DEFINITION of 'Assisted Living'

Assisted living is a type of housing facility for the elderly or infirm who may require medical care and assistance with activities of daily living. Along with the elderly, some individuals with mental or physical conditions may also choose to live in assisted living facilities. Assisted living residents may require ongoing medical care, need help with bathing and dressing, using a toilet, taking their medication or performing other essential tasks. Assisted living is a step below a nursing home or a skilled nursing facility in terms of the level of care provided. 

BREAKING DOWN 'Assisted Living'

Assisted living allows a bit more independence and is less expensive than nursing home care, where residents may need 24-hour care, but more expensive than an independent living facility, all else being equal. According to a 2017 Genworth survey, the national median cost of a private one-bedroom space in an assisted living facility is $45,000 a year. However, the cost of an assisted living facility will depend on the level of care the resident requires, location and housing type. Contracts can be all-inclusive or a la carte, and month-to-month or longer term. Some states offer financial assistance to help low-income individuals afford assisted living facilities. 

Most assisted living residents are older seniors who are at least 85, but younger individuals may also choose assisted living if they have a mental illness, mental incapacity, a substance abuse problem or a major physical handicap. There are thousands of assisted living facilities with different setups and specialties, so prospective residents have options to find a home that suits their circumstances and preferences. Assisted living facilities provide meals, housekeeping, transportation, security, physical therapy and activities for residents. Healthcare and supervision are available 24/7 in most facilities.

The assisted living setting is more like a personal residence, compared to a nursing home’s more hospital-like setting. Assisted living is suitable for individuals who need more help and supervision than they can get when living alone in a personal residence but still want to maintain as much independence as possible. The facility will create a written care plan for each resident, and reassess and update the plan as needed. For more, see Alternatives to Nursing Homes and Pros & Cons of Smaller Long-Term Care Facilities.

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