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Board & Care Homes for Seniors

Last Updated: April 22, 2015

Board and care homes typically provide seniors with the same services available in larger assisted living communities; the difference is that these facilities are "regular" houses in residential neighborhoods that are equipped, adapted and staffed to care for a small number of seniors. The term "board and care home" is most commonly used in California. In other states, these homes may go by other names including "residential care home" or "group home."

Care & Licensing

Board and care homes provide care that's comparable to what's offered at assisted living communities, but below the level of what at a nursing home, meaning that board and care homes are able to help with daily activities but do not provide skilled nursing assistance. They prepare the residents three home cooked meals daily, and are typically able to provide help with activities such as:

  • Eating
  • Health condition monitoring
  • Grooming and hygiene
  • Medication management
  • Toileting

Board and care homes are required to be licensed in most states, and A Place for Mom refers only to licensed providers. In California, for example, board and care homes are licensed by the Community Care Licensing Division California Department of Social Services.

What Is the Difference Between Board & Care and Assisted Living?

There is not a nationwide definition for board and care homes, but the basic difference between assisted living and board and care is their size. Assisted living communities are larger and board and care homes are smaller. A Place for Mom considers senior care facilities that have less than 20 residents and are not nursing homes to be board and care homes. In California specifically, board and care homes are licensed to care for a minimum of six residents.

Alternative Names for Board & Care Homes

There are many of other terms used for the board care concept. Other terms used include:

  • Residential care homes
  • Adult family home
  • Group homes
  • Adult foster care
  • Personal care home

In some regions one of these terms are more popular than the others. In California, California "board and care home" is the preferred term, while in North Carolina it's "group home." Don't let the large number of terms confuse you.  They're all essentially the same thing.

Pros and Cons of Board & Care

Many seniors who are transitioning from living independently to long-term care are faced with choosing between a board and care home and an assisted living facility. Each have their own advantages and disadvantages. Some seniors and families prefer board and care homes to assisted living because board and care homes:

  • Provide a cozy, intimate and homelike environment
  • Have less residents, which allows for more interaction and attention from staff
  • Can be significantly less expensive than assisted living facilities
  • Have a relaxed, unstructured environment

Conversely, there are reasons that other seniors prefer assisted living facilities to board and care homes:

  • Board and care home usually have fewer amenities, activities, and recreational opportunities than assisted living communities.
  • At board and care homes, residents typically only have a bedroom to themselves rather than their own apartment.
  • The limited number of residents at board and care may not be ideal for more social seniors.

If you are weighing this decision now, try our Senior Living Personality Quiz to help determine whether board and care or assisted living is more appropriate for your loved one.

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