Can you be in a wheelchair in assisted living?
An important question that I faced when looking at support options for my aunt, who is just one of the 5 million Americans that rely on wheelchairs. 
Looking for assisted living is a bit trickier if you use a wheelchair, as many believe it is not possible to use them, but that isn’t necessarily the case, as I discovered.
I wanted to help others in the same position I was in, so created this guide.
Let’s get started!
What Are Assisted Living Facilities?
They provide some senior care and care for those with disabilities.
They are not the same as nursing homes. Things that residents can get help with include:
- Help with cleaning
- Laundry service
- Meal preparation
- Medication assistance such as monitoring and medication reminders
- Social activities
READ MORE: Can a Disabled Person Live on Their Own?
Who Benefits From Assisted Living
Assisted living benefits people with mobility or memory issues who still want to live a relatively independent lifestyle but need help with daily needs such as washing, reminders to take medication, home maintenance, and access to a medical alert system.
They can provide you with a supportive, secure environment that can ease anxieties and risks of depression.
Can Wheelchair Bound Use Assisted Living Facilities?
Yes, wheelchair users can use assisted living communities however not all facilities will accept them and it will depend on your level of independence.
However, this is becoming less of a barrier as challenges have been made and upheld saying denying someone who relies on a wheelchair violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
There are still some criteria that include:
- Residents must be capable of getting around without assistance
- You must be able to get in and out of bed with the help of just one person
In general, you must still be capable of doing most daily tasks without any or minimal help. Thankfully, my aunt fit this criteria and was delighted that she could get the help she needed without sacrificing her independence.
Assisted Living Benefits For Wheelchair Users
Wheelchair users can enjoy several benefits by living in an assisted living community. The worry and stress caused by having a problem with no one around are alleviated.
Facilities are already in place that can help you with daily living such as modified apartments. This can eliminate the need to modify your home and the high costs that come with it.
You will also have access to an emergency medical alert system, so you can get help quickly if needed.
Accessibility aids and regular home equipment, such as the oven and windows are maintained by the facilities, so you don’t need to worry about repairing them if they break.
As a wheelchair user, you might have to visit a physiotherapist regularly. Many facilities have this sevice on site, saving you from traveling to appointments.
You also will get help with washing your clothes, bathing, and meals. Finally, you can get assistance with essential shopping and get dressed and undressed.
One benefit that my aunt really loved was the social aspect. She found it hard to get out and was living alone. It got pretty lonely.
When she moved to assisted living she really enjoyed the on-site activities and spending time with other seniors living there.
Harvard Medical School geriatrician, Dr. Suzanne Salamon, states that “If you’re unable to get out then you can’t go shopping, you can’t go out with your friends to eat dinner or go to the movies, and you become dependent on other people to get you places. So you become a recluse, you stay home, you get depressed” 
While the other assistance is a game changer when it comes to improving quality of life, being able to socialize and prevent isolation, is one of the biggest benefits of assisted living for wheelchair users in my opinion.
Check out this video to learn more.
Assisted Living Mobility Restrictions
Wheelchair users will find that assisted living homes have restrictions on their level of mobility in order to accommodate you.
These are primarily for safety reasons as they do not provide the level of care some people need. For example, if you need the help of more than one person to get out of bed, the facility is unlikely to be able to offer you accommodation.
The above will also apply to daily living activities such as assistance washing or using the bathroom. People with more severe mobility restrictions such as these will find that the intensive care levels of nursing homes are more suitable.
So if an assisted living facility isn’t quite suitable are there other options? Yes, there is a different level of help, which I’ll take a look at next.
What Options Do Wheelchair Bound Have For Assisted Living?
There are different types of assisted living, which include assisted living facilities, which most people probably have heard of.
However, there are also home care and independent living communities, which I didn’t know much about until doing research for my aunt.
Here, I’m going to briefly explain the differences.
1. Independent Living Community
An independent living community offers the lowest level of assistance care and a good house option for those that still have active lifestyles. They provide residents with the most sense of independence.
Residents live in their own private homes but can access the shared community areas with social activities and other conveniences.
These communities are most suitable for those that can still live independently but want to have some conveniences. They are great for those that have trouble getting out and preventing isolation as they provide daily activities.
You will not get help in the communities with daily necessities such as getting out of bed and bathing. They are the least expensive of the three here and a popular option for seniors.
2. Home Care
Home care is a service that allows you to continue living in your own home. It is a great option for those who want to stay where they are familiar with and want to control their own schedules.
With this option help with medical care and everyday tasks is provided. However, round-the-clock care is often not possible.
Another problem with this option is it that is extremely costly, making it out of reach for most people, especially long term. It is helpful for those who want to recover at home but need extra care after a hospital stay.
3. Assisted Living Facility
This is the type of living space that I’ve focused most on here and what is most relevant to many wheelchair users.
So long as you meet certain mobility abilities, residents here get help with several necessary daily tasks and access to activities and socializing. They provide support while still fostering independence.
They are more expensive than independent living communities and provide more support to residents. This makes them more expensive, so if you don’t need help with daily tasks an independent living community might be a more suitable option.
4. Veterans Affairs
Veterans Affairs has programs that will help veterans with the costs of care facilities, including assisted living.
