Many aging Americans find that assisted living facilities offer an attractive compromise between staying in their own home and receiving care in a nursing facility. Assisted living facilities provide a degree of monitoring that an elderly person could not receive if they lived independently. They also offer personal assistance and services that may be appealing, such as meals, housekeeping, and social activities. Assisted living may preserve more independence and dignity than living in a more institutionalized nursing home, and it tends to be far less costly.
Types of Assisting Living Residences
In general, a resident of an assisted living facility will rent a space in the facility that will be personal to them. These may range from one-bedroom apartments and studio apartments (with or without kitchens) to single rooms and shared rooms. Whether the living space is furnished will depend on the facility. A resident often can bring their own furniture, even if the living space already has some furniture, and this can make the space feel more like their own. However, they will not want to bring a large quantity of furniture, since these spaces tend to be smaller than average. The room or apartment may feel cramped and cluttered with too much furniture, especially since it also will contain safety devices like handrails, which will take up extra space.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Assisted Living Facilities
Assisted living does not offer skilled medical care and monitoring to the degree that you would find at a nursing facility. However, the staff will help with activities of daily life that may have become challenging for an elderly person due to mental or physical impairments. For example, the staff may help residents with getting in and out of bed, walking, eating, and bathing. These services will be provided according to a schedule based on the availability of staff members. In other words, a resident will not receive assistance with a task on every occasion that they may want it, but based on a set plan.
The staff at an assisted living facility will help a resident keep track of their medications, arrange and get to doctors’ appointments, and use self-administered health aids. They may check a resident’s status regularly if they seem to be struggling with a health condition, and they can refer a resident for medical care. A nurse will be on duty regularly in most facilities. However, an assisted living facility will not provide medical treatment directly.
Assisted Living Considerations
Help with activities of daily living
Help with tracking medications, arranging appointments, and using health aids
Health monitoring and medical care referrals
Nurses available regularly
Meals, housekeeping, and group activities
Less skilled medical care than a nursing facility
No direct medical treatment
Somewhat restrictive schedules and rules
People exploring this option are often happy to find out that the facility will provide two or three healthy meals a day for them, which are covered under the overall fees. An assisted living facility also will handle housekeeping services, possibly including personal laundry. They may plan group activities and social events that help a resident stay physically and mentally active. Some facilities may provide a range of activities that account for the full spectrum of conditions and impairments that residents face. However, some elderly people may not welcome the rigid schedules and policies that often come with providing meals, housekeeping, and activities. If they have been accustomed to living on their own and have grown to value their independence, this may be a challenging adjustment to make.
Paying for an Assisted Living Facility
Generally, a resident will rent rather than buy a space in an assisted living facility. The cost will depend on the size of the space, the services and activities offered by the facility, and the condition of the facility. You may have the option to consider several tiers of agreements, some of which may allow you to pay less rent while receiving fewer services. Assisted living may cost nearly twice as much as a comparable independent living unit, but less than half of what a comparable nursing facility would cost.
Sometimes the cost of living in a facility may be greater than a resident expects. Certain services may come with a separate fee, such as those related to meals, housekeeping, transportation, and extra health monitoring. As with other landlord-tenant relationships, the facility has the right to increase the rent over time, unless your lease or rental agreement provides otherwise. It may be worth checking the history of rent increases at a facility to make sure that you can still afford to live there in a few years.