Assisted living (AL) has existed in the United States for decades, evolving in response to older adults' need for supportive care and distaste for nursing homes and older models of congregate care. AL is state-regulated, provides at least 2 meals a day, around-the-clock supervision, and help with personal care, but is not licensed as a nursing home. The key constructs of AL as originally conceived were to provide person-centered care and promote quality of life through supportive and responsive services to meet scheduled and unscheduled needs for assistance, an operating philosophy emphasizing resident choice, and a residential environment with homelike features. As AL has expanded to constitute half of all long-term care beds, the increasing involvement of the real estate, hospitality, and health care sectors has raised concerns about the variability of AL, the quality of AL, and standards for AL. Although the intent to promote person-centered care and quality of life has remained, those key constructs have become mired under tensions related to models of AL, regulation, financing, resident acuity, and the workforce. These tensions have resulted in a model of care that is not as intended, and which must be reimagined if it is to be an affordable care option truly providing quality, person-centered care in a suitable environment. Toward that end, 25 stakeholders representing diverse perspectives conferred during 2 half-day retreats to identify the key tensions in AL and discuss potential solutions. This article presents the background regarding those tensions, as well as potential solutions that have been borne out, paving the path to a better future of assisted living.
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