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Assisted living facilities are residences typically for older adults and seniors who live active lifestyles but may need medical and/or personal care help. Living space varies from apartments to individual rooms or units, with most common areas being shared. Such facilities are based on a social model of care. Residents are as independent as possible with support from staff. Assisted living facilities are regulated and licensed at the state level, so certain standards may differ including staffing, training requirements, and safety standards and procedures.
According to a 2021 report by Consumer Affairs, it’s estimated that in the US over 810,000 people reside in assisted living facilities. This generally includes adults who need help with personal care or are exhibiting signs of declining health that does not require 24-hour management. Many residents have difficulties with motor skills or balance, while others might be minorly impaired in differing ways. Over half of all assisted living residents are aged 85 years or older, though many establishments will accommodate adults of any age who are living with some sort of disability. It is also common for those with Alzheimer’s or dementia to reside in assisted living.
What services are offered in an assisted living facility?
General services to expect from an assisted living facility are meal preparation, personal care help, some types of medical care, social and wellness activities, laundry, and housekeeping. Many establishments will additionally offer amenities such as hair salons, transportation for medical appointments or errands, and excursions for residents to experience outside leisure activities or entertainment. Each facility is unique and services will vary.
Who works at an assisted living facility?
Life in assisted living is exactly as it sounds: assisted. Most commonly, the staff consists of a variety of administrators, nurses, and housekeeping services, though each venue is unique. Here is a breakdown of who you may find working in assisted living:
An assisted living administrator manages the daily operations of their facility, ensuring that accommodations, staff, and state regulations are maintained safely and economically. An administrator may oversee directors of specific departments such as activities, nutrition, or medical. They supervise facility budgeting, staff employment, and in many cases, marketing.
Education requirements for Assisted Living Administrators (ALAs) vary by state, but a bachelor’s degree is usually the minimum, preferably focused in business or healthcare administration. Licensing requirements also vary by state and criminal background checks are a common prerequisite of employment. To find information about individual state licensing requirements, the National Association of Long Term Care Administrator Boards is a good place to start.
Many assisted living facilities have individualized departments, including (but not limited to) activities, nutrition, medical, and personal care. A department director is in charge of overseeing their assigned area by coordinating tasks, delegating responsibilities to team members, and ensuring the safety of residents who are benefiting from their service. A director usually reports to the administrator.
Education requirements for assisted living department directors vary by state. An associate or bachelor's degree is often required, preferably with a focus in healthcare administration or other related medical fields. Criminal background checks are also a common prerequisite of employment.
Assisted living facilities employ different types of nurses to accommodate the wide range of needs residents have. Duties may include health assessment administration, medication management, skilled care, disability or illness management education, or providing general care associated with minor disabilities or illness. Common types of nurses who work in an assisted living facility include: Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs), Registered Nurses (RNs), and Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs).
Personal Care Assistants
A Personal Care Assistant (PCA) is a staff member who helps residents with everyday needs such as bathing, eating, grooming, dressing, and toileting. PCA certification and licensing requirements vary by state and facility. The UCSF Health Workforce Research Center on Long-Term Care details PCA training requirements by state using an interactive map. For more information, visit your state’s website for its Department of Aging.
Dietary and Food Service Staff
Dietary and food service staff may have duties ranging from meal preparation to serving or delivering. Staff maintains records on the dietary needs of residents as well as suitable menus and substitution options. In many cases, staff must adhere to residents’ dietary restrictions as prescribed by personal physicians or dieticians. Dietary and food service staff may also be required to keep kitchens and eating spaces clean and compliant with any state regulations. Education, certification, and licensing requirements for food service positions vary by state and facility.
How much does an assisted living facility cost?
The average cost of assisted living in the US, based on a private one-bedroom unit, is between $3,000 and $6,000 per month. The final cost is dependent on geographic location and the support staff and amenities included. Some medical insurance plans may help, but it’s important to note that Medicare does not cover costs related to assisted living.
Choosing an assisted living facility near you
Choosing the perfect assisted living facility for you or your loved one’s needs can be easy with the right knowledge and tools. Visit the Senior Resource Assisted Living Directory to find care in your state!