What is a Residential Care Facility?


Residential Assisted Living, also called “RAL” means care provided in a house in a residential neighborhood. The next-door neighbors are families with driveways and backyards.

Residential care means that the senior care home maintains a location in a neighborhood where other residential homes are also located. Because the location is in a residential area, there are special zoning requirements that allow the home to have multiple adults living there and for it to operate more like a business while being in a neighborhood. The term “residential assisted living” commonly will be used as another name for this type of senior care home because it will be a home in a residential neighborhood with caregiving staff to assist with your daily living.

Remember the television show called “Golden Girls”? Think of a Residential Care Facility, or RAL, as just like this sitcom, with the addition of a cook, housekeeper, gardener, nurse and caregiving staff.


Residential Care Facility Benefits

A residential care home will often be the best choice for seniors with memory loss. This is because they will still feel like they are living in a home, allowing them to more easily connect with the familiarity of activities of daily living, unlike the experience delivered when moving into a 500 or larger unit high-rise assisted living building. The warmth of a smaller community of residents and consistent caregiving and residential homeowners helps deliver a peaceful setting. When there are lots of different staff members each day, it will be hard for even those without memory loss to not remember daily routines. Usually, there will be less than 12 residents and many residential care homes will have only 6 to 8 residents. Some states mandate that there may not be more than a certain number of residents in the residential care facility. As you continue learning about the benefits of a residential care facility for the elderly, remember that this brings a newer long-term care option to the industry. Remember that the difference between residential care vs. a nursing home is just that RAL homes are like the "Golden Girls" television sitcom, living in a real home as a senior, with the advantage of caregiving services.


How are Residential Care Home or RAL Caregiver Staff Trained?

RAL caregiver training requirements are established as part of the state licensing requirements. Most states that have established Residential Care Home licensing do mandate training for at least 8 hours. States such as California do have specific Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly (RCFE) training for caregivers. The training requires about 20 hours of education on topics related to assisting with daily activities of living along with understanding age-related illnesses such as memory loss. Then annual training will be required for caregivers working Residential Assisted Living. Residential care homes for the elderly are designed to deliver both a better social environment and better care in the smaller community setting.

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Questions On Residential Care Homes Answered


Nursing Homes vs. Residential Care Facilities?

Residential care homes are designed to be a home that provides care and are located in a residential neighborhood. There are certain zoning requirements that allow them to still operate as a licensed care home, without needing to be in a commercially zoned district for business purposes. Many times real estate investors will be attracted to investing in a residential care home that will preserve and remodel a home that will also deliver a positive service to the community. Sometimes there are tax benefits to developing residential care homes in neighborhoods that may need a little bit of revitalization. Not only does the home receive a makeover, but jobs are now created to help the community. Sometimes nurses who want to also deliver quality care will bring together other senior care professionals and investors to open a residential care home where the residents become part of their extended family.

Are Board and Care homes the same as Residential Care Homes?

Yes, sometimes a Board and Care Home means a private-pay Residential Care Home. However, sometimes “board and care” will be a home that receives funding by the government and will only be able to accept residents who qualify based on disabilities or very low income along with care needs if they are a senior.

Common Residential Assisted Living Services

Residential care homes, just like Assisted Living Communities, provide a safe home for a senior who needs more care to live. A private room, meals, and assistance with Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s) are provided along with an engaging social life of activities. A social life will evolve around the small group of other residents and include entertainment, education and emotional support. Caregivers are included with RAL homes, where Assisted Living Communities will instead require the senior resident to separately hire a caregiver if they need more help. Residential Care Homes (RAL’s) also allow the resident to know the director and owners because of the small size.

How much do the RAL or Board and Care Homes Cost?

The cost to move into your own private room at a Residential Care Home (RAL) will vary based on the location. Usually, the minimum will be close to $4,000 per month. In some states with a lower cost of living, you will be able to find a RAL home for between $2,500 and $3,000 but may need to chip in for some extra service items. Sometimes additional services are priced separately from the monthly care home rent. Seniors who need more care will have the benefit of receiving both care services along with all the needs for daily living (food, laundry, activities) and not needing to be concerned about any home maintenance or housekeeping. And, everyone will know your name.

