Commonly called The Natural State, Arkansas boasts inviting Southern warmth, four distinct seasons, and an abundance of natural wonders including the famous Ozark Mountain range. This idyllic landscape and the state’s relatively low costs of living make it a common destination for retirees. However, there are many considerations that must go into an assisted living decision, and a thorough review of Arkansas’ overall senior living landscape is advisable.
Paying for Assisted Living in Arkansas
The Cost of Assisted Living
According to Genworth’s 2018 Cost of Care survey, Arkansas’ median cost for one month’s stay in a private, single room is nearly $1,000 less than the national average. Of the states that border Arkansas, only Missouri has a lower monthly cost at $2,844.
Fort Smith has the lowest average monthly cost for assisted living in the state – about $1,500 less than the state average and over $2,000 less than the national average. On the other end of the spectrum, Fayetteville’s average is about $300 more than the state average.
The average cost of assisted living in Arkansas compares favorably to the cost of nursing home and in-home care in the state. However, it is typically more expensive than adult day healthcare and independent living.
Financial Assistance for Assisted Living in Arkansas
Personal Care Medicaid
The DHS Division of Medical Services administers Personal Care Medicaid coverage to Arkansas citizens. This coverage is intended to provide hands-on assistance with activities of daily living for people who do not live in nursing homes or intermediate care facilities. ALF residents may receive personal care coverage if their facility is registered with the state Medicaid program as a personal care provider.
Who Is Eligible?
A physician will perform a medical needs assessment to be reviewed by staff nurses and physicians at Arkansas’ Office of Long-Term Care. Applicants of any age should be people who need assistance with at least one normal activity of daily living, such as eating, bathing, moving around on foot, or dressing.
Financial eligibility for state assistance is determined by The Division of County Operations.
- There is a $2,000 asset cap for individuals seeking Medicaid long-term care assistance.
- There is a $3,000 asset cap for couples.
- There is a general income cap of $2,250 for all individuals, though this cap is lower for people who receive Medicare part B benefits. Check the DHS Quick Reference Medicaid Chart to find out more.
How to Apply
To apply for benefits administered under the State Medicaid Program, applicants only need to fill out one application. To get more details about Medicaid eligibility requirements and start an application, contact your local county DHS office.
- Call (800) 482-8988 for information on eligibility and enrollment.
- Call (800) 482-5431 for information on services covered by Medicaid.
- For the hearing impaired, call: (800) 285-1131.
- View the DHS list of programs and services.
- Fill out an application: Arkansas DHS Long-Term Services and Supports Application.
PACE is Arkansas’ Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly. It provides financial coverage of all medical and personal care needs, allowing especially frail seniors to remain in their homes or in assisted living facilities rather than being institutionalized. This Medicare-directed program mostly serves residents who have dual eligibility for Medicaid and Medicare. For ALF residents, a live-in partner or family member must be available to provide a low level of personal care to supplement the services that PACE provides.
Who Is Eligible?
- People who are 55 or older
- People who live in the service area of a PACE organization
- Those who are eligible for nursing home care
- People who are able to live safely in their communities
How to Apply
To find out if you live in an area covered by PACE, please call (855) 207-7500 for counties in Northeast Arkansas and (501) 376-8852 for counties in Central Arkansas. Locate your county’s Area Agency on Aging for more information.
Assisted Living Choices Waiver
People who are nursing home-eligible and wish to reside in an assisted living facility may qualify for the Assisted Living Choices program. Assisted Living Choices is a Medicaid waiver which allows for 24-hour personal care services to be covered for a limited number of people, helping nursing home-eligible recipients avoid being institutionalized. Other forms of assistance are available through this program, including:
- Extended prescription drug coverage for non-Medicare residents
- Periodic nursing evaluations and services
- Medication oversight and administration
- Non-medical transportation
- Therapeutic, social, and recreational activities
Who is Eligible?
Those who require intermediate-level nursing home care are eligible, but individuals requiring skilled care are not. Adults who have no physical disabilities must be 65 or older to qualify.
- There is a $2,000 asset cap for individuals, and the assets of married couples are considered individually.
- Only countable assets are considered, including bank accounts, cash, and mutual funds.
