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What Is Assisted Living? Understanding Benefits, Costs, and How to Find the Right Fit

Written by Claire Samuels
 about the author
13 minute readLast updated March 7, 2023

As your loved one ages, they may begin to need help with daily tasks and activities. If they’re still active and relatively healthy, an assisted living community can provide the assistance they need, along with planned activities, social events, and a variety of amenities. Seniors in assisted living can expect personalized care, help with activities of daily living (ADLs) like dressing and bathing, restaurant-style dining experiences, and an exciting array of social activities in a safe residential setting. Assisted living can offer your loved one a sense of community and independence as they age.

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What are some benefits of assisted living?

Assisted living communities are designed to support the physical, emotional, and social well-being of aging adults. In a communal setting, residents can maintain their independence while benefiting from a variety of perks and amenities that allow them to focus on enjoying a healthy, happy retirement. A senior might enjoy some of the following benefits:
  • A stimulating social environment. As people age, it can be more difficult to plan social outings or meet up with friends and family. However, isolation can have serious emotional and physical consequences. Assisted living offers engaging activities, as well as opportunities for residents to connect socially and foster a sense of community.
  • A safe, secure community. Assisted living communities are ready to support your loved one in both everyday situations and emergencies. Bed alarms and fall detection devices can help prevent injury, while regularly-maintained fire and weather alarms and on-site staff can keep your relative safe in case of an emergency. Communities often have security guards or scheduled neighborhood patrols as well.
  • 24-hour supervision. On-site staff can help your loved one with activities of daily living and personal needs day or night.
  • A sense of renewed independence. It may seem counterintuitive, but a move to assisted living can help your loved one regain independence they may not have had at home. They can select activities and meals, visit with friends, and decorate their apartment as they see fit.
  • Hassle-free living. Without having to worry about housekeeping, meal preparation, maintenance, and laundry, your loved one will have more time to relax, pursue their interests, and connect with others.
  • A wide variety of amenities, all in one place. From on-site barber shops and salons to fitness centers and movie theaters, communities may offer any number of fun, convenient amenities. Some may have chapels, swimming pools, communal gardens, libraries, and more.
  • A living space that fits their needs. Depending on the community, assisted living offers a variety of floorplans, from studios to two-bedroom apartments. Some may have kitchenettes or balconies, and all are equipped with safety features to prevent falls and injuries.

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What services does assisted living provide? 

An illustration of an older woman and a list of services offered in assisted living.
Assisted living communities offer services to help your loved one age well in the comfort and safety of a residential setting. While features vary from community to community, your loved one can generally expect the following:

ADL support

Assisted living communities offer assistance with activities of daily living, including dressing, bathing, toileting, and personal grooming. Staff members are trained to help residents with these tasks while promoting independence and maintaining self-sufficiency as much as possible.

Nutritious dining programs

Three meals a day plus snacks are generally provided. Residents can expect a restaurant-style dining experience that offers multiple daily choices designed to meet their unique dietary needs. Many communities work with nutritionists to create meal plans that offer delicious, health-conscious options as well as comforting classics.

Home maintenance and repairs

On-site maintenance staff take care of everything from landscaping and plumbing issues to loose hinges and changing lightbulbs, so your loved one doesn’t have to worry about the time or exertion of maintenance and household repairs.

Medication management

Medication regimens may become more complex as seniors age, and taking too much or too little of a medicine can result in serious health consequences. Assisted living staff members can remind your loved one when it’s time to take their medication to prevent possible mix-ups and mismanagement. In some states, assisted living staff can physically administer medicine, while other states only allow medication reminders.

Engaging activities

Activity directors at assisted living communities plan a wide variety of events to keep residents active and entertained. Your loved one will find fun, engaging activities that match their interests and ability levels. A monthly event calendar may include everything from painting classes and dance lessons to visiting lecturers and movie nights.


Many assisted living communities offer transportation for group outings and events, as well as nearby medical appointments and religious services. A community might plan transportation to local shopping centers, museums, parks, and restaurants. They may also offer secure parking for residents who choose to drive their own vehicles.

