A Guide to Different Assisted Living Community Types

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All assisted living facilities offer communal living, but their physical settings vary widely. Here are the main types:

Apartment-Like Living
Many residential care communities are in large complexes where residents rent an apartment with a small kitchen and private bath. They also offer communal dining and shared activity rooms, such as libraries and fitness facilities. About 68 percent of residents live in facilities with 50 or more people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The biggest places typically are part of for-profit chains, including the three largest, Atria, Brookdale, and Sunrise.

Small Group Homes
Sometimes called board and care, these assisted living residences offer a more intimate, homelike feel, housing just four to 25 people. These smaller places are often located in residential neighborhoods, where seniors can rent single rooms, share common spaces, and dine together.

Why Making Friends and Fitting In Are Essential

The right assisted living facility will help your parent feel comfortable and stay engaged, which can improve health and happiness

A particular assisted living facility might look like a solid choice based on location, care services, and your family’s finances. But what’s also important is finding a good fit for yourself, or for Mom or Dad, a place where you or they can feel comfortable socially and make new friends. “A person’s physical and psychological well-being can be improved by staying active and engaged,” says Carolyn McClanahan, a financial planner and doctor in Jacksonville, Fla. Here are tips for finding a good match:

Use Your Instincts
Look for activities and facilities—such as field trips, a book club, or a pool—that your parent(s) might enjoy with others who have similar interests. Consider the size of the residence, its appearance, and how you see staff members interacting with residents and each other. For a potential resident, “sometimes it is just kind of a gut instinct: Do I feel comfortable here?” says Stephen Maag, a director at LeadingAge, an association of not-for-profit senior-care groups.

Visit Strategically
To really get a feel for a place, talk to as many residents as possible and make multiple visits at different times. Arrange for Mom or Dad to observe or participate in one or two activities that are appealing. Consider an overnight visit, if offered.

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