Assisted living provides long-term housing and care for seniors. Assisted living residents are generally active, but may need support with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as bathing, dressing, and using the toilet. Seniors in assisted living can expect personalized care, nutritious meals, a wide range of social activities to cater to a variety of interests, and a sense of community in a safe, residential setting.
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.
Peace of mind for families and improved quality of life for seniors are just a few of the many benefits of assisted living. Assisted living residents receive the support they need while enjoying the regular company of neighbors and staff members.
Many facilities offer comfort and convenience and eliminate the need for transportation. Assisted living amenities vary among communities, but some may include:
Assisted living is a fast-growing type of senior care. More than 800,000 Americans live in an assisted living facility, according to the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted L (AHCA NCAL).
While other senior care types may offer similar services to assisted living, there are some important differences worth noting.
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 skilled nursing services like people in nursing homes.
Assisted living residents are generally active seniors who remain relatively independent with the exception of certain specific daily tasks. While they may have some health problems, seniors in assisted living don’t require 24-hour medical care and supervision. They may be interested in a maintenance-free lifestyle in a vibrant community that offers a variety of social activities and opportunities to stay engaged with friends and peers.
Like assisted living, nursing homes also offer activities for residents, but assisted living facilities usually have more diverse options to cater to all tastes and preferences, including exercise classes, cooking workshops, outings to theaters, and more. The lifestyle at an assisted living facility is very different when compared to a nursing home. Assisted living accommodations may feel homier and more spacious, while nursing home residents often have to share a room.
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 is offered at assisted living. In fact, seniors need a physician’s prescription to be admitted to a nursing home. Some may be debilitated and need intensive skilled care and supervision. Others may be bedridden or need a feeding tube.
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 for 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 worsen, 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.
Increased security, specialized staff, and more one-on-one time for residents make care at memory care facilities significantly more expensive when compared to assisted living.
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 care, therapies, and support 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.
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 as 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 community involvement and social engagement without the difficulty of arranging transportation. It also offers a maintenance-free lifestyle, where seniors can choose to delegate household chores like laundry and housekeeping, so they can spend more time pursuing their passions.
Home care offers care for seniors who wish to age in place, and 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.
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.Back to top
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.
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. During this time, assisted living staff meet with the senior and their family to discuss any health conditions and assess fine motor skills, mobility, and cognition. This important step allows staff to determine the level of care a senior requires so they can develop a personalized care plan.
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 ensure residents receive the care they need.
Care coordination at assisted living facilities may include:
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.
Nearly three million older adults go to the emergency room each year because of fall injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Falls may lead to serious head or hip injuries. In fact, 95% of hip fractures result from a fall, according to the CDC.
Assisted living facilities assess seniors for fall risks before they move in and continue to evaluate residents periodically and as their health conditions change. Once staff understand a resident’s risk, they take steps to help keep seniors safe.
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:
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-style 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 those cooking for one.
Dining at an assisted living facility can be a social experience for those who enjoy sharing good conversation over meals. Facilities offer communal dining, making meal-time 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.
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 — 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 that negatively affect health, like smoking, excessive drinking, and poor nutrition. 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.
Assisted living facilities offer a variety of room sizes and floor plans. Room options vary from one community to the next, but many facilities offer studios, one-, two-, and even three-bedroom apartments. Seniors may choose the accommodation type that best fits their needs, budget, and lifestyle.
Assisted living apartments are often furnished for convenience, but facilities usually allow residents to bring personal furniture and items as desired. Accommodations are designed for senior safety with accessibility features, such as grab bars in tubs and showers, non-slip flooring, and wide doors for seniors who need a wheelchair or walker.
Assisted living apartments usually include a private bathroom, and some may feature a kitchenette for seniors who enjoy cooking and can do so safely.
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 senior with memory loss may live in a nearby memory care wing. 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:
Assisted living is for older adults who need some help with personal care. It’s common for senior assisted living staff to provide help with bathing, dressing, toileting, bed transfers, and more.
Older adults in assisted living often have a health condition that limits their ability to live independently, but they’re generally active and engaged. Common health conditions among assisted living residents include high blood pressure, arthritis, heart disease, and early dementia.
Women make up more than 70% of the assisted living resident population, according to the AHCA NCAL. However, assisted living facilities also welcome aging men, and provide plenty of opportunities to engage seniors regardless of gender.
Assisted living may be the right choice for your aging loved one if they:
Before determining whether assisted living is 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:
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 loved one to live on their own. As you call or visit, 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:
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 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. As a caregiver, it’s important to consider several factors:
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, it’s important to 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.Back to top
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 $4,000, according to Genworth’s Cost of Care survey. However, costs may be as high as $6,000 a month or more depending on location.
While assisted living prices may seem high, caring for a parent at home can be costly. For example, you may need to adapt your home to make it senior-friendly. This may mean installing chair lifts, alarm systems, or wheelchair ramps. If you’re a primary caregiver, you may also have to work fewer hours or quit your job completely to care for your aging loved one.
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.
Once you’ve decided assisted living is the right choice for your loved one, it’s time to make a plan to finance it. 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:
You may feel overwhelmed with choices when it’s time to find an assisted living facility for your loved one. Assisted living services and amenities vary widely among different facilities, and many options are available to fit your loved one’s needs and preferences.
Seniors and families can choose from small, homelike facilities 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. Be sure to also consider your family member’s interests, preferences, and cultural values.
Consider these questions:
Then, consider these features as you choose an assisted living facility for a loved one:
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.
As you tour different facilities, take the opportunity to ask important questions that will help you determine if the community is right for your loved one. Before the visit, create a list of questions that includes topics such as safety protocols, features and amenities, staff training, and more.Back to top
Moving a parent to assisted living can be an emotional experience. 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 moving to an assisted living facility. Downsizing and packing may also be stressful, overwhelming, and time-consuming.
Taking a step-by-step approach can ease anxiety and make the move smoother for your family and your aging loved one.
You may be dreading talking to your aging loved one about moving to assisted living. Elder care is often a difficult but important topic that families ultimately can’t avoid.
Having conversations regularly about senior care before an emergency situation arises is often best. 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 may be 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.
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 deciding 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:
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:
Before moving day, remember to also:
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?
With so many options and factors to consider, determining whether or not 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.Back to top