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Your Guide to Assisted Living: Facility Services, Costs and Search Tools

What makes assisted living facilities attractive for many seeking care? The answers can vary depending on the person, but typical answers include things like:

  • Direct access to care
  • Being part of a community of people
  • The freedom to furnish living quarters and maintain an independent lifestyle

Assisted living serves an important, and growing, segment of the population. Thousands of organizations exist to provide these services to older adults in need of long-term care.

At LTC News, our mission is to provide online resources and long-term care information, with the ultimate aim of helping people make better choices about their health, finances, and family.

Our comprehensive long-term care directory includes thousands of assisted living facilities, and details about them. If you’re ready to start your search, click the button below to get started! And if you’re still in the research process, we invite you to continue reading.

Looking for care now? Find Assisted Living facilities near you

Below, we cover the following topics, and others related to assisted living:

  1. What is assisted living?
  2. What services do assisted living facilities offer?
  3. What does assisted living cost?
  4. What’s the best way to find assisted living near me?
  5. Do I (or a loved one) need assisted living care?
  6. Who are the largest providers of assisted living? 

What Is Assisted Living?

Assisted living refers to residential communities throughout the country that cater to various long-term care needs of its residents.

We’ll talk below in more detail about what separates assisted living facilities from other facilities, but an assisted living facility is designed for residents who need assistance, usually with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as bathing, eating, transferring, continence, dressing, and toileting, but not constant supervision as you might find in a nursing home or hospital.

Therefore, there’s a fair amount of independence in assisted living, while also providing direct access to care.

You may see assisted living shortened to AL in some industry publications, or ALF, which stands for assisted living facility. We’ll be spelling out the words here on this page, but it’s important to know these acronyms since they’re frequently used in health care communications and publications, and in related industries like the financial sector.

Typical living arrangements are either private apartments or private rooms for residents. In many respects, these function as traditional apartments, albeit often with special accommodations.

Services Typically Offered By Assisted Living Facilities

There isn’t one set of standardized services offered by assisted living facilities, and some of what you’ll want to do when researching them is to see what the differences in services are between facilities.

However, several services will be offered by all assisted living communities, and others are commonly found in most as well. Among other possible services are the following:

  • Assistance with activities of daily living - as previously mentioned, this is one of the core functions of care in an assisted living facility.
  • Medication management
  • Meal services
  • Laundry and housekeeping services
  • Transportation services
  • Social activities both on-site and off-site
  • Others may have amenities such as pools, gardening spaces, libraries, movie theaters, fitness centers, salons and barbers, and other gathering spaces for a variety of activities, events and functions.

Again, that list isn’t comprehensive, but can give you a good idea of what services to expect and ask about when touring or researching a facility.

What Makes Assisted Living Facilities Different?

Most are aware of the fact that assisted living facilities aren’t the only type of facility available. In fact, there are numerous types.

Below we compare assisted living to a few common alternatives. Knowing the differences can be important in order to assess the need for you or a loved one.

Services and fees will vary between types. Below, we also discuss the cost of assisted living in more detail as well.

While we’re focused on assisted living here, some residents will have to consider different types of care as they age and their needs change. Even if assisted living is the best immediate solution, it’s useful to know what other types of care are available if your situation changes.

In some contexts, you’ll see this referred to as the continuum of care. This is a term that refers to tracking residents throughout their stays in different facilities, and providing the correct level of care through various stages of their lives. More acute levels of care exist in some settings, including skilled nursing and memory care services.

Assisted Living vs. Nursing Homes

The biggest difference between these two relates to the care itself. Staff at assisted living facilities are available 24/7, but the care is not continuous. For clarity, there’s always “on-demand” access to care in assisted living. But it will not be continuous, as it might be in a nursing home or hospital.

There are some exceptions to this involving memory care units in assisted living facilities, which we’ll discuss below.

This begets other differences, such as those in staffing. The overall levels of staffing between the two will be similar, but nursing homes will have more skilled staff such as registered nurses and physical therapists.

Lastly, rooms are generally configured differently, with assisted living rooms set up more like apartments, often with kitchenettes for preparing meals. By comparison, nursing homes are generally more set up for constant needs, closer to what you’d see in a hospital. Different room accommodations in both, such as a private room in a nursing home, will come at extra cost.

Access to on-site activities may also differ, and there is often a larger variety offered in assisted living facilities.

These aren’t the only differences you’ll find as you research nursing homes and assisted living facilities, but they’re the most common.

Assisted Living vs. Independent Living Communities

The biggest difference here, like with nursing homes above, is in regard to levels of care. But in this case, assisted living will provide greater access to care.

