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Is an assisted living facility right for you?

Written by Diane Archer

Many people remain in their homes as they grow older, but some people move to a social environment and community that can better meet their needs. There are literally thousands of residential options offering a varying range of housing and services for older adults. In the U.S., people have a choice of more than 7,000 assisted living facilities alone. Is an assisted living facility right for you?

What exactly is an assisted living facility? In short, an assisted living facility is a residence for older adults that offers housing and meals as well as some social, personal care and housekeeping services. Some assisted living facilities offer small homes and others offer apartments. Most offer a common dining room. Usually, you pay a fixed monthly rental fee for your room and board and then an additional fee based on the medical, nursing. and home health aide services you need.

What services do assisted living facilities provide?

  • assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), including bathing, dressing, feeding and toiletting, if you need it
  • personal care services, such as help with taking medicines, getting to the doctor
  • meals
  • social activities
  • in some cases, health care services and  transportation services

How much will you pay to live at an assisted living facility? It depends a lot on the facility you choose, but monthly rental fees often start at $3,000.

How can you find assisted living facilities in your area? To understand the range of facilities available to you, contact your local area agency on aging at or 1-800-677-1116.

What should you do before choosing a facility? Here are some tips, including some big questions to ask and issues to consider:

  • Call the facilities you are most interested in and learn about what they offer. Ask them to send you a brochure, a floor plan of the different units available, along with their monthly cost, and any other information about the facility they deem relevant.
  • Visit each of the facilities you think might work for you and bring along a trusted family member or friend.
    • Ask to see the rooms available.
    • Speak to some of the residents, and find out what they think of the food, the care team, and the facility overall.
  • If you’re interested, find out if you can do a trial stay at the facility to test whether it really would meet your needs.
  • Review the contract carefully to understand exactly what you will need to pay now and over the long term and whether you are entitled to a refund if you decide to leave.

California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform offers a self-assessment guide to help people evaluate their needs, determine whether they should have additional supports and, if so, what’s available to them and whether they should consider moving. It also provides valuable information on assisted living facilities, sometimes called residential care facilities.

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