- There is a $2,250 income cap for individuals, with no separately designated amount for couples.
How to Apply
Applications can be filed at your local Department of Human Services office, or the process can be initiated over the phone by calling the Choices in Living Resource Center at (866) 801-3435.
Supplemental Security Income
Medicaid and Medicaid waiver programs cannot pay for room and board in an ALF, but these costs are mitigated through legal restrictions for Supplemental Security Income recipients. The Arkansas State Medicaid Program helps to reduce the burden of room and board payments by limiting how much can be charged to SSI recipients for lodging.
Who is Eligible?
If assisted living residents receive Supplemental Security Income, they will automatically receive Medicaid with the benefit of mitigated room and board costs at ALFs. Their SSI is automatically applied to room and board costs up to a certain amount at ALFs. A small personal needs allowance is retained from their Supplemental Security Income for personal use.
How to Apply
Check your eligibility for Supplemental Security Income and fill out an application:
- Call (800) 772-1213.
- For the hearing impaired, call (800) 325-0778.
- Call or visit your local Social Security Office.
More Ways to Finance Assisted Living
Some additional ways to finance assisted living costs include:
- Veterans Benefits: Veterans can take advantage of several different pension programs to help cover the cost of assisted living. For more information, see the article on benefits.va.gov.
- Life Insurance Policies: Even if a spouse or loved one hasn’t died, certain types of life insurance policies can be used to pay for assisted living. More information is available at longtermcare.acl.gov.
- Long-Term Care Insurance: Long-term care insurance is a type of insurance policy that pays for long-term care when it becomes necessary, including the cost of assisted living. For more information on the benefits and drawbacks of this financing method, visit longtermcare.acl.gov.
- Reverse Mortgages: Reverse mortgages allow seniors to access the equity from a home that they own, and these funds can be used to pay for assisted living. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development offers a federally insured reverse mortgage program.
Free Assisted Living Resources in Arkansas
The Choices in Living Resource Center
The Choices in Living Resource Center is operated by the Arkansas Department of Human Services. At the Center, trained counselors take calls directly from the public regarding long-term care services and regulations. They work to minimize confusion and facilitate access to care.
- Visit www.choicesinliving.ar.gov.
- Call (866) 801-3435.
Arkansas Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program
Most states have a Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program operated by volunteers who are supervised by permanent staff. An ombudsman is considered an advocate for citizens in long-term care facilities, and will visit with LTC recipients to confirm that their treatment and environment are up to code. An ombudsman fields any concerns or complaints that residents of LTC facilities may have concerning their living conditions, and can connect them, if necessary, with regulatory agencies and legal services.
- Find your regional ombudsman online.
- Call (501) 508-8857.
The Senior Community Service Employment Program
This program helps people 55 and older who have poor employment prospects find part-time work through community or government agencies. Participants are paid the state or federal minimum wage, whichever is greater.
Who is Eligible?
- Arkansas residents who are 55 and older
- People who are not employed at the time of application
- Those who have an income at or below 125% of the HHS Poverty level
How to Apply
Contact the Little Rock Office of Adult and Aging Services by calling (501) 320-6573.
The Senior Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program
In Arkansas, low-income seniors can enroll to receive coupons for locally grown fruits, vegetables, honey, and fresh-cut herbs. Coupons can be used at local farmer’s markets, roadside stands, and community-supported agriculture programs.
The nutrition program is available in nine counties of northwest Arkansas: Benton, Carroll, Boone, Marion, Baxter, Washington, Madison, Newton, and Searcy.
Who Is Eligible?
- People 60 or older
- Seniors with an income within 185% of the poverty level
How to Apply
For information on enrollment, contact the Area Agency on Aging of Northwest Arkansas at: (870) 741-1144. To learn more about the program, visit the Senior Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) website.
LifeQuest of Arkansas
LifeQuest is a “lifelong learning” nonprofit that holds educational classes in Little Rock. The fees for their courses are designed to be affordable by people on fixed incomes, with tuition costs ranging from $35 to $65, and some potential for small fees in certain classes. The curriculum offered at LifeQuest is intended for seniors who are still active and curious, and subjects run the academic gamut. There is no homework and there are no quizzes, but courses are taught by volunteers who have a lifetime of expertise and achievement in their fields.