Independent living communities do not provide assistance with the activities of daily living. There isn’t the same expectation of this assistance as with assisted living communities.

Those in independent living communities are older adults who can still live independently. The appeal of the community is access to convenient lifestyle resources, as well as the social aspects of the community.

This also means that independent living communities are generally less expensive than assisted living facilities. The overhead in terms of staff and support is far different.

Occasionally, independent living communities will have strong ties to an assisted living facility or other care network. This can make for a useful transition between facilities for those who end up needing higher levels of care. However, this is not the same as providing direct access to that care, as assisted living facilities and nursing homes do.

Assisted Living vs. Home Care

As the name implies, home care takes place in one’s home, whereas assisted living facilities are permanent residences for its residents.

Home care is a valid and valuable form of long-term care, and in searching for facilities like assisted living communities, many forget that home caregiving is an option.

In-home caregiving services are catered to the specific needs of the person receiving care. This means that it’s sometimes more difficult to describe home assistance in general terms. The level of care and specific assistance needed will vary.

However, at its most basic level, home care provides assistance related to many of the same things that assisted living does, including activities of daily living.

The cost of home care is also variable depending on need. Costs are usually calculated hourly, and prices can range significantly.

The benefits and potential downsides to home care, though, are more clear. It allows a person to stay in their home, which is appealing to many. However, it’s without the opportunities for socialization that living in a larger community can provide.

Assisted Living vs. Memory Care

Memory care requires greater levels of supervision and specialized training compared to traditional assisted living accommodations. As the name implies, this is for those with memory loss, and related conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Some assisted living communities will have separate memory care services and living units for residents. This affords residents many of the same perks as others in the community, while also providing higher levels of assistance to meet their specific needs. Other times, memory care facilities will act as separate organizations and will only care for those with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

How Much Does Assisted Living Cost?

For 2024, the expected national median cost for assisted living is $52,082 per year. This is based on LTC News models for care costs and historical costs in assisted living facilities.

It should go without saying that assisted living costs vary based on state, city, and the specific services offered at facilities. However, cost of care is a calculable figure, so that you can know what to expect when it comes to payment.

For example, we listed the national median above, but for that same year, California’s median cost is expected to be approximately 13% higher. Conversely, a state like Tennessee is expected to be around 5% below the national median.

It’s important to have a sense of what you’ll need to pay for assisted living, but equally important to research costs where you live, since geographic differences in cost can be significant.

LTC News Cost of Care Calculator

Are you ready to see the cost of care for your state? Check out our Cost of Care Calculator. You can check median prices for every major care type, including, adult day care, assisted living, and nursing home rooms.

How to Pay for Assisted Living

The costs listed above can seem intimidating to many people. However, there are numerous options to pay for assisted living. Below, we’ve listed some of the most common ones.

Long-Term Care Insurance

For those expecting to incur long-term charges, Long-Term Care Insurance can be one of the best ways to mitigate costs and ensure payment for assisted living throughout your life.

Rates for Long-Term Care Insurance vary based on several factors, one of the biggest ones being the age at which you apply for care. Adults in their 40s and 50s who obtain Long-Term Care Insurance will pay lower rates throughout the duration of their policy’s benefits compared to those who wait until they’re in their 60s or 70s. Some at those older ages may also be ineligible for Long-Term Care Insurance.

Long-Term Care Insurance can be used to pay for assisted living charges, and others like those related to home care.

Home Equity or Reverse Mortgages

Selling or renting a home when a loved one moves out of it can be a way to generate income for care payments. You may also look into a reverse mortgage, which can produce reliable, monthly income that can go toward care expenses.

It’s important to note that financial vehicles like reverse mortgages will reduce your assets over time, and for those wishing to pass their homes onto children or other family members, this may not be the right solution.


Medicaid will pay for many long-term care costs, including assisted living expenses. However, there are often state-based income limits in order to qualify for Medicaid assistance. Be sure you understand your state’s Medicaid requirements before applying for residence in care facilities if you’re anticipating paying via Medicaid.

Short-Term Care Insurance

While the expectation for most assisted living stays is that it will be a long-term arrangement, short-term coverage is still possible for some in specific situations. In particular, it can often be obtained even when Long-Term Care Insurance cannot, due to the more strict underwriting standards for Long-Term Care Insurance.

Veterans Benefits

Some veterans are eligible for assisted living coverage through the Veterans Affairs wing of the government. If you are a veteran, look into your possible benefits in regard to long-term care.

Other Forms of Payment?