They also have two Armed Forces retirement communities dedicated to veterans, one in Washington DC and the other in Gulfport, Mississippi. These communities provide assisted living.
What Is The Cost of Assisted Living For Wheelchair Bound?
When doing research, I found the cost of assisted living varied greatly with monthly costs from $1,500 to over $8,000 with the average around $4,300.
The cost will depend on what the individual facility offers, the location, and what levels of help you require.
There are financial supports that you might be eligible for if you or your family cannot afford to take on the entire cost. These are:
- Medicaid – this assistance is for those on low incomes. It can help with some assisted living costs. However, what the program covers will be different in each state.
- Medicare – Medicare is a health care program for seniors who are at least 65 years old. However, it is limited mostly to help with home care for specific needs such as the occasional nursing and therapies.
- Social Security – Social security has two different programs of supplementary payments for those over the age of 62. These payments can go towards the cost of assisted living facilities.
- HUD and Subsidized Housing – This program will vary from state to state and will help with affordable housing, including support facilities. HUD is in high demand, so you need to apply well in advance, as you can be waiting a couple of years.
How much you get will depend on your state’s program and your income.
So what type of care should you choose and how do you pick one? Let’s take a look.
Should Wheelchair Users Choose a Dedicated Assisted Living Facility?
Wheelchair users don’t necessarily need to choose a dedicated assisted living facility. If you don’t need help with daily tasks but want easy access to socializing and activities then independent living is likely more suitable.
However, if you need some daily assistance and want the peace of mind of a medical alert system, a dedicated facility is a good option. It will cost less than home care options and prevent isolation.
Dedicated facilities have the necessary features that you need, such as ramps, other mobility aids, and access to common areas.
How To Choose Assisted Living Facility for Wheelchair Users
Now that you know the answer to ‘Can you be in a wheelchair in assisted living?’ There are a few important things you can do that will help you choose the right facility.
Find Out What Supports Your State Offers
The first step is to research the supports available in your state and what you are eligible for. A good place to start is to speak with your health care provider and local advocacy groups for those with disabilities.
Advocacy groups can help you ensure that your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act are protected and will know which facilities can accommodate you.
Find Out The Services Each Facility Offers
When looking into the facilities that interest you, you will notice that they offer different levels of personal care services. Look for a facility that provides the care you need and a good, interesting social calendar.
Some will offer more specific support for wheelchair users. Look for facilities that make focus on wheelchair users important as they will have the high levels of care that you will need.
Safety and Accessibility
As a wheelchair user, you will need more space so that you can comfortably get around. This means you want facilities that have what you need such as wide doors and halls. Excellent wheelchair accessibility is one area the facility must have.
Also look for high-level accessibility aids, such as secure grab bars, lifting aids, and call systems.
A facility that provides on-site physiotherapy can be very beneficial to the wheelchair-bound. Some will offer a physical therapist service once a week, while others will offer it multiple times a week.
Look for a facility that provides this service according to your needs.
Some services provided by assisted living facilities include transportation to appointments or recreational activities. Make sure the facility you choose has transport that can accommodate wheelchair users.
Also Check: Can People in Wheelchairs Have Kids?
How long should a resident be in a wheelchair for?
The National Council on Aging states that residents should “reposition their body at least once every ninety minutes to two hours” and “should remain in the wheelchair for no longer than three to four hours without transferring to different positions” 
Where do people in wheelchairs live?
Wheelchair users live in their own homes which will be specially adapted to their needs, or in one of the different levels of assisted living. As far as locations, the most wheelchair-accessible cities include Orlando, FL, Lubbock, TX, and Winston-Salem, VA.
What is the difference between nursing homes and assisted living?
Assisted living provides a more home-like, independent environment with your own private apartment and some support, while nursing homes provide 24-hour supervision and you don’t have your own cooking facilities. Nursing homes also provide more skilled nursing care.
Can you be in a wheelchair in assisted living? Yes, absolutely, it is no longer an issue due to challenges against facilities not allowing users were found to be discriminatory and against the disabilities act.
However, you must meet certain criteria to use these facilities, like all residents, and choose the facility that best suits your specific needs.
1. MSc LII MD. Millions rely on wheelchairs for mobility, but repair delays are hurting users [Internet]. Harvard Health. 2022 [cited 2022 Sep 3]. Available from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/millions-rely-on-wheelchairs-for-mobility-but-repair-delays-are-hurting-users-202207212785
2. What You Need to Know About Assisted Living [Internet]. WebMD. Available from: https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/guide/assisted-living
3. Murray C. Assisted Living Facilities and Wheelchair-Bound Residents [Internet]. Caitlin Morgan Insurance Services. 2018 [cited 2022 Sep 3]. Available from: https://www.caitlin-morgan.com/assisted-living-facilities-wheelchair-bound-residents/
4. Two questions can reveal mobility problems in seniors [Internet]. Harvard Health. 2013 [cited 2022 Sep 3]. Available from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/two-questions-can-reveal-mobility-problems-in-seniors-201309186682#:~:text=%22If%20you
5. Armed Forces Retirement Home | Armed Forces Retirement Home [Internet]. www.afrh.gov. Available from: https://www.afrh.gov/aboutus/afrh