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How to find assisted living — a home that fits your life

As people age or if they’re living with a disability, many prefer to stay in their own home. But sometimes, that’s not easy. You may be considering assisted living and wondering how to choose the right place.

What is assisted living?

Assisted living is for people who can partly take care of themselves and want to live more independently. It can mean:

  • Living in a home with more privacy, such as an apartment or condo
  • Having someone check in at certain times
  • Getting help with some daily living tasks that you choose, such as:
    • Meals
    • Housekeeping (cleaning, laundry, etc.)
    • Hygiene (bathing, toileting, etc.)
    • Dressing
    • Getting in and out of bed
    • Transportation
    • Social activities
    • Keeping track of and taking medicine

What it’s not:

Assisted living is not the same as a nursing home. A nursing home typically means:

  • Round-the-clock support
  • Skilled nurses and staff that help with everything, at all times of the day
  • Medical facilities on site for daily or frequent health care
  • Certain types of specialty care, like memory care

Note: Some places offer many different levels of care — starting out with minimal assisted living and then progressing to more round-the-clock care over time.

Eight tips to find an assisted living facility:

  1. Consider cost — The good news is assisted living is usually less expensive than a nursing home. Note: the most expensive, fancy buildings may not always offer the best care. Check out this article for a detailed list of payment options.
  2. Location, location, location — Consider places that are not only close to family, but also hospitals, personal doctors, groceries, other shopping, and other places that may be important to you and your family.
  3. Visit, visit, revisit — Try not to rush this process. Visit more than one facility. And visit the ones that interest you more than once. You want to get all your questions answered and find a place that will feel like home.
  4. Is it clean and well maintained? — If the facilities, kitchen and grounds are unclean, neglected or falling apart, it’s a red flag.
  5. Talk to the residents, their families and staff — Do people seem happy? Do employees stay there a long time?? (High employee turnover can be a bad sign.) Are the staff members friendly? Do residents get along? You can also check online reviews.
  6. Try the food — Ask to attend lunch or dinner at regular meal times. Make sure you like the food.
  7. Read the fine print — Before you sign anything, make sure you read the entire contract, rules and residents’ rights. In the contract, make sure it includes details about: costs, care and services. Take it home to read before signing. Ask a family member or lawyer to read it, too. Ask questions about anything you don’t understand.
  8. Get help if you need it — If you’re overwhelmed, talk to a senior living advisor, case manager or other professional.

When to start thinking about finding assisted living for you or your loved one:

  • You need a lot of help — more than family or close friends can provide. This could be help around the house, getting around town, mobility issues and more.
  • You feel lonely and do not get out much — getting out and spending time with friends is so important for our health. Loneliness and depression can lead to other health problems or even a shortened lifespan.
  • You may not be safe at home — whether you’re at risk for falls or have trouble getting out of bed, the last thing you want is to get hurt or stranded and unable to get help.
  • Your health is declining — if you suffer from chronic health issues, it may not be safe or realistic for them to live on your own. You may need care and supervision from a medical professional.

Learn more about Medicaid and assisted living.
Home care or assisted living — which is right for you?