Arkansas Agencies on Aging by County
Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) is a network of hundreds of nonprofit organizations across America that provide federally funded services to adults over 60 in their various locales. Arkansas has many Area Agencies on Aging that offer comprehensive information on programs and community supports for seniors. Consult the table below to find your local point of contact for the AAA.
|Area Agencies on Aging||Address||Phone Numbers|
|The Area Agency on Aging of Northwest Arkansas||1510 Rock Springs Rd|
PO Box 1795
Harrison AR 72602-1795
|1 (870) 741-1144|
Toll Free: 1 (800) 432-9721
TDD: 1 (870) 741-1346
|White River AAA||3998 Harrison St.|
Batesville, AR 72501
|1 (870) 612-3000|
Toll Free & TDD: 1 (800) 382-3205
|East Arkansas AAA||2005 E. Highland/Fountain Sq.|
PO Box 5035
Jonesboro AR 72403
|1 (870) 972-5980|
Toll Free: 1 (800) 467-3278
|Area Agency on Aging of Southeast Arkansas||709 East 8th|
PO Box 8569
Pine Bluff AR 71611
|1 (870) 543-6300|
Toll Free & TDD: 1 (800) 264-3260
|CareLink, the Central Arkansas Area Agency on Aging||706 West 4th Street|
PO Box 5988
North Little Rock AR 72119
|1 (501) 372-5300|
Toll Free & TDD: 1 (800) 482-6359
|Area Agency on Aging West Central Arkansas||905 W. Grand Avenue|
Hot Springs AR 71913
|1 (501) 321-2811|
Toll Free: 1 (800) 467-2170
TDD: 1 (501) 321-2811
|Area Agency on Aging of Southwest Arkansas||600 Columbia Rd, 11E|
PO Box 1863
Magnolia AR 71754-1863
|1 (870) 234-7410|
Toll Free & TDD: 1 (800) 272-2127
|AAA of Western Arkansas||524 Garrison|
PO Box 1724
Fort Smith AR 72902
|1 (479) 783-4500|
Toll Free: 1 (800) 320-6667
Veterans’ Affairs by County
Arkansas has VA centers to help veterans and their spouses with financing options for various kinds of care. The Regional Benefit Office is located at 2200 Fort Roots Drive, Building 65, North Little Rock, AR 72114, and the phone number is: (877) 222-8387.
Social Security Offices by County
The federal website for the Social Security Administration offers information and links to help seniors maintain a healthy financial picture. On SSA.gov, there are options to:
- Apply for benefits
- Get your SSI statements electronically or order print copies
- Request a replacement Social Security card
- Find out if you qualify
- Estimate future benefits
Alternatively, you can visit one of the social security offices listed below.
|Social Security Office||Address||Phone|
|Batesville Social Security Office 72501||151 Dry Kiln Rd|
Batesville, AR 72501
|1 (866) 816-5651|
|Blytheville Social Security Office 72315||1403 S Division St|
Blytheville, AR 72315
|1 (866) 842-6638|
|Conway Social Security Office 72034||2475 Christina Ln|
Conway, AR 72034
|1 (800) 772-1213|
|El Dorado Social Security Office 71730||2600 W Hillsboro|
El Dorado, AR 71730
|1 (866) 526-9254|
|Fayetteville Social Security Office 72703||2153 E. Joyce Blvd.|
Fayetteville, AR 72703
|1 (877) 694-5493|
|Forrest City Social Security Office 72335||965 Holiday Dr|
Forrest City, AR 72335
|1 (866) 964-2043|
|Ft Smith Social Security Office 72903||6801 Dallas Street|
Ft Smith, AR 72903
|1 (866) 931-8374|
|Harrison Social Security Office 72601||131 W Industrial Pk Rd|
Harrison, AR 72601
|1 (877) 512-3851|
|Hot Springs Social Security Office 71913||112 Corporate Terrace|
Hot Springs, AR 71913
|1 (800) 772-1213|
|Jonesboro Social Security Office 72404||1809 Latourette Drive|
Jonesboro, AR 72404
|1 (866) 842-7369|
|Little Rock Social Security Office 72201||700 W Capitol Street|
Little Rock, AR 72201
|1 (866) 593-0933|
|Mountain Home Social Security Office 72653||955 Wallace Knob Rd|
Mountain Home, AR 72653
|1 (888) 226-3232|
|Pine Bluff Social Security Office 71601||3511 Market Street|
Pine Bluff, AR 71601
|1 (800) 772-1213|
|Russellville Social Security Office 72802||2708 E Parkway Drive|
Russellville, AR 72802
|1 (800) 772-1213|
|Searcy Social Security Office 72143||701 Airport Loop|
Searcy, AR 72143
|1 (800) 772-1213|
|Sherwood Social Security Office 72120||3608 East Kiehl Ave|
Sherwood, AR 72120
|1 (877) 512-3854|
|West Memphis Social Security Office 72301||202b Shoppingway Blvd|
West Memphis, AR 72301
|1 (866) 627-6994|
Assisted Living Laws and Regulations in Arkansas
The Arkansas DHS Office of Long-Term Care (OLTC) is responsible for licensing and regulating nursing homes and other care-oriented living arrangements. The OLTC, sometimes called “the Office”, administers and monitors the following regulatory practices, among many others.
