Assisted Living Overview

Getting In Assisted Living -- and Getting Out of It

Prior to being admitted by an assisted living facility, potential residents will be required to have a medical examination and other assessments. The physical exam will serve to establish that the applicant's needs can be met by the facility. People with serious health problems won't be admitted.

Additionally, people at the facility will assess the resident's ability for himself (or herself). This helps determine what services the resident may need and which ones are unnecessary. Behavioral screening may be provided to guarantee that extreme cognitive issues commonly associated with dementia, such as violent outbursts or confused wandering, aren't present.

While in care, residents may have regular checkups (how often this occurs varies state by state, and even within states). If these exams uncover new or advancing health issues, the resident may be required to leave and seek more advanced care elsewhere.

Residents must also frequently update their service contracts. This may occur once every three, six or 12 months, depending on the facility. If a physical exam reveals the resident will need a greater level of care, the contract must be reassessed to reflect the change in circumstances.

Assisted living care is rarely a permanent living situation. Most residents, as they age, will need higher levels of care. Many facilities are grouped together on a shared campus with nursing homes and independent retirement communities so the transition from one care provider to another will be as easy as possible.

These are known as continuing care retirement communities, or CCRCs. By grouping these facilities, residents are able to remain in the same location for the latter stages of life instead of moving from one part of town to another. CCRCs allow the retirement community resident to switch to a different level of care. Many CCRCs are maintained or operated by nonprofit organizations, such as religious groups.

Other times, a resident or the resident's family may run out of money to pay for care, requiring the resident to leave. When the decision isn't the patient's, state laws determine the amount of notice and method of notification needed to "evict" a resident. Typically, a 30-, 60- or 90-day notice must be given in writing, to both the resident and to the resident's family contact listed on the contract. If a resident becomes a danger to himself or others, the notification period of imminent eviction may be as short as three days.

Once a family or individual is satisfied that the right assisted-living arrangement is available, there are steps that must be taken to place a person in that facility's care.

For more articles on aging, try the links below.

­­Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • AA­RP. "Assisted Living: What to Ask." (March 9, 2009) ­­
  • AARP. "Long-term Care Insurance." (March 7, 2009)
  • Administration on Aging. "Housing." June 2, 2008. ­
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