symptoms progress, they’ll likely need the support offered at memory care facilities.

Memory care staff receive regular, thorough training in dementia care to help prevent and manage difficult dementia behaviors, like sundown syndrome. Memory care also provides a secure environment with locked entrances and spaces designed to prevent wandering, along with memory-enhancing therapies to help seniors keep their cognitive skills as long as possible. That increased security, plus specialized staff and more one-on-one time between caregivers and residents, makes memory care facilities significantly more expensive when compared to assisted living.

Keep in mind that many assisted living facilities also offer memory care. These communities often have a separate wing designated for residents with memory loss, where trained staff provide the dementia-specific care and therapies that elderly adults with memory loss need. The transition to memory care may be easier for these seniors as they’re able to stay in the same community even as their disease progresses.

Read more: Memory Care Architecture and Design: A Human-Centered Approach

Assisted living vs. independent living

Independent living and assisted living cater to different senior needs. Both senior living options offer safe, senior-friendly housing and amenities, with social activities, outings, and restaurant-style meals. However, independent living differs from assisted living in that it doesn’t provide help with activities of daily living like bathing, dressing, and grooming. This means independent living is often less expensive than assisted living.

Independent living is for older adults who can live on their own but may desire convenience, community, and peace of mind. Independent living communities provide many on-site opportunities for social engagement without the difficulty of arranging transportation. It also offers a maintenance-free lifestyle in which seniors can choose to delegate household chores like laundry and housekeeping, meaning they can spend more time pursuing their passions.

Assisted living vs. home care

Home care offers assistance for seniors who wish to age in place, and it provides support and respite for caregivers. Home care aides are trained in senior care and can provide companionship, help with ADLs, light housekeeping, cooking, transportation, and more.

However, home care differs from assisted living when it comes to socialization, intellectual stimulation, and cost.

  • Socialization. While home care offers one-on-one care tailored to individual needs, seniors in assisted living enjoy a variety of social programs and outings in a community of peers.
  • Intellectual stimulation. Assisted living facilities offer classes and continuing learning opportunities for seniors that home care can’t provide, including arts and crafts studios, cooking workshops, brain games, and more.
  • Cost. The level of care provided by home care aides is based on needs, and costs are calculated by the type of care provided. Home care fees are charged by the hour. This means that home care may be an expensive alternative to assisted living, depending on how much care is needed.

Caring for an aging loved one at home may also require modifications to make their home safe and accessible. These could include simple additions, such as grab bars, to more costly and difficult updates, including ramps, wider doorways, chair lifts, walk-in showers, and elevators.

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How does assisted living support seniors?

Assisted living offers a social, active, and maintenance-free lifestyle for older adults who need some help with daily tasks. Assisted living residents receive the care they need while maintaining independence in a vibrant community that offers many opportunities to stay engaged.

Personalized care

Seniors have different needs as they age. Some may simply need medication reminders and prepared meals, while others may require help with bathing, dressing, or other daily activities. Assisted living facilities customize care to meet residents’ unique needs.

Assisted living communities evaluate potential residents’ cognitive and physical needs by conducting a thorough, in-person assessment before seniors move in.

Gewirtz notes that communities can do assessments a few different ways:

  • During or after a community tour
  • At the senior’s home
  • In a rehab center

“A lot of nurses actually like to do the assessment in the senior’s home because that way they get a sense of their current surroundings and how they’re currently living,” says Gewirtz.

Assisted living offers a social, active lifestyle for seniors who need help with daily tasks.

Care coordination

Care coordination is an important service offered at assisted living facilities. Assisted living staff maintain strong relationships with area physicians and other health care providers to make sure residents receive the care they need.

Care coordination at assisted living facilities may include:

  • Organizing care with outside health care providers, such as primary care physicians, podiatrists, cardiologists, dentists, and more
  • Setting up home health appointments for residents recovering from illnesses or injuries
  • Providing transportation to medical appointments
  • Assisting with medication management and diabetes support
  • Helping with rehabilitation services, such as physical, occupational, and speech therapy to bring services on-site as needed, making appointments more convenient to residents
  • Arranging hospice care while keeping residents comfortable

Safety and peace of mind

Safety is often a concern for families of aging adults who live on their own. Seniors in assisted living can expect a safe environment with controlled access and security protocols.