Assisted Living Service Plans
An assisted living service plan is sometimes called a needs assessment or an Individual Service Plan (ISP), and the majority of ALFs use them. On entering into an assisted living arrangement, the facility’s administrators will coordinate a consultation with prospective residents or their representatives. Together, they will determine individual needs and desires. The service plan is a living document which is updated with annual or quarterly re-evaluations of a resident’s needs and the facility’s provisions.
Any residents who receive behavioral care must have goals and strategies included in their service plan, and the plan must be confirmed by a physician or behavioral healthcare provider. If the plan involves recurrent medication administration or other skilled nursing services, a nurse or medical practitioner must review and confirm the provisions.
The plan must include:
- A facility disclosure statement that establishes the form of care offered, treatment, staffing, an emergency preparedness plan, special services and related costs, and other information as required by law
- A description of the resident’s medical conditions, including any physical, cognitive or behavioral impairments
- The level and scope of services the resident receives
- A treatment and service schedule
Assisted Living Admission Requirements
To take up residence in an assisted living community, applicants must meet certain intellectual and physical requirements. This is an important part of independent, care-oriented living, as it keeps the resident safe and limits liability for the service provider. The Residential Care Compendium for Arkansas states that ALFs cannot accommodate residents who:
- Need 24-hour nursing services, except in cases where the resident is certified by a licensed home health agency for a maximum of 60 days with one 30-day extension
- Are bedridden, or who have terminal or long-term illnesses
- May be a danger to themselves or others
- Have transfer assistance needs beyond the ALF’s ability to accommodate, including assistance with emergency evacuation
By law, facilities must provide residents with an occupancy admission agreement prior to moving in or on their move-in date. This document will disclose things like financial policies and charges, rules and regulations for residents, and a full disclosure of the facility’s available services and emergency protocols.
Assisted Living Scope of Care
In Arkansas, ALFs may be classified as Level I or Level II. The level of care that a facility is equipped to provide will determine eligibility for residence based on applicants’ physical and intellectual capabilities. ALFs can provide personal care services through the Medicaid State Plan, and in Level II ALFs, more medically trained staff will be on hand.
The main differences between a Level I and Level II facility are:
- A Level I facility cannot serve residents who are nursing home-eligible, while a Level II facility may.
- A Level II facility must employ a consulting pharmacist.
- A Level I facility cannot provide significant medication assistance, while a Level II facility can provide direct care to help residents take their medicines.
Both Level I facilities and Level II facilities do provide:
- 24-hour staff availability
- 24-hour emergency care assistance
- Registered nurses on staff
- Assistance with social, recreational, and other activities
- Assistance with transportation
- Linen service
- Three meals a day, with readily available snacks and fluids
- Care for residents with Alzheimer’s disease
- Limited assistance with all Activities of Daily Living (ADL)
Assisted Living Medicaid Policy
Arkansas Medicaid reimburses for what it calls personal care services, providing hands-on assistance to ALF residents with Activities of Daily Living (ADL), like feeding oneself, grooming, toileting, and moving around on one’s feet. In cases where residents in Level II care need more direct assistance, Arkansas Medicaid may reimburse for Disability Services or allow the use of a Medicaid-related program, such as the Assisted Living Choices waiver.
