Assisted Living Facilities

There is no standard model for assisted living residences. They vary in size, appearance and types of services they provide. Assisted living facilities are a popular choice because they tend to have a variety of social programs and offer a community setting where residents can live relatively active lives. On a visit you might find an exercise room, a pool, hair salons, and a community garden. Residents can take part in group sessions and social activities throughout the day and some type of religious worship service during the week.

Although residents may receive periodic nursing care in the facility as needed, this care is not provided on a continual basis. For instance, the staff may administer medications (take it from the container and give it to the resident) but most residents are expected to take their medications with assistance that is limited to reminders and/or set-up in special dispensers. The staff is really there to help residents who need some assistance during the day but not continuously. In fact, many facilities won't accept a resident who is bedbound most of the time or cannot move about on their own without a continual risk of falling.

Questions to ask

  1. Is the facility licensed?
    Licensed facilities must meet minimum standards set by their states, and are inspected periodically to maintain an active license. Licensure requirements vary from state to state. Contact the state's licensing department to acquire a description of what the facility is required to do in order to maintain an active license.
  2. How long has the facility been in operation?
    Newer facilities may offer more amenities and have updated décor. They may also be adjusting their practices and protocols as the units become occupied. One indicator that a facility is still growing is the use of non-permanent employees (perhaps outside contractors) for a large part of their staff. If the facility has been in business for a while, but has recently changed ownership, ask what aspects the new owners have changed, if anything.
  3. What are your staffing practices?
    Requirements for staff and administrators vary from state to state. Ask about educational and training requirements for personal care staff and clinical administrators. Ask about the training program for new staff and also how they are supervised throughout their employment

Cost of Assisted Living Facilities

The median monthly room and board rate for a one-bedroom residence in a traditional assisted living facility is [$3,261], or [$39,135] per year*. The annual cost of an assisted living residence is primarily driven by the size of the unit (one bedroom vs. studio or shared) and the level of assistance that is needed on a daily basis.

*Based on Genworth 2012 Cost of Care Survey

Managing a transition

Transitions at any age can be stressful. Many people move to an assisted living facility following a significant health event, while some have given the move much more thought as their ability to live independently has diminished over time But whatever the reason, it's challenging to face new surroundings and people. Here are some areas to focus on that will make the experience go more smoothly for everyone.

Understand Your Agreement

Before enrolling in a facility, you should understand the residency or occupancy agreement.  Things to look for include:

  • Date for completing admission paperwork and move-in date
  • Health information needed before admission
  • Required directives, such as health care proxy
  • Room assignment and rules (no personal furniture, etc.)
  • Ability to move to another unit in the future, if desired
  • Plan for getting health aide supplies and medications
  • Plan for administering medications and health supplements
  • Emergency plan
  • Payment and refund policy
  • Charges outside the monthly rental agreement (transportation, etc.)
  • Patient rights and responsibilities
  • Complaint procedures

The Admissions Process

As part of the admissions process, you will need to see a doctor or other healthcare professional to get a health assessment, which typically includes a complete medical history and physical. The health assessment is the basis for a care plan. A care plan is a document that outlines suggested services to meet the needs of you or your loved one as identified during the health assessment. The care plan describes personal care needs and preferences, and details how often and when the care plan will be re-evaluated. Once the admissions paperwork is complete, moving in is generally the responsibility of you and your family. Check with the facility about their moving policies.

Settling In

Once you choose an assisted living facility, be prepared for an active social life. There might be a welcome party, a new resident announcement, and opportunities for a meet-and-greet at mealtime. Community dining is often the first, and easiest, way to make new friends. The facility might also ask for personal life details to share with other residents. Work with the activities director to learn about social events and which might be most appropriate for you or your loved one.