Assisted living facilities have staff available 24 hours a day in case residents need help. Communities may have alert systems that allow residents to quickly get emergency help with a push of a button. Security systems may include cameras in common areas or motion sensors in private apartments to detect falls, a major health risk for elderly adults. In fact, one in four seniors will fall each year, according to the CDC.

Once staff understand a resident’s risk, they have several ways to help them stay safe, including the following:

  • Managing medications. Assisted living staff manage medications to help residents take medicines as prescribed. They may also monitor for drug interactions and side effects like dizziness or drowsiness, which may put seniors at risk for falls.
  • Keeping seniors active. Many communities offer exercise classes to improve balance, mobility, and strength.
  • Proactively practicing safety. Spaces are accessible and designed to prevent falls, with safety features like even flooring and hand rails. Areas are kept free of clutter and fall hazards. Some facilities may also offer classes to teach seniors fall prevention techniques to reduce their fall risk.
  • Helping with personal care. Regular daily activities, like bathing or dressing, may be a fall risk for some elderly adults. Residents in assisted living receive help based on their unique needs.
  • Anticipating needs. Staff at assisted living facilities get to know residents, their routines, and habits to anticipate their needs. For example, if a senior wakes up early, staff make sure their eating and toileting needs are met in a timely manner to discourage unsafe behavior.

Hassle-free living

A maintenance-free lifestyle is a key benefit of assisted living. Aging adults who struggle to keep up with cooking, housework, and home maintenance will find the support they need at an assisted living facility. Instead of spending time on burdensome chores, many seniors find they can pursue their interests and enjoy life more fully at an assisted living facility.

Seniors in assisted living can expect:

  • Meal services
  • Transportation to medical appointments
  • Housekeeping
  • Laundry services
  • Property maintenance

Nutritious, restaurant-style meals

Assisted living facilities understand that good nutrition is an important part of overall health. This is why assisted living meals are far from bland or boring. In fact, residents enjoy restaurant-style meals that include fresh, flavorful ingredients and fit their dietary preferences and needs. For example, communities may tailor menus to cater to the health needs of seniors with medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, or dysphagia. Some assisted living facilities may also offer vegetarian or kosher menus.

Aging seniors who live on their own may lose interest in food. While some health conditions may lead to appetite loss, loneliness, or even a lack of energy to cook may also be factors, especially for people cooking for one.

Dining at an assisted living facility can be a social experience for seniors who enjoy sharing good conversation over meals. Facilities offer communal dining, making mealtime a fun and comforting part of the assisted living lifestyle. Seniors gather in a dining room to share meals, talk about their day, and make meaningful connections. Having someone to share a meal with often encourages seniors to eat better and make healthier food choices. Many communities also offer in-room dining for residents who prefer a quiet dinner.

Read more: Fresh Ways to Enjoy Senior Living Dining Services

A social, engaging environment

It’s no secret that social connection and engagement lead to happier lives. But did you know that social isolation can actually harm both mental and physical health?

Nearly 13.8 million seniors live alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It’s not uncommon for older adults who live alone to feel lonely. Changes in family dynamics — such as divorce or the loss of loved ones — along with chronic illness, hearing loss, poor mobility, and lack of adequate transportation are just a few of the reasons seniors may feel isolated.

Loneliness can lead to habits like smoking, excessive drinking, and poor nutrition that negatively affect health. It can also increase someone’s risk for depression, dementia, and heart disease, among other health conditions.

Assisted living offers plenty of opportunities for seniors to stay physically active, learn new skills, and engage with like-minded friends and peers. Enrichment programs and activities at assisted living facilities appeal to all kinds of interests, including sports, music, crafts, religious and spiritual practices, and more. While programs and activities vary from one community to the next, many assisted living facilities offer a wide range of options that allow residents with different levels of cognitive and physical skills to participate and feel included.

Read more: Beyond Bingo: The 50+ Best Activities for Seniors in Assisted Living

Senior-friendly, comfortable accommodations

Assisted living facilities offer a variety of room sizes and floor plans. Many communities offer studios and one-, two-, and even three-bedroom apartments. Residents may choose the accommodation type that best fits their needs, budget, and lifestyle.

Assisted living communities usually allow residents to bring personal furniture and items as desired. Residents’ rooms usually include a private bathroom, and some may feature a kitchenette for seniors who enjoy cooking and can do so safely. Accommodations are designed for senior safety with accessibility features, such as grab bars in tubs and showers, nonslip flooring, and wide doors for seniors who need a wheelchair or walker.

