Senior citizens who are having trouble caring for themselves at home increasingly look to an assisted living facility to meet their needs for housing and care.

An assisted living facility is licensed by the Department of Health to provide housing and meals to residents who need some supportive personal and health services, available 24 hours a day.

An assisted living facility provides an apartment with a private bathroom, a kitchenette and a lockable door, and is intended to promote “aging in place,” allowing residents to receive increasing services as their needs change for as long as possible. Assisted living facilities fill a gap for people who are no longer able to live entirely on their own, but who do not need or want nursing home care.

Assisted living facilities provide a level of care between independent living and nursing homes for those who need assistance with one or more activity of daily living, such as bathing or dressing, or other needs such as medication administration.

Assisted living facilities need only have a registered professional nurse “available” at all times, not necessarily present. The facility is required to have one awake staff member at all times and at least one additional employee on site.

Nursing homes, on the other hand, provide long-term skilled nursing care. Nursing homes are highly regulated, with requirements covering everything from staffing, dental care and pharmacy services to activities and laundry, all intended to ensure high quality health care.

Consumers often find themselves trying to make difficult choices when choosing a facility, without much understanding of what to look for and often without much time to deliberate. The Department of the Public Advocate has received complaints from consumers and advocates about the discharge processes followed by assisted living facilities and about their staffing. The Division of Elder Advocacy has been investigating Assisted Living Concepts, Inc. after receiving allegations that the company has been involuntary discharging its residents, after they have exhausted their life savings and have become eligible for Medicaid.

The Department of the Public Advocate conducted an investigation into the involuntary discharge practices of the assisted living provider Assisted Living Concepts. For more information on this investigation go to the NJ Department of the Public Advocate Assisted Investigation Archives. Note: the Department of the Public Advocate was eliminated by statute in June 2010.