Assisted-living communities are designed for people who need some help with daily activities (for example, with bathing, dressing, or taking their drugs as prescribed). These communities can help older people who have problems with memory, who get confused, or who have physical problems. Some communities have special units for people with dementia where residents can be closely monitored. Assisted-living communities may also provide help for couples who wish to continue to live together even though one or both partners require more assistance than the other can provide.
Assisted-living communities vary from small and homey to large and elaborate. Residents may have their own apartment or a bedroom with a bathroom or may share a bedroom and bathroom with another resident. These communities provide meals, help with daily activities (including personal care), and offer some social and recreational activities. A service plan is developed with each resident to help determine which services and activities they need or want. How much supervision and health care oversight is available and which specific services and activities are offered vary, sometimes greatly, from community to community. Also, regulations for these communities differ from state to state.
When people need intensive treatment, they may have to move to another facility, such as a hospital or rehabilitation center. They may move back to the assisted-living community if they are able. But to hold their living space while they are gone, they must continue to pay for it.
People who move to assisted-living communities usually need help with daily activities because they have some health problems that limit their ability to function independently. How much help is provided varies considerably from community to community. Increasingly, the goal is to help older people in assisted-living communities stay there for the rest of their life.
Assisted-living communities are usually less expensive than nursing homes because they provide less care. However, they can still be expensive. Although Medicare does not pay for assisted-living communities, Medicaid may provide some financial support in some states. Many long-term care insurance policies help pay for a significant part of assisted-living costs.
Last full review/revision February 2014 by Barbara Resnick, PhD, CRNP