Many facilities allow couples to live in the same apartment. However, as you research different communities, it’s important to check what assisted living options for couples are available. In some cases, seniors with different care needs may not live together. For example, one person may need memory care while the other doesn’t. In this case, the resident with memory loss may live in a nearby memory care wing, and their spouse can conveniently join them for meals and activities.

Seniors moving to assisted living may also be able to bring their beloved pets. However, pet-friendly assisted living facilities may have pet policies, rules, and restrictions, and it’s important to understand these before moving.

Seniors who wish to bring their furry companions to assisted living should ask about:

  • Monthly pet fees
  • Animal type, breed, or size restrictions
  • Required pet health information and vaccinations
  • Pet care assistance and available services, such as dog walking, grooming, and feeding

Read more: Finding Senior Living for Elderly Couples

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Is assisted living right for my loved one?

It’s common for assisted living staff to provide help with bathing, dressing, toileting, bed transfers, and more. Even if your loved one does need some assistance with personal care tasks, you may be wondering if they’re truly in need of assisted living. In this case, the frequency of assistance may help you determine whether assisted living is the right fit.

“A lot of times it comes down to what things can be managed by the resident themselves versus what kind of things cannot or what can be scheduled versus unscheduled,” explains Gewirtz. “If a senior needs shower assistance three times a week, that can be scheduled with a home caregiver. But, if they need assistance with going to the bathroom or transfer assistance, you can’t schedule that. That’s where assisted living can be a great option, because there’ll be a caregiver there to help them anytime.”

In other cases, older adults in assisted living may have a health condition that limits their ability to live independently. Common health conditions among assisted living residents include high blood pressure, arthritis, heart disease, and early dementia.

Assisted living may be the right choice for your aging loved one if they:

  • Need help with personal care, such as bathing and grooming
  • Don’t require 24-hour nursing care
  • Need help managing medications
  • Are at increased risk of falling
  • Feel isolated or lonely
  • Want to be a part of a vibrant community of peers
  • Enjoy social activities and programs but don’t have access to transportation
  • Prefer a maintenance-free lifestyle

What are assisted living requirements?

Before you determine whether assisted living is the right choice for your aging loved one, it’s important to understand the requirements for admission at an assisted living facility. Unlike skilled nursing facilities, assisted living communities don’t require a physician’s prescription for admission.

While each facility has their own admission process, most will:

  • Review your loved one’s medical history to get a complete picture of your loved one’s health
  • Perform a functional assessment to fully understand the potential resident’s skills and care needs
  • Develop a care plan to outline what type of care services will be provided
  • Require admission forms to be filled out before moving in
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When is it time for assisted living?

Some families may struggle with the decision to transition a parent to senior assisted living, but there may come a time when it’s no longer safe for a senior to live on their own. Moving can be very emotional, and it’s normal for seniors or family members to express that they’re not ready.

“Then we ask, well, what does ready look like? Because that will be different for every family,” Gewirtz says.

Some families want to wait until their loved one requires a care need that they can’t meet at home, such as incontinence care. For others, they may want one last holiday season at home with their parent.

“If they’re waiting for a crisis, they’re waiting too long,” says Gewirtz, who goes on to encourage families to be proactive.

According to Gewirtz, many families work with A Place for Mom after having to make a quick decision on a community that turned out to be the wrong fit.

“Be proactive, not reactive. Start touring now, even if you think you have some time to get Mom or Dad on board with making the decision. [That way] if something changed tomorrow, you’d have a viable option that you’re considering that will be a good fit for them,” says Gewirtz.

Being proactive will also likely be better for your parent in the long run. They can be part of the decision and move when they’re comfortable, rather than after a hospital discharge.

There may come a time when it’s no longer safe for a senior loved one to live on their own.

Which changes may indicate a need for assisted living?

As you call or visit your loved one, pay attention to signs that your aging relative may need help.

A decline in cognition — the ability to think clearly, learn new skills, and remember — may lead to unsafe and sometimes life-threatening behaviors. When visiting a parent, look for signs of cognitive impairment:

  • Do they seem more forgetful or confused?
  • Have you noticed mood swings or changes?
  • Do they often lose their train of thought during conversations?
  • Are they getting lost in familiar places?
  • Do they seem more anxious or irritable?
  • Do they lack energy or motivation?
  • Are they depressed?