Assisted Living Facility Requirements
The home-like setting of assisted living communities will meet certain logistical requirements for the kinds of living spaces and amenities they provide. All ALF units in Arkansas are discrete apartments, and residents are never housed with a roommate unless they specifically request to live with a partner.
All units must meet these requirements:
- Kitchens in functionally and visually distinct areas
- Wheelchair accessible
- Lockable doors
- Basic appliances like fridges and microwaves
- Separate wings for live-in partners with Level II care needs
Medication Management Regulations
Level I facilities: One of the main requirements of admittance to a Level I assisted living establishment is that a resident should be capable of self-administering their medications. Staff at the facility can still provide reminders to take medicines and, as long as it’s done in the presence of the resident, they can provide assistance getting bottles and blister packs open.
Level II facilities: In a Level II assisted living community, direct care can be provided to people with physical or memory impairment in taking their medications. A registered nurse will be on staff who can administer medicines to residents who have been assessed as being unable to do so for themselves. There will also be a consulting pharmacist employed at the facility to help regulate the process.
Arkansas ALFs employ staffing plans to coordinate shifts and keep an effective number of employees on staff at all times. The staff must include at least one certified Registered Nurse (RN), and for Alzheimer’s care in Level II facilities, more specialized staff will be on hand.
Employees of ALFs in Arkansas must adhere to the following employment criteria:
- Employees must be at least 18 years of age.
- Employees and workers on the grounds are subject to extensive background checks.
- All employees must be educated on fire safety and evacuation procedures.
- Staff with communicable diseases or skin lesions are not allowed contact with residents or their food.
Administrators of ALFs in Arkansas must adhere to the following employment criteria:
- Must be at least 21 years of age
- Must have a high school diploma or GED
- Must have the ability to comply with regulations, and agree to do so in written documentation
- Must successfully complete a criminal background check designed by the Office of Long-Term Care
- Must have no previous convictions or substantiated reports relating to the administration of long-term care
- Must complete a certification program approved by the OLTC
- Must be on staff and present during normal business hours, or they must designate someone to be there in their absence
Staff Training Requirements
Facility administrators and employees must all complete a training course certified by the Office of Long-Term Care, with more specialized training for administrators. Direct care staff in Level II facilities also receive specialized training regarding Alzheimer’s and dementia, and all training must be supplemented with at least six hours per year of continued education.
Training to be completed within six months of hire:
- Building safety and emergency measures, including safe operation of fire extinguishers and evacuation of residents from the building
- Abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation reporting requirements
- Incident reporting
- Sanitation and food safety
- A general overview of the job’s specific requirements
- Philosophy and principles of independent living in an assisted living residence
- Residents’ Bill of Rights
- Medication assistance or monitoring
- Review of the aging process and disability sensitivity training
Background Checks for Assisted Living
In the assisted living communities of Arkansas, all employees including any non-employees working on ALF grounds must pass a criminal background check. The background check itself is specifically designed in accordance with Arkansas’ Rules and Regulations for Conducting Criminal Record Checks for Employees of Long-Term Care Facilities.
- It must be verified that any would-be employee has never been convicted of, and does not have any substantiated reports of neglect or abuse of residents, or misuse of resident property.
- Before making any new hires or allowing workers onto the grounds, the facility must check names against the Employment Clearance Registry of the Office of Long-Term Care, and also the Adult Abuse Registry maintained by DHS/DAAST.
- Re-checks must be done every five years.
- The Office of Long-Term care will conduct an investigation into the character of prospective administrators as part of their criminal background check.
- Administrators must have no prior convictions relating to the operation of a long-term care facility.
The Division of Aging and Adult Services (DAAS) is a division of the Department of Human Services in Arkansas. The DAAS keeps an Adult Protective Services hotline open where it fields reports of elder abuse. Any type of abuse, whether physical, emotional, or financial, is worthy of being reported and should be taken seriously.
- Visit humanservices.arkansas.gov.
- Call (800) 482-8049.