A 2021 Guide to Assisted Living Facilities – How To Find The Perfect Community

What Is Assisted Living, and Is It Right for Me?

If living alone has become burdensome or unsafe, you may want to consider making the move to an assisted living community. Most assisted living communities provide a range of services, including meals, housekeeping, and medication management. They also provide seniors with social opportunities and community. Since loneliness can contribute to mental and physical the connections and friendships fostered in an assisted living community can be great for your health!

Find Assisted Living Options for Your Needs

There are thousands of assisted living communities across the country, and it's important to find one that meets your needs. Whether you're looking for a community with specialized care for your health needs, or you want to find a community for you and your spouse, there is an option for you!


Additional Assisted Living Resources

Want to learn more about assisted living? From assisted living costs and Medicare coverage to tips on how to choose the right community for you, we've got you covered.


assisted-living-community

Before you visit assisted living communities near you, you may wonder – what is it like to live there? Well, I've got the inside scoop! During the years I worked for an assisted living facility, I spoke with dozens of residents that call assisted living home. Let's jump in to see if assisted living is right for you!

What Is Assisted Living?

Assisted living is designed to provide long-term housing for older adults who need assistance with daily tasks such as laundry, cooking, cleaning, and managing their medication. This support helps older adults maintain good health for longer. Assisted living is a great fit for seniors or couples who are still active and social but just need some extra help with daily life. Seniors and their adult children can take comfort knowing that 24/7 support is available if needed.

For more details on assisted living, check out the video below with our editor-in-chief, Jeff Hoyt.

What Care Is Provided in Assisted Living?

Services provided in an assisted living community will vary, but generally, you can expect meals, laundry, housekeeping, and maintenance to be taken care of. Also, if you no longer drive or are thinking about giving up driving, transportation is provided.

According to the National Center for Assisted Living, typical services provided by assisted living communities

  • Round-the-clock supervision and assistance
  • Exercise and health and wellness programs
  • Laundry, cleaning, and other housekeeping and maintenance services
  • Personal care and help with activities of daily living (ADLs)
  • Meals
  • Medication management
  • Transportation services

Some assisted living communities have “a-la-carte” services and amenities that you may add on for an extra cost such as salon services, garage or carport space, and physical and occupational therapy.

assisted living services and amenities

Are There Different Levels of Assisted Living?

There are typically three levels of care in assisted living communities. Levels of care are based on the assistance a resident needs with ADLs.

ADLs include:

  • Bathing
  • Dressing
  • Using the restroom
  • Personal hygiene and grooming
  • Getting in and out of bed
  • Continence
  • Feeding

These care levels allow residents to stay in their assisted living home longer. For example, if a senior has a change in health and needs additional support, they can move to the next level of care within assisted living without the hassle of moving to a new room or different facility.

Most assisted living communities have three levels of care. Though it will vary slightly from place to place, below is a general structure.

Care Level May Include Best For
Level One: Lowest Care
  • Reminders throughout the day for medications and appointments
  • Supervision when checking blood sugar or taking injections
Seniors who are mostly independent but need some reminders throughout the day.
Level Two: Moderate Care
  • Assistance with one ADL, such as bathing or dressing.
  • Medication management
Seniors who have some mobility impairment and need assistance but are still able to eat on their own.
Level Three: Highest Care
  • Assistance with multiple ADLs like bathing, dressing, getting around, and using the restroom.
  • Medication management
Seniors who have severe physical or cognitive impairment and need assistance with the majority of daily tasks.

To determine your level of care, an assisted living staff member will assess your mobility and fine motor skills, as well as consider your medical conditions. The higher the care level, the more assistance you will need from staff, which will increase your care costs. It is important to be honest and open during an assessment to ensure you get the adequate care you need to stay safe and healthy.

Do I Qualify for Assisted Living?

If cooking, cleaning, and managing your medication is overwhelming and tiring, assisted living may be for you. If you're generally still active and can get around well on your own or with the assistance of a cane or walker, you may benefit from assisted living, where many daily tasks are taken care of. This frees up your time and energy to enjoy hobbies, spend time with friends and family, and volunteer if you'd like.

Some signs that you or your loved one may be ready for assisted living include:

  • Loneliness and depression
  • Trouble managing money and paying bills
  • Worsening health condition
  • Inability or difficulty cooking and cleaning
  • Help needed with personal care and managing medication
  • Increased risk of falling or have had multiple falls

How Much Does Assisted Living Cost?

A Genworth Financial survey found that the average cost of assisted living in 2018 was $4,000 per month. However, prices can vary from about $2,000 to $5,000 per month. Cost is shaped by the usual housing factors (e.g., room size, amenities, and geographic location) plus care services. Residents might have separate fees for help with laundry, pet care, physical therapy, and other needs. If the need for care advances, a person might bring in extra help to avoid transferring to a nursing home.

So how do you pay for assisted living? It’s common to combine resources such as personal savings, Medicaid, long-term care insurance, and veterans’ benefits. Some independent living communities have staff available to guide you through the options and paperwork. You can also privately hire a geriatric planner. To help you get started on your own, take a look at our assisted living costs guide at the top of this page; it covers average prices by state and ways to pay.

How to Research Assisted Living Facilities

Determining if assisted living is right for you or a loved one may feel like quite an undertaking. Enlisting trusted support and accessing expert guidance can relieve some of the burden and help you navigate choosing an assisted living community.

Here are some first steps you can take to find an assisted living community in your area:

  • Search our assisted living directory.
  • Ask your healthcare provider which assisted living communities they recommend.
  • If you have friends or family who live in a local assisted living community, ask them about their experience and recommendations.
  • Visit or call your local Area Agency on Aging.

