How Does Assisted Living for Couples Work?


Certified Care Manager, Aging Life Care Professional, and National Master Guardian Emeritus

Finding an assisted living facility for you and your spouse can be done, and there are several different ways to do so. Knowing your options will help you make the best choice, as sometimes not all couples move to assisted living together. One partner may have significantly more needs, while the other partner wants to remain in the home. 

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There are also many other possibilities that each person rents their own space separately in the assisted living community. For example, a couple can rent a two-bedroom apartment where each one has their own bedroom or a shared bedroom in the same apartment.

As you can see, there are many different ways couples can live in an assisted living facility, and we will discuss the factors that go into making those decisions.

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Can Married Couples Live Together in Assisted Living?

Yes, married couples can live together in assisted living. In fact, many assisted living communities permit unmarried couples to live together. Some couples never got married, others are friends or relatives, and in other situations, they may be LGBTQ couples—married or unmarried.

What If the Couples Have Different Needs?

Couples with different needs are one of the driving forces behind decision-making when it comes to assisted living. Decisions can be incredibly heart-wrenching when one person in the couple has a cognitive impairment, and the other does not. For most couples, memory care is the best place for a person with dementia since it might not be possible to meet all their needs in assisted living or other senior housing options

The question then becomes does the other person move to assisted living to be near their spouse, or do they stay at home? It is often finances that drive this decision. If one spouse or partner has more medical needs, the choice might be easier, but there are still things to consider when deciding.

Here are some things worth considering:

  • Can you let the staff at the assisted living tend to your spouse’s needs? You may have been the primary caregiver, and giving up that responsibility and commitment can be more challenging than it first seems. 
  • How do you feel about aides coming in and out of your space? The disruption to your privacy might be something you didn’t consider.
  • Is your spouse going to continue to look to you to provide for his or her needs when you aren’t emotionally or physically capable of doing so?

What Couples Should Look for in an Assisted Living Facility

Couples will want to look for the same things in assisted living as other people, but with some differences. Obviously, the fact that there are two people may make it a bit more complicated. As a couple, you want to satisfy as many of your desires and needs as possible. And with couples, you can expect that there may be some conflict between the two of you. Not every couple agrees on the need for assisted living. One may be adamant about staying home and the other may want to go to assisted living.


Space is one of the more important considerations when looking for assisted living. Downsizing is inevitable in most situations, and even with that in mind, a move to a much smaller space can be stressful.

If you can afford it, renting the biggest space you can is probably a good idea. This gives each of you room for some privacy and alone time. If the two of you are accustomed to sleeping in separate bedrooms, consider a two-bedroom space.

In cases where there may not be a room with the space that you both prefer, you may want to think about the possibility later of a move to a larger room. Two-bedroom apartments can be in high demand, and there may be a waiting list. After years of living together in a home with multiple rooms and options for privacy, living in assisted living can be a stressful adjustment. 

The other consideration is common spaces. If the two of you end up in a more confined space than you wanted, you may need to get away from one another from time to time. This is normal and was probably a part of your life you didn’t even think about while in your home. Ask to see the common spaces like libraries or game rooms that are open to all residents at any time of day.

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Most assisted living communities designate a base rate and add additional costs depending on care needs. If you or your spouse needs help with bathing, dressing, or transferring from bed to standing or assistance to the bathroom, what will be the additional costs for that care? Paying for an assisted living facility might be a driving consideration in what you are willing to compromise in terms of space.

Larger rooms or spaces with two bedrooms will cost more. As you tour the facility and consider various spaces, don’t forget to look at features beyond size. In your zeal to get a larger room, you may neglect to consider other things like view or distance from the elevator. Try to get everything you want, but think about what you may need to compromise on. 

Hobbies and social preferences

Couples may have very different hobbies and social preferences. As you consider assisted living for the two of you, examine the activities calendar to ensure that both of your needs can be accommodated. One of you may have gone to the gym regularly. Some newer assisted living facilities have well-equipped gyms with open hours for residents. But, if that amenity is not available, what are your options?

Think about the availability of social interaction. Couples can vary significantly in their need for social connection, and you want to ensure that opportunities are available if that is important to you. Evaluate the social aspect by looking for group activities or informal gatherings like happy hour.

One of you may have enjoyed crafts or fixing things in a garage. Chances are there will have to be some compromise on activities that were easy to do at home. The last thing you want is to move to assisted living and feel bored and unstimulated. Make hobbies and social needs a priority when choosing an assisted living community.

What Questions Should Couples Ask an Assisted Living Facility Before They Move In?

Asking questions is a great way to assess whether an assisted living facility is right for the two of you. As you prepare, prioritize between the features and amenities that are most important to the two of you. You don’t want to find out after you have already moved in that your spouse is unhappy due to needs that aren’t met.

What is the process of transition to memory care?

One of the more stressful and heartbreaking situations between a couple is developing cognitive impairment. Memory problems and confusion can be a primary reason couples consider assisted living. As the caregiving spouse, you need help. With that said, most assisted living communities will accept someone with early dementia.

What is the transition to memory care if your spouse gets worse and assisted living can’t handle their care? What are the behaviors, care needs, and other factors that go specifically into that decision? And what will the cost for each of you be? If your loved one moves to memory care in the same community, will your rental fee reduce? 

Understanding what might prompt a request for memory care for your spouse can give you a roadmap of care. By focusing on your loved one’s needs, you may keep them in assisted living without moving to memory care. 

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Will there be a larger space available later?

Space might be a top priority for the two of you, but if circumstances dictate that you need to move soon, you may have to wait. If you are willing to move again later, get an idea of how long that will take and where you are on the waiting list for obtaining a bigger space. If you find that the smaller space is adequate, you can always change your mind, but be sure. Once you have given up that option, you will be even further behind.

What is the availability of care staff?

Each of you may have different care needs. In most assisted living communities, there is a limit to staff time and availability to meet everyone’s needs. Why is this important to ask? Because you may have to budget for additional private home care on top of the care that assisted living staff provides. These costs can add a significant amount to your monthly pricing. Budget for this possibility so there aren’t any surprises later. 

Are there flexible mealtimes?

At first glance, this may not seem that crucial. But, you might be surprised at how accustomed you have both become to eating when you want without regard to a schedule. More and more assisted living communities offer flexible meal times to accommodate these different preferences. You may also want to ask about snacks. Can you access those at any time? 

If one of you has special dietary requirements like a diabetic or vegetarian diet, are these available? One of the challenges for older adults who are vegetarian or even vegan is finding enough variety to meet their needs. Senior living communities are adapting to changing nutritional needs and wants, but some are more flexible than others. 

Assisted Living Options for Couples

Assisted living for couples can work very well. The process can feel chaotic and overwhelming, but you can both have a positive experience by prioritizing and compromising. Make sure to do research, visit a few locations, and ask questions to make an informed decision. It may end up being one of the best things you can do for yourself and your spouse.


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