Resources for Consumers

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Assisted living communities serve individuals who generally need help with every day activities and some health care services but do not require 24-hour ongoing skilled nursing care services for extended periods of time. The philosophy of assisted living is built on the concept of delivering person-centered care and services to the individual resident. Person-centered care means that the care and services meet residents’ individual needs and preferences.

The goal of assisted living is to maximize and maintain resident independence for as long as possible. Assisted living offers residents a unique mix of companionship, independence, privacy, and security in a home-like setting. ​

 What is Assisted Living?

Assisted living is part of a continuum of long term care services that provides a combination of housing, personal care services, and health care designed to respond to individuals who need assistance with normal daily activities in a way that promotes maximum independence.

Assisted living services can be provided in freestanding communities, near or integrated with skilled nursing homes or hospitals, as components of continuing care retirement communities, or at independent housing complexes.

Assisted living communities offer a multi-faceted residential setting that provides personal care services, 24-hour supervision and assistance, activities and health-related services, designed to:

  • Minimize the need to relocate;
  • Accommodate individual residents’ changing needs and preferences;
  • Maximize residents’ dignity, autonomy, privacy, independence, choice and safety; and
  • Encourage family and community involvement.


Most assisted living residents are seniors, including those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Some communities serve individuals of any age with developmental disabilities while other communities serve individuals with particular medical conditions or needs.

Certification of Communities

In most states, assisted living communities are registered, licensed or certified by an appropriate department or agency of the state that has a process for issuance of initial licenses and for renewing existing licenses.

Services and Activities

The services and activities provided or arranged for in assisted living communities promote the quality of life and independence of the individual, and generally include:

  • 24-hour supervision
  • 3 meals a day in a group dining room
  • Personal care services (help with bathing, dressing, toileting, etc.)
  • Medication management, or assistance with self-administration of medicine
  • Social services
  • Supervision and assistance for persons with Alzheimer’s or other dementias and disabilities
  • Recreational and spiritual activities
  • Exercise and wellness programs
  • Laundry and linen service
  • Housekeeping and maintenance
  • Arrangements for transportation
Each resident receives individualized services to help him/her function within the assisted living community. 

Personal Care and Health Services 

Assisted living communities provide supervision or assistance with activities of daily living (ADL’s); coordination of services by outside health care providers; and monitoring of resident activities to help to ensure his or her health, safety, and well-being. Assistance may include the administration or supervision of medication, or certain personal care services by a trained staff person.

The community may assist in arranging the appropriate medical, health, and dental care services for each resident.  The resident generally chooses his or her medical doctor and dental services.

It is important to remember that assisted living communities are a bridge between living at home and living in a nursing home. Assisted living communities do not typically provide the level of continuous skilled nursing care found in nursing homes and hospitals.


Accommodations and options may vary greatly from one assisted living community to the next (e.g. private rooms, private baths, kitchenettes, etc.).  Personal needs and preferences are important criteria for selecting a community and the amenities it offers.

Most communities are constructed and equipped to comply with a host of local, state and federal regulations. Assisted living communities are designed to be operated, staffed and maintained in a manner appropriate to the needs and desires of the residents served. Caring for residents with Alzheimer’s or other dementias and disabilities requires a community design and philosophy that assure resident safety and autonomy. 

 Paying for Assisted Living

Costs for assisted living communities vary greatly, and depend on the size of rooms, amenities, services provided, and location. Calculating the approximate cost is important as well as understanding what happens if private, personal funds are depleted. ​

Communities should willingly provide consumers with key information regarding base rates, specific fees for additional services, occupancy levels, staffing, and ownership. Obtaining this information is crucial in choosing the appropriate assisted living or residential care community.

Assistance Programs

While Medicare does not cover assisted living, certain health care services may be available under specific, limited circumstances. Supplemental Security Income may cover some costs, and communities may participate in grant programs, the M​edicaid program or offer internal assistance programs. The community’s management should be able to answer your questions concerning available assistance programs.

​DO I Qualify for medicaid?


Under certain conditions veterans and/or their spouses may be eligible for benefits to help pay for some of their care in an assisted living community. For more information about the Veterans Administrations’ “Aid and Attendance” program visit or contact your regional VA office.

