Can Assisted Living Facilities Care for Sick Residents?

Assisted living facilities  (ALF) are are housing facilities for people with moderate disabilities. These facilities provide supervision or assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs); coordination of services by outside health care providers; and monitoring of resident activities to help to ensure their health, safety, and well-being.  Assistance may include the administration or supervision of medication, or personal care services provided by a staff person.

A nursing home, on the other hand, is a place of residence for people who require continual nursing care and have significant deficiencies with activities of daily living. Nursing aides and skilled nurses are usually available 24 hours a day. Residents include the elderly and younger adults with physical or mental disabilities. Residents in a skilled nursing facility may also receive physical, occupational, and other rehabilitative therapies following an accident or illness. Some nursing homes assist people with special needs, such as Alzheimer patients.

If a loved one suffers from an illness, should they be in an assisted living facility? Or a nursing home?

ALFs are happier, more active, and more desirable places to live.  The problem is that many ALFs are keeping residents (due to the profit motive) past the period of time for which they are trained and capable of providing needed care.  The scenario goes like this: A resident enters an ALF and needs help with food preparation and his medications. Two years pass and the same resident now has moderate dementia and needs help with ambulation (walking).  Most ALFs are not staffed and trained to care for this resident but want to continue receiving $3,000 to $4,000 per month for trying to do so.  Follow this link to determine the average cost for ALF facilities in your state.

At a recent annual meeting of the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists, a pharmacist told those in attendance that 42% of residents in ALFs have Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia, and half of the residents have 2 – 3 chronic conditions requiring medical attention.  Another speaker told the audience that some ALF residents are taking as many as 30 medications each day.

My Take:  Just because the ALF down the street was okay for your mother 6 months or 2 years ago, it may not be the place for her now that she has developed other medical problems of aging.  ALFs do not have the appropriately trained staff to provide the care your mother now needs.  Be proactive….find a good nursing home, move your mother, and watch that nursing home like a hawk!


Dan Frith
Dan Frith

Dan Frith has over 25 years of experience representing individuals and families in cases of medical malpractice throughout Virginia. He has been named "Best Medical Malpractice Attorney" by Roanoker Magazine and is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. To speak with Dan, contact him by email at