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Assisted Living Options for Seniors

by Carolyn Wilson-Scott

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Your family has made the often-fraught decision to move a loved one to an assisted living facility. Unfortunately, it seems that this is frequently where the real trouble begins. You want the highest standard of care for your loved one, but many families haven't been through this experience before and have no ideas about where to start.

Assisted Living Options


Assisted living is a term for senior care facilities that provide room, board, and personal care assistance with activities like bathing, toileting, and eating. Facilities typically also offer some sort of social programming, but most do not provide nursing care. Seniors in need of an in-patient nurse are usually served in nursing homes.

Different types of assisted living options include:

Option 1: General Assisted Living Centers

These centers are housed in relatively large buildings reminiscent of a nursing home. Residents often live in apartment-style housing, with their own bed and bathroom, as well as limited kitchen facilities, though some room-sharing exists. Common dining and socializing areas are provided. Housekeeping, personal care, and some form of transportation is offered.

Option 2: Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs):

These facilities combine traditional assisted living with independent living and nursing care set-ups. All the facilities are on the same grounds, and residents can move between them as needed.

Option 3: Alzheimer's units/Memory Care Centers:

Some assisted living centers offer Alzheimer's-only areas for seniors in the early stages of the disease, or those without additional medical needs.

Option 4: Board-and-Care Homes:

These are residential homes that have been converted to offer assisted living. Layout and amenities are quite individualized, but all board-and-care homes tend to be much smaller than an institutional site. Services tend to be comparable to a larger facility.

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The Type of Assisted Living Option Best for You

Board-and-care homes are often less expensive than a larger center. They also offer a homier atmosphere, and because they frequently have fewer than ten residents, are a good fit for the senior who is nervous about adjusting to a lot of new people.

Because of the convenience factor and the extra services provided, a CCRC is typically more expensive than a "regular" assisted living facility. It's a good choice for a high-functioning senior who's ready for the move to independent living, since they won't have to find another center once they need more care. Most CCRCs also promise life-long care on a contractual basis, which gives many seniors much-needed peace of mind.

How to Research Assisted Living Options

Contact state or local licensing boards or local community senior groups for lists of centers, or go through a screening service. Make sure the facilities you're considering are free of any serious or repeating violations or complaints. Schedule a meeting with the facility's director and take a tour. Speak to residents and staff members and trust your gut feeling.