Are there other names for Residential Care Facilities?

Common terms used to describe Residential Care Homes, or Residential Assisted Living (RAL) are:

  • Residential Care Facility

  • Board and Care Home

  • Residential Care Home

  • Residential Assisted Living Community

  • RAL Home

Factors to Consider When Looking at Residential Care Homes:

  • Number of Residents

  • Activities

  • Meal Plan Options

  • Hours of Caregiving Services Included

  • Visitor Hours and Rules

  • Longevity of Staff (Staff Turnover)

  • Hospital and Medical Doctor Travel Time

Ownership of the care home also should be considered. Many Residential Assisted living homes are owned by individuals who actually operate the home and others are owned by investment groups. You'll have more sophisticated policies and procedures with a corporate care homeownership and have the ability to directly communicate with individual owners which could be an advantage. However, it will also be important to like the approach to care an individual owner offers as it may be hard to impact change. Personalities matter more in small residential care homes as the senior will be aging-in-place with this chosen family. Ask questions about how problems are addressed and think through all the possibilities of what could be an issue outside of quality caregiving services.

Caregivers seeking to work in a Residential Care Home (Residential Assisted Living or RAL), may become trained as a professional senior caregiver first.

We'll Help You Find Residential Care Homes in Your Area

Learn more about senior care services near you by submitting a request for care to learn options for senior care. One of the advantages of RAL homes is the ability to be in a more personal community, but this is also a limitation as they are not yet available in all communities.

Medical Needs

What does residential care provide for someone who has more medical care requirements? Usually these residential care homes for the elderly are able to offer customized care, with a Registered Nurse (R.N.) to manage the care and private-duty caregivers to provide the one-on-one care. This means seniors who have been prescribed physical exercise routines, frequent medications and may need other medical equipment installed will have a support staff to assist them. In addition, board and care homes for seniors will deliver a more enjoyable social life which helps everyone to better thrive, regardless of the healthcare challenges. A residential care facility for the elderly will be designed to make easy for seniors in wheelchairs or with other medical equipment requirements to safely reside in the board and care facilities.


What does residential care provide as far as extra services and amenities that are available? Usually every possible option for healthy aging will be included. This means activities and excursions. Regular events will be held. Hair and nail care, massage care and other extras usually will be options for scheduling at a residential assisted living community. One of the benefits of a residential care facility vs. a nursing home would be the home atmosphere and the availability of the relaxing features that make home feel like home, such as a library for reading, perhaps an aquarium with fish or a cat or dog as a pet and an outdoor area for relaxing and enjoying nature.

Social Life

What is residential care social life like? As these are smaller homes, you'll find they provide a tighter community of regular caregivers and residents. You'll be joining a group of seniors and caregivers who will become like a family to you. One of the differences between assisted living and residential care are the benefits of a more personal care experience in a smaller residential care home. The homes are also designed to be like a home in a residential neighborhood, as that is one of the requirements for the real estate zoning for residential care homes for the elderly. You'll be part of a residential neighborhood where people live and have all those social life benefits, such as a neighborhood park, churches and the local politics. You will celebrate birthdays and holidays with the other residents in a small setting that will allow you to truly get to know everyone.

Paying for Residential Assisted Living

What does residential assisted living cost? It just depends on what state you are located in and the level of your care needs, however, you can plan on a residential assisted living home to cost between $2500 and $5000 per month. Usually, the recommendation is to have at least $3,000 per month available for living in a RAL community. You will receive food and transportation and not need to worry about the costs of upkeep for a home. You'll also have the added benefit of a regular dedicated team of caregivers at a smaller residential care home for the elderly.

Find Out If a Residential Care Home is Right for You or Your Loved One

What does resident care provide? By now you understand the real benefit the RAL communities deliver is having a living experience that mirrors living in a home with a dedicated team of professionals who provide the care. Many times the R.N. or Director who manages the care also is an owner of the residential care home. This means there is no bureaucracy to deal with and you can always give feedback and enjoy having your voice heard.

Resources for Residential Care for the Elderly Caregivers

Learn more about senior caregiver training to become a RAL caregiver.