What Is Assisted Living?

What is assisted living?

Assisted living is defined as a special combination of housing, personalized supportive services and health care designed to meet the individual needs - both scheduled and unscheduled - of those who need help with activities of daily living.

How can I find an assisted living community?

What is the philosophy of assisted living?

WALA members subscribe to a 10-point philosophy of care:

  1. Offering cost-effective quality care that is personalized for individual needs
  2. Fostering independence for each resident
  3. Treating each resident with dignity and respect
  4. Promoting the individuality of each resident
  5. Allowing each resident choice of care and lifestyle
  6. Protecting each resident's right to privacy
  7. Nurturing the spirit of each resident
  8. Involving family and friends, as appropriate, in care planning and implementation
  9. Providing a safe, residential environment
  10. Making the assisted living residence a valuable community asset.

Who lives in assisted living residences?

Currently, more than a million Americans live in an estimated 20,000 assisted living residences. Wisconsin has more than 4000 assisted living facilities in which resided well over 40,000 individuals with very diverse needs, from relatively independent seniors and other adults, to persons with advanced stages of Alzheimer's Disease and other forms of dementia, developmental disabilities, physical disabilities, mental illnesses, traumatic brain injuries, alcohol and drug addiction, and those in the correctional system.

What does an assisted living residence look like?

Assisted living residences can range from a high-rise apartment complex to a family residence to a converted hotel. Residences may be free standing or house with other residential options, such as independent living or nursing care. Non-profit or for-profit companies may operate them. There is no single blueprint, because consumers' preferences and needs vary widely. Units may vary in size from one room to a full apartment.

How is assisted living regulated?

Regulations and licensing regulations vary from state to state contributing to the wide range of senior housing models considered assisted living. Most providers and their staff have special training as a result either of state requirements or company policy. Some states require special staff certification and training.

Residences must comply with local building codes and fire safety regulations. ALFA believes the most successful regulations are consumer drive, balancing the safety concerns we all share with the consumers' desires to retain their independence and freedom of choice.

In Wisconsin, assisted living is regulated under by the Department of Health and Family Services under DHS-83 (CBRF-Community Based Residential Facilities), DHS-89 (RCAC-Residential Care Apartment Complex) and DHS-88 (AFH-Adult Family Homes.)

What types of services are offered in assisted living residences?

Services typically provided in assisted living residences, depending on the type of facility, needs of individual residents and the population served, include:

  • Three meals a day served in a common dining area
  • Housekeeping services
  • Transportation
  • Assistance with eating, bathing, dressing, toileting and walking
  • Access to health and medical services
  • 24-hour security and staff availability
  • Emergency call systems for each resident's unit
  • Health promotion and exercise programs
  • Medication management
  • Personal laundry services
  • Social and recreational activities

What about costs?

Costs vary with the residence, room size, and the types of services needed by the residents. Across the nation, daily basic fees range from approximately $15 to $200 - generally less than the cost of home health services and nursing home care. A basic assisted living fee may cover all services or there may be additional charges for special services. Most assisted living residences charge month-to-month rates, but a few residences require long-term arrangements.

Who pays the bill for an assisted living residence?

Residents or their families generally pay the cost of care from their own financial resources. Depending on the nature of an individual's health insurance program or long-term care insurance policy, costs may be reimbursed. In addition, some residences have their own financial assistance programs. Federal assistance for assisted living residences has been limited. Some state and local governments offer subsidies for rent or services. Others may provide subsidies in the form of an additional payment for those who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicaid. Some states, including Wisconsin, also utilize Medicaid waiver programs to help pay for assisted living services.