How to Find the Right Assisted Living Community

A great way to find the right assisted living community is to visit several different facilities. When touring an assisted living center, you’ll be on the lookout for standards of cleanliness and personal interaction. Remember, for a high quality of life, it’s critical to find a good social match, not just a facility that meets basic needs. Visiting assisted living communities will give you a better idea of the social setting, activities, and culture the community fosters. Eating a meal at the facility can be a great way to start gaining an insider’s view – so if possible, arrange an interview over lunch or dinner at the facility. It’s also helpful to observe a class or facilitated social activity. Here are several questions to ask and consider during your visit.

Questions Related to the Home / Facility

  1. How many people live at the home? What is the ratio of caregivers to residents?
  2. Does the facility feel home-like? Do you like the décor?
  3. What are the apartment and room choices? Do you have a full apartment with kitchen?
  4. Do you have a private bath? Will you share an apartment?
  5. Does the residence have its own dog or cat? Can residents bring their own pets? What are the restrictions with pets?
  6. Can residents bring their own furniture and decor? What furnishings are provided?
  7. Is there a separate thermostat in your room? Is there plenty of natural lighting?
  8. What is the view like? Is there enough closet and storage space? Are kitchen cabinets easy to reach?

Questions Related to the People

  1. Talk to the residents and staff? Does the staff seem to genuinely care?
  2. Would you enjoy sharing meals with the residents? Do you share common interests?
  3. Are the residents somewhat independent? Is there social activity in the common areas?
  4. Do the residents seem happy?

Questions Related to the Safety

  1. Is staff there around the clock? Are all entrances and exits secured?
  2. Is there a fire sprinkler system? Smoke detectors? Emergency call system in the rooms?
  3. Are registered nurses on staff? What are their hours? If an RN isn’t on duty 24/7, it’s important to know the center’s protocol in case of nighttime emergencies.
  4. Are the halls and grounds well lit? Are there handrails in the hallways?
  5. Are the hallways and doorways wide sufficient for walkers and wheelchairs? Are there walk-in showers?

Questions Related to the Amenities

  1. Is there a monthly events calendar posted? Are the spiritual services on-site?
  2. Does the facility have a space for outdoor recreation? If so, make sure that the area looks inviting but is guarded against trespassers.
  3. Are there transportation schedules for errands and medical appointments?
  4. What social activities, classes and field trips are facilitated by the staff?
  5. Crafts room? Computers and printers? Massage therapy? Swimming pool? Convenience shop?
  6. Is the community near a beauty/hair salon and barber? Library? Grocery store? Movies? Mall?

Other Considerations / Questions

  1. Is there a meal menu and can choose when to eat? Do the menu selections vary from day to day?
  2. Ask to see the facility’s licensing and certification reports. These show any patterns of neglect and medication errors.
  3. Ask to see a copy of the resident agreement which spells out the facility’s obligations. And it will list the charge of items that are extra like laundry service.
  4. How close are you to friends and relatives? Are they allowed to stay overnight?
  5. What is the staff to patient ratio? A good ratio for fairly independent residents is 1 to 15. In some smaller facilities, the staff will perform all the duties while in larger communities there is a separation. What is the staff turnover rate? Rates in the double digits could indicate a problem.
  6. If a resident becomes more disabled can the facility accommodate those needs?
  7. Who dispenses medication and how much training have they had? States have training requirements.
  8. What are the move-out criteria? When might a senior be asked to leave?

Assisted Living Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Average Length of Stay in Assisted Living?

  • Usually, residents live in assisted living for several years. Assisted living communities are designed for long-term living. You may find that some communities offer a trial period of 30-90 days to see if it is a good fit or if something is needed short term, but the majority of seniors make their selected assisted living community a long-term home. Some older adults may move to a nursing home or facility with a higher level of care as their needs and health change over time.

Can You Leave Assisted Living?

  • Policies and procedures vary among assisted living communities when it comes to residents leaving the building. In most cases, assisted living communities allow residents to come and go as they please, as long as they sign out. In an emergency situation, such as a fire, the assisted living community needs to know who is in the building and who is not. Signing out helps the assisted living communities keep residents safe and accounted for.

Can Assisted Living Kick You Out?

  • States have laws that protect seniors from being unjustly evicted from assisted living communities. There are a few justifiable reasons why you or your loved ones may be asked to leave an assisted living community, including:
    • Not paying the bill for care
    • Needing more care than the assisted living community can provide
    • Endangering the health and safety of oneself, staff, or other residents
    • The assisted living community is closing

    Keep in mind that assisted living communities are required to give a written 30-day notice to the resident and legal representative (usually a family member) before the resident is required to move out.

Can You Drink Alcohol in Assisted Living?

  • Drinking alcohol in assisted living varies widely by community. You may find some assisted living communities have a bar and may even hold a weekly happy hour for residents. Conversely, some communities don't serve alcohol in public living spaces and only allow residents to consume it in the privacy of their room. If you enjoy a glass of wine or cocktail, make sure to ask about the facility's policy when you take a tour!

Does Assisted Living Include Meals?

  • Typically, meals, drinks, and snacks are included in your monthly bill. What exactly is included will vary by facility, but usually, assisted living will provide three meals a day during specified times, along with a dining room that offers food throughout the day. Some facilities also have restaurants so residents can pop in with friends for a meal at their convenience. Assisted living communities typically accommodate various dietary requirements. Just make sure to check that the facility can meet your specific dietary needs when touring! If you still enjoy cooking, you'll want to look for assisted living facilities that have a full kitchen or kitchenette in your residence.