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Assisted Living Facilities (ALF) are intended for those individuals that require assistance with Activities of Daily Living (ADL) (i.e. bathing, toileting, ambulating, self administration of medications etc.).

Assisted Living or Assisted Living Facilities (ALF) usually refers to a non-institutionalized facility that is used by people who are not able to live on their own, but do not yet need the level of continuous nursing care that a nursing home offers [1].

ALF's can be anywhere from a small residential house for 3 residents up to very large facilities providing services to hundreds of residents. Most states have enacted laws governing these facilities and have also recognized that these facilities play an important role in caring for the elderly that is not filled by the traditional nursing home or retirement home. New Mexico has even published a long range plan that incorporates Assisted Living Facilities in a key role of independent living. They state that "we must continue the movement towards home- and community- based services and away from institutionalized care" (p. 38, State of New Mexico 2006 Comprehensive Strategic Health Plan)

People who live in newer model assisted living facilities usually have their own private apartment. There is usually no special medical monitoring equipment, nor 24-hour nursing staff, that you would find in a nursing home. However, trained staff are usually on-site around the clock to provide other needed services. Where provided, private apartments generally are self contained; ie; having their own small kitchen, bathroom, living area, and bedroom. Alternatively, individual living spaces may resemble a dormitory or hotel room consisting of a private or semi-private sleeping area and a shared bathroom. There are usually common areas for socializing, as well as a central kitchen and dining room for preparing and eating meals.

A typical assisted living facility resident would be a woman in her mid to late 80's who does not need the intensive care of a nursing home but prefers more companionship and needs some assistance in day to day living.

Someone who lives at an assisted living facility would not have to be concerned with having to prepare meals every day because there is a central kitchen and dining facility that they can take advantage of. The central dining facility also allows for visiting with others without having to leave home. This greatly reduces the isolation that elderly, disabled or handicapped people suffer when living alone and who are afraid (usually for physical reasons) to leave their homes.

More recently built facilities are designed with an emphasis on ease of use by disabled people. Bathrooms and kitchens are designed with wheelchairs and walkers in mind. Hallways and doors are extra-wide to accommodate wheelchairs. These facilities are by necessity fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) or similar legislation elsewhere.

The socialization aspects of Assisted Living Facilities are very beneficial to the occupants. Normally the facility has many activities scheduled for the occupants, keeping in mind different disabilities and needs.

Many ALF's also serve the needs of the mentally ill community, primarily people with dementia or Alzheimer's disease, but also others as long as they do not present an imminent danger to themselves or others. In the United States, legislation enacted by each state defines not only the level of care, but often what conditions are prohibited from being cared for in such a home. Florida is a state that has the most relaxed legislation, allowing care that other states specifically restrict. Owners of Assisted Living homes need to undergo a strict inspection process in order to be certified by the state they intend on doing business in.

Another term for this type of facility is an adult Residential Care Home.

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