You may also notice changes in your loved one’s appearance and hygiene that indicate it may be time to talk about a different living arrangement. For example, you may notice your parent has unintentionally lost weight quickly. Sudden weight loss in seniors could be a sign of a serious medical problem, but it may also signal depression, cognitive problems, or behavioral changes that impede good nutrition, like limited mobility or financial constraints.

If a loved one who’s typically well-groomed looks disheveled, or if their usually clean house seems cluttered, dirty, or disorganized, these could be warning signs that it may be time for assisted living.

Families who are caring for an aging loved one at home may find living with their parent isn’t working out, and they may realize this living arrangement is hurting their relationship. Or, they may reach a point when the stress of caregiving is affecting the caregiver’s health.

Caring for an aging relative is a major commitment that can sometimes cause friction. For caregivers, it’s important to consider several factors:

  • Can you provide the care your parent needs? Some people may be willing to do the laundry and clean but may not feel comfortable providing the personal care a parent needs, such as bathing and toileting.
  • Is caregiving affecting your relationship with your spouse and children? Caregiving is time-consuming. Is providing care for a loved one straining your other relationships?
  • Are you feeling burned out? Do you feel like you’ve been neglecting your own health? Caring for an aging loved one can put a caregiver at risk for stress, depression, and chronic conditions like diabetes or heart disease.

If you can’t care for an aging parent any longer, it may be time to consider assisted living. While many caregivers feel guilty about their decision, remember that moving your loved one to senior living may result in improved relationships, health, and quality of life for both yourself and your aging loved one.

Read more: The Worrying Facts About Caregiver Health and Stress

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How much does assisted living cost?

Assisted living costs vary from one community to the next. Key factors determining elder care costs include location, community amenities, apartment size, and how much help your loved one needs. Different pricing models also affect costs. For example, while some assisted living facilities may be all-inclusive, others charge for services a la carte based on senior needs.

The median monthly cost of assisted living in the U.S. is about $4,807, according to A Place for Mom’s 2023 Cost of Long-Term Care and Senior Living Report. However, costs may be as high as $6,000 a month or more depending on location. With this range in price, it’s no wonder that some people feel more prepared than others.

“A lot of times, you do get the sticker shock, but that’s where our Senior Living Advisors can be really helpful. [They help families] consider other areas that may be less expensive, or companion suites, or looking at a large studio instead of a one-bedroom,” Gewirtz says.

If you’ve previously received home care or are trying to choose between home care and assisted living, it’s important to understand the value of what your loved one receives in assisted living. What you might pay a caregiver is much more expensive than what you’d pay for the 24-hour care that’s available in assisted living. Gewirtz estimates that having 24-hour home care would be three to four times the cost of an assisted living community.

“Figure what it would cost for your parent to stay at home with full-time care — equivalent to what she would get in a community — plus meals, housekeeping, utilities, and included transportation,” Gewirtz recommends.

Typically, an assisted living base fee will cover housing, utilities, meals and snacks, weekly housekeeping, transportation to doctor’s appointments, and social activities, although some outings or amenities may cost extra. Additional expenses may include help with personal care, internet, beauty and barber services, laundry, and pet fees.

Read more: How Much Does Assisted Living Cost? Factors and Price Structures

How can I pay for assisted living?

Once you’ve decided assisted living is the right choice for your loved one, it’s time to make a plan to finance care. Do your research to understand options to save on assisted living costs.

While many families rely on savings, there are other options that can help your family pay for assisted living care, including:

  • Veterans benefits. A veteran or their widowed spouse may benefit from the VA Aid and Attendance program. If your loved one is eligible, they may receive a supplemental income to help pay for senior care at an assisted living facility.
  • Home equity. You may be able to sell your parent’s home, rent it, or apply for a reverse mortgage to convert equity into funds to pay for assisted living.
  • Long-term care insurance. If your loved one has purchased long-term care insurance, there’s a good chance their policy covers care at an assisted living facility.
  • Life insurance. Check if your loved one’s life insurance policy may be sold for a lump sum to help fund long-term care.
  • Bridge loan. Short-term loans can help fund senior care while you’re selling your parent’s home or liquidating other assets to cover costs.
  • Medicaid and Medicare. If your relative qualifies, Medicaid may cover some assisted living expenses. While Medicare doesn’t cover long-term care, it may pay for some health care costs in an assisted living facility.

Read more: How to Pay for Assisted Living: Cost & Payment Options

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How do I choose an assisted living facility?

