Recently, federal researchers released initial findings of the first-ever nationally representative study of assisted living/residential care facilities and residents—officially titled the “2010 National Survey of Residential Care Facilities.” This is the largest study of the assisted living profession ever done by the federal government.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health Care Statistics conducted the data collection in an effort to gather information about the characteristics of residential care buildings and their residents.

Perhaps most significant was evidence of the growth of Medicaid’s role in assisted living. The study found that 19 percent of residents received Medicaid funding, and 43 percent of facilities had at least one resident receiving Medicaid assistance. Key findings also include the following:
  • In 2010, there were 31,100 residential care facilities (RCFs—the study’s term for assisted living) with 971,900 beds nationwide. Facilities exclusively serving adults with severe mental illness or developmental disabilities were excluded from the survey.
  • About one-half of RCFs were small facilities with four to 10 beds. The remainder comprised medium facilities with 11 to 25 beds (16 percent), large facilities with 26 to 100 beds (28 percent), and extra-large facilities with more than 100 beds (7 percent).
  • One-tenth of all RCF residents lived in small RCFs, and a comparable 9 percent lived in medium facilities, while the majority resided in large (52 percent) or extra-large (29 percent) RCFs.
  • Larger RCFs were more likely than small RCFs to be chain-affiliated and to provide occupational therapy, physical therapy, social services counseling, and case management.
The study found that RCFs were most commonly located in the Western region of the country (42 percent of all RCFs) and least commonly located in the Northeast (8 percent). In the West, there were 245 beds per 1,000 persons aged 85 and older, compared with 131 beds in the Northeast, 164 beds in the South, and 177 beds in the Midwest.

Thirty-seven percent of residents were receiving assistance with three or more activities of daily living. The study also found the following prevalence of common chronic conditions among residents, with half having at least three chronic conditions.
  • High blood pressure—57 percent
  • Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias—42 percent
  • Heart disease—34 percent
  • Depression—28 percent
  • Arthritis—27 percent
  • Osteoporosis—21 percent
  • Diabetes—17 percent
Thirty-nine percent of facilities provided skilled nursing services by registered nurses or licensed practical nurses for 13 percent of all residents. The provision of skilled nursing services did not vary by facility size, while the provision of occupational and physical therapy increased with facility size.