Laundry and housekeeping

Residents can enjoy the benefits of professional housekeeping services, including vacuuming, bathroom cleaning, and more. Many communities launder both linens and personal items, and staff will return clothing neatly folded. Some communities also partner with off-site dry cleaning facilities for an extra charge.

Mobility assistance

Assisted living communities are designed to accommodate residents with all levels of mobility needs. Grab bars and railings can help prevent falls when used properly, while no-transition thresholds, widened doorways, and accessible restrooms allow for residents in wheelchairs to remain independent. Some communities may offer apartments with wheelchair-accessible kitchenettes and showers as well.
Note: A common requirement for assisted living admittance is the ability to transition between a bed and a wheelchair or other mobility aid independently.

Exercise programs

Physical activity can keep older adults healthier and more mobile as they age. Whether your loved one is ready to sweat it out in a Zumba class or prefers light chair stretches, assisted living communities facilitate exercise options for seniors of all skill and mobility levels.

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Is assisted living right for your loved one?

If your loved one is still active, relatively healthy, and cognitively sharp, but they need extra assistance on a daily basis, an assisted living community may be the right fit. An engaging setting coupled with supportive services can help them remain safe and maintain their independence longer.
Remember, assisted living communities don’t provide comprehensive medical care. If your relative needs regular skilled nursing care, or has been diagnosed with dementia, assisted living may not be the best choice. A nursing home or memory care community might be a better fit.

Signs it’s time for assisted living

Making the choice to transition to assisted living can be difficult for seniors and their families. If you think assisted living may be the right choice for your loved one, consider whether the following situations apply.
  • Their appearance or hygiene isn’t what it used to be. If your mom always curled her hair and wore makeup but is no longer showering regularly, it may be time for additional help.
  • They’re feeling isolated or not engaging in activities they generally enjoy. Your loved one may feel they’re no longer able to participate, or may not be able to drive safely. Assisted living offers plentiful social opportunities.
  • They’ve experienced sudden weight loss or gain. They may no longer be able to prepare nutritious meals.
  • They’re struggling with medication management. Maintaining a medication schedule can be difficult. Regular reminders from assisted living staff members can help.
  • You’ve noticed late payments, bounced checks, or collections calls. If your loved one is otherwise financially sound, this may be a sign that they’re struggling to manage documents and stay up to date on bills. Many assisted living communities offer all-inclusive pricing options to simplify finances.
  • Their home is dirty or cluttered. Cleaning and organization may have never been a priority for your loved one, but if you notice overflowing trash cans, a large amount of expired food in the fridge, or uncleaned pet waste, they may no longer be able to maintain a safe household.
  • They’ve fallen or had recent injuries. Falls are common among seniors, and can lead to serious health concerns like hip fractures and concussions. Assisted living communities are designed with features to prevent injury and minimize the impact of potential falls.

Assisted living offers peace of mind for families, too

Assisted living can benefit families as well as their aging loved ones. If you’re concerned about your relative, or your ability to continue caring for them without additional help, consider the following questions.
  • Can you provide the care your loved one needs? You may have been providing transportation and helping your parent with laundry and meals, but you may not be able to assist with needs like bathing or using the toilet.
  • Is caregiving affecting your own mental or physical well-being? Burnout can cause family caregivers to neglect their own health, leading to stress, depression, and chronic conditions.
  • Is caring for an aging loved one affecting your relationships with other family members? Caring for a senior can be time-consuming, and may place strain on your relationship with your spouse or children.

How much does assisted living cost?

The monthly median cost of assisted living and cost-related factors.
The median cost of assisted living communities in the United States was $4,500 a month in 2021, according to Genworth Financial’s most recent Cost of Care Survey. Assisted living costs vary greatly from one community to the next. Geographic location, apartment floor plans, activities, and amenities offered are some factors that may affect pricing.
Communities have different pricing structures, which can also affect cost. Some assisted living facilities are all-inclusive, which means that a single monthly payment covers apartment rent, housekeeping, dining, activities, and amenities. Others price services a la carte based on personal needs and preferences. A base monthly payment might cover lodging, while transportation, assistance with certain ADLs, and meal plans cost extra.

How do you pay for assisted living?