Few people will elect to self-fund their assisted living due to the high costs, but this is an option. Others believe that Medicare will cover long-term care costs, but Medicare is not intended for this. While there may be individual medical services covered under Medicare as you age, a bulk cost like paying for assisted living will not be covered.

Who Needs Assisted Living?

The clearest sign that someone is in need of long-term care is when they begin needing assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs). As a reminder, these ADLs are Bathing, Continence, Dressing, Eating, Toileting and Transferring.

While these aren’t the only functions supported in assisted living environments, they are one of the more reliable ways to indicate a need for care. For a related example, to receive Long-Term Care Insurance benefits, a doctor must confirm you need either stand-by or hands-on assistance with two or more ADLs. Obtaining Long-Term Care Insurance and choosing a facility are separate decisions, but both relate to care needs.

Importantly, though, someone who only needs minor assistance may be overpaying for the full suite of care services in an assisted living facility. Many people live independently while still needing some assistance with one or more ADLs.

Rather, there’s no strict answer of when assisted living is the right solution for you or a loved one. But there are questions you can ask that will help lead you to the best solution:

  • Does the person struggle preparing and eating three full meals per day?
  • Do they seem to forget things more often, to the point where it affects their ability to function in their daily lives?
  • Is the level of aid provided at assisted living facilities appropriate for the person’s needs? Would home care be better suited? Is the higher care level of a nursing home needed?
  • Have they injured themselves or had accidents recently due to mobility issues?
  • Are they unable to drive and having difficulty obtaining transportation for doctor visits and errands?
  • Are they able to keep up with housekeeping, or is their home becoming overly cluttered and unclean?

These and related questions can help to guide useful discussions about the type of facility that’s most aligned with your specific needs.

Transitioning to an Assisted Living Facility

The most common advice for transitioning a loved one to an assisted living facility is that it’s best to discuss the possibility and form a plan before the need becomes so critical that you have no other choice.

Discussing long-term care and moving out of a home can be difficult. But the worse fear is what happens when this transition happens with little or or forewarning or plan. The effect on the resident can be jarring and uncomfortable.

Here are some additional considerations for how you can plan thoughtfully for transitioning a loved one to an assisted living facility:

  1. Have a short list of facilities to interview and tour. Knowing your options before the need is imminent can ease a lot of worry.
  2. Begin discussing long-term care as early as possible. This includes discussing it with your spouse and/or family, not just for loved ones but yourself as well. You can have peace of mind as you age due to this forethought.
  3. Make sure everyone who will be affected is a part of the conversation, and that the person who will be receiving care feels empowered to make the final decision regarding their move.

Moving Into an Assisted Living Facility

Just as important in transitioning to assisted living is the actual move. Why is this important? Because it can leave behind a lot of things that will help the resident feel like they’re home in their new surroundings.

To that end, here are some considerations for moving:

  1. Even if the new space is smaller than the home the person is moving from, make sure to bring enough personal items that they’re able to furnish their new living quarters in ways that feel like home.
  2. Make a plan for what to do with any leftover items from the home. Will you sell them in an auction? Donate them? Throw anything away? Distribute belongings among family members? And how will that distribution happen? This is part of the discussion that should take place before a move.
  3. Will the previous home itself be sold, rented out, or otherwise allocated to a family member?

Again, there are no answers that will be right for every situation, but in discussing beforehand, you can have a smooth and even joyful transition that, ideally, will result in you or a loved one entering a vibrant community and receiving the care they deserve.

What to Look For in an Assisted Living Facility

We’ve talked about services and amenities, and if any of those are things you’re seeking out, they’re a good place to start.

However, all of the perks in the world don’t mean anything if a facility is not a good fit for a resident on more basic levels.

How can you determine this? Several things can help:

  1. Visit the facility at different times of the day to see if there are differences in activity.
  2. Don’t just go through the regular tour. See if you can talk with one or more of the residents to get their firsthand experience of living in the community.
  3. Keep an eye out for signs of uncleanliness or lack of care. This could be in the state of the facility, smells or general lack of upkeep.
  4. Do people seem happy when you visit? Don’t ignore your gut if the mood of residents seems negative.
  5. How does your loved one react to being in and around the facility? Their impressions may be different from yours, and it’s important that the person who’s going to live there is happy.
  6. Read online reviews for the facility, which will sometimes come from loved ones of residents. Any complaints you see may be useful items to ask about during your research.

There are of course many other questions you can ask an assisted living facility, but these can get you started toward having peace of mind over your final decision.

Find Assisted Living Near Me

Over half of Americans will need some form of long-term care, according to the Administration on Aging, which is a wing of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

That makes it important to have a plan for finding care, one that will allow you to be confident and comfortable in your decision.