Private Pay / Long Term Care Insurance

In addition, several private health and long term care insurance policies include assisted living/residential care coverage. There is a feature built into some life insurance policies that allow a policy holder to receive a tax-free advance on their life insurance death benefit while still living in order to help pay for long term care needs. However, the majority of assisted living costs are paid through personal finances of residents and/or their families. ​

 Protecting Residents

Reporting Abuse

Call the police or 911 immediately if someone you know is in immediate, life-threatening danger.

If you have been the victim of abuse, exploitation, or neglect, you are not alone. Many people care and can help. Please tell your doctor, a friend, or a family member you trust, or call the Adult Protective Services (locate APS in your state) program in your area. Relay your concerns to the local Adult Protective Services, Long-term Care Ombudsman, or police. If the​ danger is not immediate, but you suspect that abuse has occurred or is occurring, please tell someone.

Prevent Consumer Scams and Fraud

​​​Residents and families should be aware that older adults are at risk for a variety of consumer fraud and scams. Below are some resources to help you if you or someone you know may be a victim of fraud.​​​​

  • CFPB Manual: Protecting residents from financial exploitation
    The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a manual to equip assisted living and nursing facility staff with the know-how to prevent and spot the warning signs of financial exploitation.
  • ​​FBI’s Task Force On Seniors
    The FBI has a dedicated webpage for protecting senior citizens against fraud with tips on what to look for and how to protect yourself and your family.​
  • FTC's Pass It On Campaign
    The Federal Trade Commission's campaign to enlist people over 65 in the effort to recognize and report frauds and scams. Download Pass It On campaign materials or order in bulk to share with your residents and family members.​
  • Prevent Internet Fraud
    The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) offers a number of tips on how to avoid Internet auction fraud, non-delivery of merchandise, credit card fraud, investment fraud and business fraud.
  • Senate Special Committee on Aging - Anti-Fraud Hotline
    The anti-frau hotline and website makes it easier for senior citizens to report suspected fraud and receive assistance. The hotline is staffed by a team of committee investigators weekdays from 9 am to 4 pm. Anyone with information about suspected fraud can call the tool-free fraud hotline at 1 (855) 303-9470.
  • Stop Medic​are Fraud
    It is fraud when Medicare is billed for services or supplies seniors never receive. You can report Medicare fraud to the Department of Health and Human Services through this website or by calling 1 (800) 447-8477.​
  • Stop Telemarke​ting Calls  ​
    The National Do Not Call Registry gives you a choice about whether to receive telemarketing calls at home. You can register your home or mobile phone for free. You can also call 1 (888) 382-1222.​

How to Find an Assisted Living Community

After yo​u have determined the kind of services you or a loved one needs, obtain a list of assisted living communities in your area. Your personal physician, clergy, social worker, financial planner, and friends may be familiar with a community. You can also check with your state health or welfare departments, your long term care ombudsman, the Area Office on Aging or online.

By visiting the communities on your initial list, you should be able to narrow the field to two or three meeting the specific services, location, and price range you desire. Talk with the administrators and tour the communities. Try to visit each community more than once. Arrange to visit the community during mealtime or arrange to have lunch with residents. This will give you a better feel for what life will be like in the community.​

Search for Assisted Living Resources ​in Your Area

​​Use the search function below to find websites that may be helpful in your search for local assisted living communities or programs. Here's a guide to the types of websites listed:​

  • Assistance Programs: Financial assistance for assisted living care varies by state. The state may have a Medicaid waiver program or state agencies may connect you to additional local programs.
  • Choosing Care: Some states have specific guides on long term care, and specifically, assisted living, to assist consumers in finding the right care for them.
  • LTC Ombudsman: Under the federal Older Americans Act, every state is required to have an Ombudsman Program that addresses complaints and advocates for improvements in long term care.
  • Licensing Agency: State licensing agencies may be able to provide a current list of licensed assisted living communities, which may be helpful when looking for a community.
  • NCAL State Affiliate: Another potential resource for finding assisted living providers in your state. Assisted living providers interested in becoming a member of NCAL may join at the state level. 

 Find Resources in Your State

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