Most families cover the cost of assisted living with personal savings or assets. Once you determine assisted living is right for your loved one, you can work out a plan to finance their care that fits your budget. The following options may help your family pay for care, depending on your financial circumstances.
  • Veterans benefits. Your loved one may receive supplemental income to help pay for assisted living if they’re eligible for the VA Aid and Attendance pension.
  • Long-term care insurance. Depending on the policy, long term care insurance may cover some assisted living services. However, your loved one would have had to purchase a policy before reaching retirement age.
  • Life insurance. You may be able to sell your loved one’s life insurance plan to a third party for a lump sum to use to pay for assisted living care.
  • Home equity. You may be able to sell or rent your loved one’s home and use the proceeds to pay for assisted living care. If your relative’s spouse will remain in the home, a reverse mortgage may also be an option.
  • Bridge loans. Bridge loans are a short-term option to consider while you liquidate assets or sell your loved one’s home to pay for their care.

Do Medicare and Medicaid cover assisted living costs?

Most insurance plans don’t cover nonmedical care for seniors. Help with ADLs like bathing, dressing, and toileting generally aren’t covered. Neither are monthly rent, activities, and transportation costs. However, depending on your loved one’s policy and needs, some services may be covered or reimbursed.

Does Medicare cover assisted living costs?

Medicare doesn’t cover long-term care costs like rent or personal care services in assisted living. But depending on your loved one’s plan, some health care costs like medications and physician-prescribed physical therapy might be covered. Coverage may also extend to medical supplies, like bandages, incontinence care items, and mobility devices.

Does Medicaid cover assisted living costs?

If your loved one qualifies for Medicaid, they may be eligible for institutional care in assisted living. However, the community must be licensed and certified as a Medicaid-sponsored facility. Medicaid plans do not cover assisted living housing or activity costs.
Medicaid provides health coverage to seniors who qualify financially due to limited income and resources, and eligibility requirements and coverage vary greatly from state to state. In some states, certain Medicaid programs and waivers will cover personal care services, transportation costs, case management services, and emergency alert systems. Medication management may also be covered.

How can you find the right assisted living community for your loved one?

Once you’ve decided that a transition to assisted living is the right choice, talk with your parent about their individual preferences and interests while keeping their care needs in mind.
Consider the following logistical questions as you review assisted living options:
  • Is the community in a convenient location near your loved one’s family, friends, and doctors?
  • Does the pricing fit your determined budget?
  • Does the community offer the type of apartment floor plan or layout your relative prefers?
  • Can they cater to your loved one’s individual dietary preferences or needs?
  • Do they offer transportation to appointments and events?
  • Do they provide the ADL assistance your loved one needs?
  • Is the community clean and well maintained?
Once you’ve ensured that the community meets your loved one’s physical needs, location preferences, and budget, dig deeper into the factors that will help them thrive in assisted living.
  • What are your relative’s favorite activities? If they love to paint or craft, make sure the community offers art classes or an arts and crafts space.
  • What type of environment makes your loved one feel most comfortable? Do they want a cozy, intimate community, or a large and vibrant one?
  • Are there on-site amenities your parent would use regularly? They may be used to swimming laps at their local community center, getting their hair done each week, or gardening outside every morning.
  • Does your relative keep a specific schedule? Some communities have set meal times, while others are more flexible in order to accommodate early birds or night owls.
  • How does your loved one prefer to spend their time? Are they an introvert who’d like to spend all day reading in the library and dine in quiet, small groups, or a social butterfly who looks forward to being surrounded by others at meals and game nights?
Once you’ve narrowed down your list of prospective assisted living options, you can begin planning tours or visits with your loved one to get a better idea of everyday community life. Sit down for a meal with residents, participate in a group activity, and chat with staff members to get a sense of the experience firsthand.
Our Senior Care Advisors can help guide your family as you search for the right assisted living community. They’ll answer any questions you may have, discuss your loved one’s budget and needs, and schedule tours with local communities, all at no cost to you.


Meet the Author
Claire Samuels

Claire Samuels is a senior copywriter at OurParents, where she helps guide families through the dementia and memory care journey. Before transitioning to writing, she gained industry insight as an account executive for senior living communities across the Midwest. She holds a degree from Davidson College.

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