So how do you find a good assisted living center near you, and what does that plan look like? It involves many elements we’ve already discussed, such as forming a list of questions to ask facilities, and also a transition plan for you or your loved one as they become a resident of an assisted living facility.

Once these are in place, your plan should include using online resources to contact facilities and begin narrowing your search.

LTC News Long-Term Care Directory

LTC News is proud to be able to offer one of the largest long-term care directories in the world, all at no cost to visitors!

With over 80,000 facility and organization listings nationwide, it can allow you to easily find assisted living facilities near you.

At LTC News, our story is your good health, and helping you achieve that is our only goal. Ensure that you and your loved ones maintain their dignity and independence at every stage of life. Don’t be a pawn of the health care system. Take charge of your long-term health, with help from LTC News.

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Who Are the Largest Assisted Living Providers?

It’s sometimes common to look into larger networks that have numerous facilities nationwide. These organizations can often leverage their care networks to provide services and options not available elsewhere.

While it’s important to do your due diligence with any organization, we’re often asked who the largest providers of assisted living and seniors housing are. Below is a non-comprehensive list of some of the nation’s top providers:

Brookdale Senior Living

No list of large senior housing providers would be complete without Brookdale. Brookdale Senior Living boasts over 700 locations and over 60,000 residents in 41 states! Regardless of where you live, chances are you’re near one of Brookdale’s facilities.

National Church Residences

National Church Residences, or NCR, is a not-for-profit organization specializing in care communities. They currently have over 300 locations in 25 states, and claim to be the nation’s largest not-for-profit seniors housing provider.

Sunrise Senior Living

Sunrise is another national-level provider of assisted living care. According to Senior Housing News, Sunrise has over 24,000 units, with over 14,000 of those in assisted living.

Atria Senior Living

With over 400 locations in 45 states, Atria has a wide national reach and care facilities of numerous types.

Genesis Healthcare

Genesis is another that tops many lists of assisted living care providers, with nearly 400 facilities nationwide.

That list isn’t comprehensive, nor is it an indication of the quality of any facility. However, these may be organizations you can research that have assisted living facilities in your area.

Top Cities for Assisted Living Facilities

Explore Assisted Living options in these major metro areas:

New York, NY
New York, NY

New York, NY

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Los Angeles, CA
Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles, CA

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Chicago, IL
Chicago, IL

Chicago, IL

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Houston, TX
Houston, TX

Houston, TX

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Phoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ

Phoenix, AZ

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Philadelphia, PA
Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia, PA

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Frequently Asked Questions About Assisted Living

We covered a lot of assisted living topics above. Here are a few more items asked by those seeking care in an assisted living facility:

Are there additional fees for assisted living?

Generally, things like emergency services and other ancillary medical services will not be covered in your base resident fees. It’s good to check on what else might be an additional cost. Cable, some transportation services or optional activities and events might have fees attached to them.

Are emergency medical services offered at assisted living facilities?

Usually not, though there are limited exceptions to this. More frequently, emergency services will be called by the facility should a medical emergency occur.

My loved one needs memory care. Should I be searching for assisted living?

Occasionally assisted living facilities will have memory care units specifically for this. However, it’s more typical for memory care facilities to be separate from assisted living facilities. If a loved one needs memory care, it’s best to search for specialized memory care facilities.

Can I keep my pet in an assisted living facility?

Many times, yes, pets are permitted in assisted living residences. Ask about this when researching facility options, though, since there are exceptions.

At what age do people need assisted living?

The need for assisted living isn’t based on age, but rather the need for assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) and other caregiving needs. There’s no predetermined age at which someone needs this assistance, and some may never need it! However, the age range for assisted living residents tends to be between 65 and 85, while according to the same studies, the majority of assisted living residents are 85+.

Additional Reading: Research ALFs Near You

If you’re ready to begin your search for an assisted living facility, we encourage you to use our comprehensive directory to locate facilities near you.

However, if you’re still in the initial research process, LTC News has several other resources that can be of use to you on your journey in long-term care.

  1. Cost of Care Calculator - learn the median cost of assisted living in your state.
  2. Long-Term Care Insurance Cost - learn about Long-Term Care Insurance and how it can be an excellent way to pay for care.
  3. Assisted Living vs. Nursing Homes - our deep dive into the differences between these facility types.
  4. Assisted Living and Memory Care Facilities - a primer on these two facility types.
  5. Ways to Keep Your Loved One Happy in a Nursing Home or Assisted Living - strategies for helping your loved ones.
  6. Adjusting to Assisted Living - a relocation specialist talks about ways to help a loved one adjust to their new life in an assisted living facility.
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