assisted living definition

Aware Senior Care has done a number of community panels, blogs and seminars all on the topic of “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”  We address the situation where you or a loved one may be concerned living at home is no longer a viable or safe option because you need assistance.  You would like to stay in your home but maybe moving to an assisted living community is a better choice. What’s the definition of assisted living?

Better yet, If I do move, what are my options?  They include:

  • Moving in with family (In-law apartments, Granny pods)
  • Cohousing Communities
  • Family Care Homes
  • Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC)
  • Independent Living
  • Assisted Living Facilities (ALFs)
  • Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs)-long term bed
  • Memory Support Units in ALF or SNF

I myself went through an exhausting process of evaluating and visiting independent and assisted living communities to help my mother Emily move from her home.  You can read about her journey on our blog called “My Mother Emily”, a seven part Blog series illustrating her journey from home, to family care home to assisted living.

The focus of this blog is to educate you on these communities. What is an assisted living community and when could it be the right fit?

The majority of the information in this blog is from our friends from and is being shared with their permission. is a leading senior care resource for family caregivers seeking information and support as they care for aging parents, spouses and other loved ones.

They have been featured by AARP, The Administration for Community Living, The National Legal Resource Center, and Forbes, as well as referenced by many governmental agencies and organizations across the Internet.

what is assisted living

What is Assisted Living?

It is a type of care for older adults who need help with normal daily activities and receive care in a residential facility. To better understand what it is, it can be helpful to define what it’s not.

It is not a nursing home or a setting where residents need round-the-clock medical care. Instead, seniors in assisted living receive personal care and assistance with activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, grooming and toileting so that they’re able to live as independently as possible.

What’s more, a look around a typical community will reveal something far different from the clinical setting many imagine when they hear the words “retirement home.” While each community is different, assisted living facilities in the U.S. today typically offer a wide range of convenient services, comforts, amenities and enriching activities to ensure residents get the help and care they need, in a setting they can call “home.”

While there is no federal definition of “assisted living” in the U.S., the term generally refers to a type of personal care for people who need assistance with various activities of daily living — such as dressing, bathing and grooming — in order to live as independently as possible. In other words, aside from a little help here and there, they are in control of their lives.

Assisted living care is typically provided in long-term residential facilities, where mostly elderly residents live and receive daily care and services from on-site staff. Unlike skilled nursing care, assisted living does not include medical care services (such as managing catheters, IVs or dressing wounds).

what is independent living

Who is a Good Candidate for Assisted Living?

Assisted living falls somewhere between an independent living community and a skilled nursing facility in terms of the level of care provided. Specifically, the person in your care needs help with the basic activities of daily living (bathing, dressing, grooming, walking, managing medications, toileting, and eating). Or they may eventually need that help somewhere down the line. They may find this support at a good assisted-living community.

If an older adult has a serious medical condition that requires specialized care, assisted living may not be the right choice, although some assisted-living communities do have specialized wings that provide skilled nursing or Alzheimer’s care.

Care, Services and Amenities

Today’s senior assisted living communities offer a wide variety of services and amenities to their residents. Oftentimes less expensive than skilled nursing facilities or in-home care, most assisted living communities have a full, round-the-clock staff trained to assist residents with a variety of daily activities, from eating, bathing and dressing to medication management, toileting and help with incontinence. Many assisted living centers also provide specialized care for residents with dementia.

Although of the definition of assisted living is consistent, the concept goes by different names in different states. Additionally, licensing requirements will vary. Here in our assisted living directory, you’ll find assisted living providers, personal care homes, board and care homes and Alzheimer’s care facilities.

Most facilities also provide housekeeping, three daily meals plus snacks, scheduled transportation, health and exercise programs, and a host of organized health activities and events. Many communities feature on-site amenities like gyms, swimming pools, common areas for socializing, beauty salons, pharmacies, libraries, pets and more.

Types of Care Provided

Since these communities are not regulated nationally, each state differs in services and standards. Some states, for example, require assisted living staff members to undergo more than 24 hours of training. Other states have zero training requirements.

Still, there are a number of standard services provided to residents at the vast majority of communities across the U.S. These include personal care services in the form of assistance with activities of daily living such as:

  • Eating
  • Dressing
  • Grooming
  • Bathing
  • Toileting
  • Walking
  • Medication management

In addition to personal care, just about every community in the country offers the following services:

  • Meals
  • Scheduled Transportation
  • Housekeeping
  • Cleaning services
  • Organized activities

While some of these services are included in a resident’s monthly payment, others will cost more. It’s important to check with community staff about any additional fees.

Looking for Assisted Living in North Carolina?

Families looking for assisted living in North Carolina (NC) have a wide array of communities to choose from. It’s estimated that there are more than 30,000 assisted living communities serving seniors across the U.S., and over 561 statewide. The state is also home to a rapidly growing number of senior citizens. Adults over 65 make up an estimated 15.9 percent of the population. A resident in an assisted living community in North Carolina will pay $3,250 per month on average.

Click HERE to visit the Caring.Com website to get a list of assisted living communities with family reviews and ratings.

North Carolina Division of Health Service Regulation – Adult Care Licensure Section

To assist consumers in making informed decisions regarding care options and provide information regarding the inspections in adult care facilities.

The following resources are available:

  • Statement of deficiencies or inspection reports by DHSR
  • Star Rating
  • Any penalties imposed in the previous 36 months for each adult care facility.

Click HERE if you would like to visit the NC DHSR site and search on assisted living facilities by county, city or facility name.  It is a good move on your part to research ALFs. Review any deficiencies reported and investigated by the DHSR.  DHSR has a system called STAR Ratings that indicate the quality of care by the facility. is a leading senior care resource for family caregivers seeking information and support as they care for aging parents, spouses and other loved ones. We have been featured by AARP, The Administration for Community Living, The National Legal Resource Center, and Forbes, as well as referenced by many governmental agencies and organizations across the Internet.