You may feel overwhelmed with choices when it’s time to find an assisted living facility for your loved one. Seniors and families can choose from small, residential environments to resort-like communities with high-end finishes and gourmet dining. So how do you choose the right option for your aging parent?

Start by prioritizing your loved one’s needs and preferences. Think about the type of help your aging parent needs and how often they might need it.

Consider these questions:

  • How much help with daily activities do they need? What can they do on their own?
  • Are they mobile? Do they need help with transfers?
  • Do they have any dietary restrictions? For example, do they have diabetes or kidney disease?
  • How much space do they need? Is a studio apartment adequate? Are they willing to share an apartment with a roommate?
  • What type of social activities do they enjoy?
  • Are they interested in staying active and involved in fitness programs?
  • How much help do they need with housekeeping and laundry?
  • What type of transportation needs do they have?

Then, consider these factors as you choose an assisted living facility for a loved one:

  • Location. Consider whether it’s best to select an assisted living facility in the same area where you loved one currently lives or if it’s worth relocating them to be closer to you or other family members.
  • Meals. How many meals are offered each day? Are snacks included in the monthly base fee? Are meals designed with senior nutrition in mind? Do they cater to specific dietary restrictions?
  • Staff. What kind of training or certifications do staff have? Do staff seem friendly and knowledgeable? Are any health care providers on-site? What’s the staff-to-resident ratio?
  • Amenities. Consider what amenities are important to your loved one. For example, does the community have a garden or a pool? How often is housekeeping provided? Is laundry included in the monthly fee? What transportation services are available?
  • Social activities. Does your loved one have a hobby or particular interest? Be sure to ask if these specific activities are offered. Ask for a calendar of community activities and programs.
  • Wellness. What wellness and exercise programs are offered at the community? Is there a fitness room or gym? Are modified fitness programs available to residents with limited mobility?

Costs are a significant factor to consider when choosing an assisted living community. Don’t hesitate to ask questions to help you understand how costs are calculated and whether move-in specials are available.

Ultimately, there’s no substitute for visiting a community and experiencing a typical day. Touring an assisted living facility provides opportunities to see the building, assess cleanliness, witness staff interactions with residents, try a meal, participate in activities, and talk to other residents. Most assisted living facilities also offer virtual tours if an in-person visit isn’t possible.

Gewirtz recommends touring several communities yourself and then bringing your parent to your top two choices, keeping in mind which communities are most likely to appeal to them.

“We’re not our care needs,” says Gewirtz. “[It’s about] determining who they are as a person and what makes them tick.”

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How do I move my loved one to assisted living?

Moving a parent to assisted living can be an emotional experience, and you may be dreading the conversation with your loved one. You may feel guilty or nervous about the move and wonder whether your senior loved one will adapt. Your family may not agree with your decision, or you may be struggling with how to talk with your parent about the move to assisted living. Downsizing and packing may also be stressful, overwhelming, and time-consuming.

But while elder care is often a difficult topic, it’s one that many families ultimately can’t avoid. Taking a step-by-step approach can ease anxiety and make the move smoother for your family and your aging loved one.

Talking to a loved one about assisted living

It’s often best to have conversations regularly about senior care before an emergency situation arises. Planning ahead will give you and your family time to think about options and discuss what you need to do to prepare.

However, if your aging parent needs immediate help, it’s time to hold a family meeting. Consider your family dynamics to decide who to include. If your senior loved one is in good mental health, it’s probably a good idea to involve them.

Set aside dedicated time, without distractions, to discuss their needs and potential solutions. It’s also important to be open to having a series of conversations before your family agrees on the right senior care choice.

Here are some tips for talking to your parent about assisted living:

  • Tips for talking to your parent about assisted living
  • Pick the right time. Make sure you have enough time to talk about your loved one’s needs and care. Don’t try to sneak in the topic during a Thanksgiving dinner, for example. Schedule a family meeting and be clear about what you want to discuss.
  • Decide who to include. Involve siblings and other family members who care for your loved one. Most importantly, consider including your aging parent in the conversation and the decision.
  • Be empathetic. Ask open-ended questions and listen. For example, you may have noticed your parent is struggling with managing their medications. Ask how they feel about it, and share your concerns with compassion. Let them know you care and are simply worried about their well-being.
  • Set the right tone. Emphasize your role as an advocate for their health and safety. Be open to discussing potential solutions, and create a list of pros and cons.
  • Do your research first. Look for potential assisted living options that match your loved one’s needs and interests before the meeting. Share brochures, pictures, and information to involve your parent in the decision.
  • Revisit the conversation. You may not reach a unanimous consensus right away. Be prepared to have multiple conversations before you find the right care solution for your loved one.

