What Are Assisted Living Facilities and What Do They Cost?

Senior woman holding the hand of a caregiver in an assisted living facility.Assisted living facilities are a housing option for people who can still live independently but who need some assistance. Depending on the facility, that assistance may include help with meal preparation, housekeeping, medication management, bathing, dressing, transportation, and some nursing care.   

Assisted living facility housing is often in small apartments, and a premium is placed on retaining as much independence in living as possible. Despite the emphasis on independence, supportive services are available 24 hours a day in order to provide different levels of help with activities of daily living (ADLs). The level of medical supervision depends on the facility.

Pricing for Assisted Living Facilities

Assisted living facilities are often less expensive than a nursing home. Assisted living facility residents agree to pay a monthly rent, which can range from less than $2,000 to more than $6,000 a month.

According to Genworth's Cost of Care survey, the average cost of an assisted living facility in the U.S. is $5,350 a month, or $64,200 a year. 

This rent may cover all services or there may be charges for services above the monthly fee on a per-use basis. Residents generally pay the cost of medical care from their own financial resources. Some costs may be reimbursed by an individual's health insurance program or long-term care insurance policy. Because assisted living facilities are usually less expensive than nursing homes, many state Medicaid programs now provide some type of funding for elderly residents who qualify for the Medicaid program.

State Regulations for Assisted Living Facilities

However, assisted living facilities are an emerging industry, and not all states regulate such centers to protect residents from substandard care or questionable business practices. The National Center on Assisted Living compiles an annual list of state regulations that includes contact information for licensing agencies. 

Whether assisted living facilities are regulated or unregulated in your state, asking specific questions can help you gauge the quality of a facility. See this checklist of questions to ask.

In addition, the Assisted Living Consumer Alliance (ALCA) is a national non-profit organization advocating for stronger consumer protections for assisted living residents. The group's site provides news and information for both consumers and professionals, including consumer advice and summaries of each state's assisted living rules.

For names of assisted living facilities near you, the following are helpful sites: Assisted Living Directory, Senior Living.org, and Senior Housing Net.