What type of facility or service is right for me or a loved one?

Guide to types of homes



Georgia’s growing senior population has fueled explosive growth in care facilities. As a result, seniors and their families can face bewildering choices. The first step for many consumers is determining which type of facility is the right match for a family member’s needs.

Independent Living housing complexes are for older adults who have an independent lifestyle. These communities may offer social activities, housekeeping services, transportation and communal dining options.

Personal Care Homes provide housing, meals and help with daily living activities such as bathing, dressing and toileting. Trained workers known as proxy caregivers can make sure residents take medications as prescribed, but they may not administer most medications. Residents must be able to walk or to self-propel a wheelchair. These facilities are not for those who require chronic care or bed restraints. Facilities with 25 beds or more are generally private pay.

Assisted Living Communities provide housing, meals and help with daily living activities such as bathing and dressing. They have certified medication aides, nurses or other licensed health care professionals to administer medications. Residents must be able to assist in self-preservation in the event of an emergency. This means bed-bound residents are generally not accepted unless a facility obtains a special waiver. Georgia began licensing these facilities in 2012. The facilities are private-pay residential homes, and this type of care is not covered by health insurance but may be covered by long-term care insurance.

Life Plan Communities, formerly known as Continuing Care Retirement Communities, contract with residents to provide care in stages, from independent living, to assisted living, to nursing homes. Residents move from one type to another based on their needs. Residents generally pay large entrance fees in exchange for being guaranteed care at all levels provided by the community.

Memory care services are available at assisted living communities and personal care homes if they meet additional state requirements. These specialized units are for people diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or other types of dementia who may be at risk of unsafely wandering outside the facility (eloping). Among the additional requirements that took effect in 2009, these homes must provide therapeutic activities, and staff must meet additional training requirements.

Respite care is temporary residential care that provides a break to a family caregiver. Personal Care Homes and Assisted Living Communities may offer this short-term service, and there are also in-home respite services.

Adult day care, nonresidential services in a group setting for people age 60 or older, is available at facilities licensed by the Department of Community Health. Georgia began licensing these in 2015.

Nursing homes, sometimes referred to as a skilled nursing facilities, provide around-the-clock health care services under the supervision of registered nurses and physicians. A nursing home is a step below a hospital. Medicare covers up to 100 days in a skilled nursing facility for each spell of illness. Qualified patients who need long-term care may also be covered by Medicaid.


To find elder care resources and get help determining what type of care is appropriate:

Contact Empowerline, which serves the 10-county Atlanta region and features a comprehensive database of local services and supports available for older adults and individuals with disabilities. Empowerline's information and referral services are provided at no cost through the federally authorized network of Aging and Disability Resource Centers. Certified professionals and online resources are at empowerline.org or by calling 404-463-3333.

To find similar agencies out of the Atlanta area, go to the Georgia Aging & Disability Resource Connection.

» The AJC’s ‘Unprotected’ series on senior care facilities

» The AJC’s consumer guide to senior care