Downsizing before moving to assisted living

Helping your senior loved one downsize before moving to an assisted living facility can be an emotional task. Belongings may be filled with treasured memories that you and your parent don’t want to let go of.

But before you decide what to take or what to leave behind, it’s important to understand the space your loved one will have after they move. It can be helpful to ask for a floor plan and dimensions of the assisted living apartment before moving day.

Assisted living accommodations often come furnished, but many communities allow residents to bring personal items. Bringing a few cherished pieces may make your loved one’s new space feel more like home. It’s also a good idea to ask what appliances are provided. For example, you might want to ask if apartments are equipped with a mini-fridge, coffee maker, or microwave.

When packing, consider bringing the following:

  • Personal items, like medication, toiletries, clothing, photos and keepsakes, jewelry, and eyeglasses
  • Entertainment items, like books, movies, hobby supplies, computer, or iPads
  • Houseware, like hangers, towels, bedding, and a small selection of plates, cups, and cookware
  • Decorative items, like plants, pictures, and mirrors
  • Furniture pieces, like a favorite recliner, desk, or dresser
  • Cleaning supplies, like dish soap, paper towels, and surface wipes

  • 3 tips for making your parent’s assisted living apartment feel like home
  • Bring items from home. Pack a few favorite pieces of furniture, like a favorite chair or cherished dresser. Arrange art, photos, lamps, and curtains in the same way they were in their previous home. Make the new space cozy with throw pillows and favorite trinkets.
  • Paint the walls. Ask the facility if you’re allowed to paint the walls to personalize your parent’s space. Avoid dark colors, which can make the space feel smaller. Your loved one may want a color scheme similar to what they had at their previous home, or they might want to try something completely different, like a bright accent wall.
  • Consider storage solutions. Disorganized rooms aren’t just uncomfortable — they may also be a fall risk. Cut down on clutter and find creative storage solutions like a coffee table that doubles as a trunk to store photos or blankets.

Getting moving help

If you’re stressed about moving day, plan ahead and consider finding expert assistance to help with this major transition.

Start with these tips to make moving a little easier:

  • Consider hiring a senior move manager. Senior move managers specialize in helping seniors downsize, relocate, and move. Delegating what can be an emotional task may help reduce tension, prevent family conflicts, and ease the burden on families and caregivers.
  • Plan transportation for move day. This is especially important if your senior loved one is relocating to live closer to you or other family members. Consider who will accompany them, decide what type of transportation is most comfortable, and be sure to plan for extra time if mobility is an issue.
  • Consider whether you need a geriatric care manager. These licensed professionals can help identify care needs, develop a senior care plan, coordinate medical care among several providers, lead and guide difficult family conversations, and more. If your loved one is relocating, a geriatric care manager can help coordinate health care needs, transfer prescriptions, and contact insurance providers to relieve caregiver burden.
  • Unpack and organize their room before they arrive. Make your loved one’s new space feels like home by adding familiar items and photos of family and friends. Arrange their belongings in a way that reminds them of their previous home, but avoid cluttering the room. Instead, try to create a calming, comfortable space for your loved one.

Once you’ve chosen a community, staff may be able to refer you to move managers or help remove the moving boxes from the room after you’ve got everything unpacked, says Gewirtz.

Before moving day, remember to also:

  • Set up mail forwarding with the U.S. Postal Service.
  • Cancel current utility services.
  • Inform friends and family about your loved one’s move.
  • Add community contact information to your devices.

Read more: Checklist for Moving Elderly Parents: 6 Practical Things to Consider When Moving an Aging Loved One

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How do I ease my loved one's transition to assisted living?

No matter how prepared you and your loved are for the move to assisted living, it’ll take time to adjust to this new living arrangement. It’s important to be realistic about your expectations and understand that your parent’s fears and apprehensions — and your own — are normal.

Your family member will need to adjust to a new home and routine. They may also feel emotional about leaving their old residence and belongings. It may take a few months before your loved one fully feels at home.

So how do you help ease your parent’s transition to assisted living?

