Aging & Health A to Z
Basic Facts & Information
Some community-based care require older adults to move from their current home to another one (for example, an assisted-living arrangement). However, the goal is still to protect independence and privacy for as long as possible.
Is Assisted Living Right for You?
There has been a lot of growth in the number of assisted living facilities (ALFs) during the late 1990s. State governments regulate and monitor ALFs, which can also be called adult care, residential care or assistive living facilities. More than 500,000 people live in ALFs, and this number is expected to grow as our population ages. Even though these types of places are based on a social (not medical) model, they are caring for more frail people with significant medical needs. ALFs often provide home-health skilled care.
Older adults have a variety of choices in ALFs, ranging from smaller, simple home-like environments, to larger, fancier accommodations. This wide range in types of ALFs allows people to choose a home that best suits their needs, tastes, and financial situation. Special care units that focus on Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are also becoming more common.
ALFs are required to provide a variety of services, including the following:
- 24-Hour staffing to provide oversight to meet the scheduled and unscheduled needs of residents (Note: This does not mean that skilled nursing must be available 24 hours a day.)
- Social services
- Housekeeping and laundry
- Recreation and meals
- Help with activities of daily living (ADLs)
- Health-related services (e.g., help with medication management)
Other services vary considerably from state to state. For example, depending on licensing requirements, giving and managing medications may be handled by unskilled, skilled, or fully licensed nursing staff.
Most older adults must pay for assisted living themselves, although some states now may pay costs through Medicaid. Generally, care in an ALF is less expensive than in a nursing home. Part of this difference in cost is because ALFs provide less service and have less overhead. In addition, ALFs generally have fewer regulations to observe (at least for now) and are therefore able to operate with less expenses.
Types of Assisted Living
Group homes are houses or apartments in which two or more unrelated people live together. These include domiciliary care, single-room occupancy residences, board-and-care homes, and some group living situations. Group homes vary in the types of residents that live there. For example, many can accommodate people with chronic mental illness or dementia. Most group homes are run as for-profit businesses, and some states require licensing.
Residents share a living room, dining room, and kitchen but usually have their own bedrooms. Advantages of this arrangement include a lower cost of living and ability to socialize with peers. Independence and ability to function are supported through the interdependence and relationships of the residents. Opportunities for socialization are increased, reducing social isolation. Resident-to-staff ratios may also be higher than in other supported-living environments.
Adult Foster Care
Foster care homes generally provide room, board, and some help with activities of daily living. This is provided by the sponsoring family or other paid caregivers, who usually live on the premises. Adult foster care has the advantages of maintaining frail older adults in a more home-like environment. Regulations for foster care vary by state, and some states require licensing. Some states will cover costs of adult foster care through their Medicaid programs. Perhaps the longest experience with adult foster care is in the state of Oregon, where it is used as an alternative to long-term care and institutional living.
Sheltered housing is often in a home that offers personal-care support, housekeeping services, and meals. Social work services and coordination for activities can be added to these programs. Charges to clients are based on a sliding scale, which may cost up to 30% of income.
Continuing-Care Retirement Communities
Some older adults may choose a continuing-care retirement community (CCRC). These communities usually have a variety of living options, ranging from apartments or condominiums, to assisted living and to skilled nursing home care. Often, residents enter the CCRC in the more independent living areas and then progress through the assisted living and skilled care areas as they become more disabled.
Health care in CCRCs is generally provided using three financial models:
- The all-inclusive model, which provides total health care coverage, including long-term care
- The fee-for-service model, in which payments match the level of care
- The modified coverage model, which covers long-term care to a predetermined maximal amount.
Most CCRCs require an entry fee, which may or may not be refundable, plus a variable monthly fee to pay for rent and supportive services. Monthly fees vary, depending on the level of care being provided. Older adults generally pay to live in these communities, though some facilities have beds for skilled care that are funded by Medicare or Medicaid. See also Insurance, Financing, and Costs of Health Care.
Updated: March 2012
Posted: March 2012