Frequently Asked Questions

What is Assisted Living?

What is the difference between an assisted living home and a nursing home?

How does assisted living work?

An assisted living facility provides care to people who are having difficulty living independently, but do not need the daily nursing services provided in a nursing home. Assisted living providers furnish a place to live, meals, and assistance with daily activities, such as dressing and bathing, for individuals who generally have less complicated medical problems than people in nursing homes. Assisted living homes also tend to have a less institutional look than nursing homes.

There is a wide variety of assisted living facilities in Maryland. An assisted living residence can range from a large, corporate-managed facility where hundreds of people live in their own apartments to a small, private home in which the owners provide services to two residents who may share a bedroom. The best fit of an assisted living community is dependent on the resident and their needs. What all of these providers have in common, however, is they all offer their residents some level of assistance with their daily activities, like dressing, bathing and eating.

Who qualifies for assisted living?

While people often ask “Who is assisted living for?” and “Who lives in assisted living?” criteria for acceptance into an assisting living facility varies based on their level of care.

What are levels of care?

Assisted living facilities in Maryland are licensed to provide up to three levels of care. The levels correspond with how much assistance residents need. Licensure at level one means the provider is authorized to take care of residents with low care needs. (If a person is mentally sharp, only takes medication for arthritis she would be classified as needing a low level of care.) A level two license means the provider can also take care of residents with moderate care needs Level three license allows a provider to care for residents with high-level care needs (as well as residents with low or moderate needs). (A person would need a high level of care if he or she is mentally confused by dementia, has a complicated list of powerful medicines that must be given at different times each day, and requires assistance with bathing, walking, dressing, and toileting.)

Such a person could only be accepted by a provider with a level three license. Most providers are licensed at level three, which means they can accept residents with low, moderate, or high care needs. When assisted living is needed, if you have a progressive condition and do not want to have to move repeatedly, you should look for a provider with a level three license even if you only need a low level of care now.

Who pays for assisted living?

What is the cost of assisted living?

How much of assisted living is paid for by Health Insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid?

Almost all living services are paid for by residents (or their families) out of their funds. Long-term care insurance generally will pay for assistance, but the insurance must be purchased in advance and paid for from personal funds.

The cost of assisted living care varies depending on the provider and the different services they may offer, along with other factors such as location, lifestyle and staff to resident ratio.

Many people think Medicare or private health insurance help pay for assisted living and other long-term care services. This is wrong. Medicare and private health insurance usually will not pay for the costs of assisted living. If you have limited resources, Medicaid may provide financial assistance under certain circumstances. Ordinarily, Medicaid is available for long-term care only if you reside in a nursing home.

Assisted living in Maryland: Maryland has a new Medicaid program that can pay assisted living services if you meet its strict eligibility requirements. The new program is called the Medicaid Home and Community Based Waiver Services for Older Adults ("Medicaid Waiver Program"). It serves a limited number of people. If all the openings are filled, Medicaid will not be able to pay for your assisted living services.

What questions should I ask an assisted living facility?

It can be difficult to know where to start when faced with choosing an assisted living home for your loved one. To help simplify the process, check out our article outlining the 5 Steps To Choosing The Right Assisted Living

Dr. P. Heir

Sources: University of Maryland School of Law.