Licensed Assisted Living vs. Unlicensed

Posted by: The Bristal

Dear Maryellen,

Is there a big difference between licensed and unlicensed assisted living communities? -Joel, Cold Spring Harbor, NY

Dear Joel,

I often answer this question with another question: Is there a big difference between licensed and unlicensed drivers? Absolutely. Licensing is evidence that the organization underwent rigorous standards implementations, facility improvements and staff skill building in order to qualify, and that the same must continue year after year in order to maintain that license. Licensing provides a comfort zone for your family that basic operational and policy controls are in place – procedures designed to keep your loved one safe, secure and cared for well.

Now, the extent to which a community meets or exceeds these standards determines the difference between a fine assisted living community and an excellent one. In other words, Joel, you still must do your homework.

Licensing oversight in New York State is managed by the New York State Department of Health, and they see to it that essential safeguards are in place for the well being of community residents. What are these safeguards? For more information on licensing standards and requirements, I suggest you start with the following two Web sites: The Empire State Association of Assisted Living at and The New York State Department of Health at – look for Assisted Living under the A-Z Index tab at the top.

Lastly, Joel, just a bit of horse sense. My rule of thumb is this: If you wouldn’t trust a child in the car of an unlicensed driver, why would you trust an elder’s care to an unlicensed senior living community? I wish you the best with your search.

Maryellen McKeon

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