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What Is Assisted Living?


By Holly Wayland-Hall, Meadows at Mercy Creek

Assisted living is a residential option for older adults offering supportive amenities, services, and care. Assisted living communities have staff available 24/7 to assist with care, safety, and support. Assisted living may be part of a retirement community offering other levels of care, or it may stand alone as a senior living option.

What amenities and services are available?
Assisted living communities offer the benefits of a social and residential model of care, where privacy is still preserved. In most assisted living communities, residents have their own apartment, with access to additional common areas in the community. Common areas may include dining rooms, activity rooms, lounges, a library, an exercise room, a theater, a community room, and more. Most communities also offer outdoor patio areas for residents to enjoy.

Amenities and services offered in assisted living vary from community to community. The most common services and amenities offered are dining services, housekeeping, transportation, laundry services, maintenance, security, wellness and fitness programs, social and recreational activities, and a range of health and personal care services.

Assistance with health and personal care services may include assistance with dressing, bathing, grooming, continence, and mobility. Medication assistance is usually offered, though programs for managing medications vary from community to community. Some communities allow assisted living residents to bring in additional specialized services, such as physical or occupational therapy or hospice.

What is the cost for assisted living?
The cost for assisted living varies from community to community and often depends on the types of services a resident chooses. When comparing communities, it is important to gather all cost information. Find out what is included in the monthly fee, and what services are available at an additional cost. Consider the up-front cost of moving into the community, such as an entrance fee, community fee, or security deposit.

Most assisted living communities are private pay, meaning the resident or their families pay on their own. The federal Medicare program does not cover assisted living. In some states, Medicaid may pay for the service component of assisted living. Some health and long-term care insurance policies may cover some of the costs associated with assisted living. Some communities offer their own financial assistance programs. In addition, resources such as the VA Aid and Attendance Program, may be available to some residents of assisted living.

How to choose a community?
With more than 31,000 licensed assisted living communities across the country, you have a variety of options from which to choose. Whether you are looking at assisted living for yourself or for a loved one, you may consider where the community is located, the types of care and residential services that are offered, the size and availability of apartments, the cost of living in the community, and the way you feel when you visit or spend time in the community.

Who oversees the quality and standards of assisted living?
Licensing requirements for assisted living vary by state. In some states, assisted living is more commonly known as residential care, congregate care, or personal care. Regardless of the name, assisted living is regulated by the state regulatory agency and licensed communities are regularly inspected. Assisted living communities must also comply with local building codes, fire safety regulations, and other requirements.

Many organizations that own and operate assisted living communities have company quality review programs in place to continually review and improve services to their residents. Some communities also have resident or family councils to address questions or concerns in a timely manner.

How can I learn more about assisted living?
There are numerous resources in your community and online to help you research and locate assisted living options. You may start by contacting your local Area Agency/Council on Aging ( Contact the U.S. Administration on Aging’s Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 or visit The Assisted Living Federation of America provides specific information about assisted living (

Every assisted living community is unique, and researching and considering your options is important. By researching and considering your options early, before a crisis, you’ll have the information you need to help you find the community that is right for you or your loved one.

For more information about senior living, you may contact Holly Hall, Senior Director of Marketing at Meadows Communities, 309-268-1501. Meadows Communities offers a full range of senior living options — Independent Living, Independent Living-Plus!, Assisted Living, Skilled Nursing Care, Memory Care, Respite Care, and Achieve! Wellness and Rehab Therapy — with two locations: Meadows Mennonite Retirement Community in Chenoa and Meadows at Mercy Creek in Normal. Visit to learn more.

Sources referenced in the writing of this article include: The Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA),  and the U.S. Administration on Aging,