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If your loved one needs help with daily tasks but doesn't need intensive medical care, "assisted living" may be the answer. It's a way to let him live independently in a safe and caring atmosphere.

What's It Like?

Sometimes an assisted living home is part of a larger nursing care center or hospital, retirement community, or senior housing complex. Or it may be an independent place that isn't linked to other outfits.

Most people who live in assisted living are seniors. Some may have Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia. Others may have certain disabilities.

Residents have their own private apartment with a bedroom, bathroom, small kitchen, and living area. Or they can share an apartment with a roommate.

Most places also have common areas where people can socialize and do activities. So you can get privacy if you want it, but also a sense of community.

"Assisted living was founded on the principles of choice and independence," says Maribeth Bersani, senior vice president of public policy at the Assisted Living Federation of America. "Residents in assisted living live life the way they want to, with dignity and respect."

What Does It Offer?

Most assisted living homes have:

  • 24-hour supervision, assistance, and security
  • Three meals a day in a group setting
  • Help with personal care (bathing, dressing, eating, toileting)
  • Housekeeping and laundry
  • Medication reminders or help taking medicine
  • Health care management and monitoring
  • Things to do for fun
  • Social services
  • Exercise and wellness programs
  • Transportation

There are many benefits, especially if your loved one is living on his own now, says eldercare expert Barbara McVicker, host of the PBS television special Stuck in the Middle: Caring for Mom and Dad. Those benefits include:

Chances to socialize. Your loved one is less likely to be isolated or lonely.

Nutrition. Three balanced meals may offer better nutrition than if he cooks for himself.

Activity. Your loved one will have more chances for physical and mental stimulation.

Less stress. Your loved one's needs are taken care of, so there's less stress for family members.