Wondering what an assisted living facility is? Want to know the questions you should be asking when you try to select one?

Here’s a quick primer on assisted living facilities based on information from the Department of Health and Human Services.

We know: Assisted Living and Senior Housing Q&A

What does assisted living facility mean?

Assisted living communities are designed for people who cannot function independently, but do not need nursing care on a daily basis. Generally, these facilities provide help with daily living activities such as eating, dressing, bathing, and housecleaning.

Do assisted living facilities provide nursing care?

Assisted living facilities do not offer heavy medical and nursing care, however, many assisted living facilities have professional nurses and other health care professionals on staff or available on call should a resident require special care.

Are assisted living facilities covered by Medicare?

Medicaid and Medicare cover some long-term care offered by assisted living facilities, and some assisted living communities offer subsidies or other forms of financial aid on the basis of individual need. But, about 95% of assisted care residents pay for the cost of the facility out of their own funds.

What’s the housing like?

There is no standard size for an assisted living facility. The residential living area can range from one room to a full apartment in buildings that range from high rises to large homes.

What should I look for when shopping around for a facility?

Here are things to ask and observe:

  1. Visit the facilities you are considering. More than once. What is the living space like? What are the common spaces like? How do the residents appear?
  2. Ask to see a contract. What specific services and facilities are provided to residents? What are the rules of the facility? (If they don’t provide a contract when you ask, be wary.)
  3. Talk about your relative’s specific needs. Can the facility meet them now, and if the needs increase, how much increased care can the facility provide?
  4. What is the level of care offered? Sometimes facilities begin a new resident with a high level of care, then shortly ‘re-evaluate’ and move the person to a lesser level of care.
  5. Ask about the care plan for the resident? Who draws it up and can the resident and family participate?
  6. Prices for assisted care facilities can often range from $3-4,000 per month. What is the cost of the facility, and what services are included in the cost and what services are extra?
  7. What rights do the residents have regarding privacy, finances, community organizations or councils, and safety?
  8. What is the staffing pattern and how many and what kind of staff are there?

Both the Department of Urban Development and the AARP offer additional tips on shopping for an assisted living facility.

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