  • Be optimistic. Focus on positive aspects of the move, such as the programs and activities, safety, and social interactions, but don’t dismiss your loved one’s concerns. Talk to the community staff if there’s something they can do to improve your loved one’s stay.
  • Encourage participation. Your parent will feel more at home if they’re involved in the community. Review the community’s calendar of activities with them to see what appeals to their interests.
  • Visit regularly. Making a plan to visit often can ease your parent’s fears of abandonment. Create an in-person or virtual visitation schedule with other family members and friends. But also allow time for your loved one to find new friends and participate in the community programs independently.
  • Participate in their care. Stay in touch with the facility staff to understand what’s going well and what’s not, and proactively stay involved in your loved one’s care.

Gewirtz also tells families to be ready for pleasant surprises when they go to see a loved one.

“What I love is when families come to visit, and [they find out] Mom or Dad’s on the bus tour,” says Gewirtz, explaining that it gives family a sense of relief to know that their loved one can enjoy themselves.

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How do I find an assisted living facility?

Because there are so many options and factors to consider, determining whether an assisted living community meets your loved one’s needs may seem like an overwhelming task. Our Senior Living Advisors can help connect you with assisted living facilities in your area. These local senior care experts can help you consider your aging relative’s needs, your expectations for care, and your financial resources to find the right care for your loved one.

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Assisted Living

Assisted living facilities offer housing and care for active seniors who may need support with activities of daily living, like bathing, dressing, and medication management.

The score shown is the overall experience rating which is an average of the reviews submitted for those communities. The overall experience rating is a star rating that ranges from 1 being the lowest to 5 being the highest.

Below are the 51 largest cities grouped by their metropolitan area.

Top states for Assisted Living

8.1
California (CA)
3385 facilities
7.2
Oregon (OR)
600 facilities
8.0
Washington (WA)
1405 facilities
8.1
Massachusetts (MA)
353 facilities
8.3
Texas (TX)
1381 facilities
8.0
Ohio (OH)
930 facilities
7.5
Wisconsin (WI)
1145 facilities
7.6
Colorado (CO)
425 facilities
7.6
Idaho (ID)
188 facilities
8.0
Illinois (IL)
699 facilities
8.2
Virginia (VA)
490 facilities
7.9
Maryland (MD)
404 facilities
7.8
Arizona (AZ)
964 facilities
8.1
Florida (FL)
2039 facilities
8.1
South Carolina (SC)
399 facilities
8.3
Nevada (NV)
121 facilities
8.0
Pennsylvania (PA)
1100 facilities
7.2
Minnesota (MN)
883 facilities
8.0
Louisiana (LA)
125 facilities
8.2
New York (NY)
521 facilities
8.0
Michigan (MI)
1064 facilities
8.0
Georgia (GA)
826 facilities
7.5
Iowa (IA)
474 facilities
8.2
Delaware (DE)
41 facilities
7.6
Maine (ME)
145 facilities
8.3
Tennessee (TN)
452 facilities
8.0
Kansas (KS)
322 facilities
7.9
Indiana (IN)
483 facilities
8.1
New Jersey (NJ)
364 facilities
7.9
Mississippi (MS)
189 facilities
8.1
Oklahoma (OK)
248 facilities
7.5
Missouri (MO)
531 facilities
8.1
New Hampshire (NH)
100 facilities
8.0
Kentucky (KY)
272 facilities
7.6
North Carolina (NC)
705 facilities
7.3
North Dakota (ND)
101 facilities
8.5
Connecticut (CT)
172 facilities
8.2
Alabama (AL)
299 facilities
7.6
Nebraska (NE)
310 facilities
7.0
Montana (MT)
135 facilities
7.9
Utah (UT)
168 facilities
7.7
Arkansas (AR)
138 facilities
8.4
Rhode Island (RI)
66 facilities
4.0
Wyoming (WY)
47 facilities
8.7
West Virginia (WV)
58 facilities
8.0
New Mexico (NM)
138 facilities
8.4
Vermont (VT)
60 facilities
7.1
Alaska (AK)
54 facilities
8.4
South Dakota (SD)
127 facilities
5.2
Hawaii (HI)
39 facilities

Reviews and awards

The Best of Senior Living Award showcases top senior living communities stand out for their exceptional care and support of seniors.

Latest senior living reviews

Debra

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Family/friend

Review for Cogir of Glenwood Place

Excellent memory care facility. I chose it because all of the resident rooms are off one central "great room", which means...

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Winners of our Best Meals and Dining Award are the best communities for meals and dining, as determined by recent, highly rated reviews.