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.

PACE

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.

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.

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 AgingAddressPhone Numbers
The Area Agency on Aging of Northwest Arkansas1510 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 AAA3998 Harrison St.

Batesville, AR 72501

1 (870) 612-3000

Toll Free & TDD: 1 (800) 382-3205

East Arkansas AAA2005 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 Arkansas709 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 Aging706 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 Arkansas905 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 Arkansas600 Columbia Rd, 11E

PO Box 1863

Magnolia AR 71754-1863

1 (870) 234-7410

Toll Free & TDD: 1 (800) 272-2127

AAA of Western Arkansas524 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 OfficeAddressPhone
Batesville Social Security Office 72501151 Dry Kiln Rd

Batesville, AR 72501

1 (866) 816-5651
Blytheville Social Security Office 723151403 S Division St

Blytheville, AR 72315

1 (866) 842-6638
Conway Social Security Office 720342475 Christina Ln

Conway, AR 72034

1 (800) 772-1213
El Dorado Social Security Office 717302600 W Hillsboro

El Dorado, AR 71730

1 (866) 526-9254
Fayetteville Social Security Office 727032153 E. Joyce Blvd.

Fayetteville, AR 72703

1 (877) 694-5493
Forrest City Social Security Office 72335965 Holiday Dr

Forrest City, AR 72335

1 (866) 964-2043
Ft Smith Social Security Office 729036801 Dallas Street

Ft Smith, AR 72903

1 (866) 931-8374
Harrison Social Security Office 72601131 W Industrial Pk Rd

Harrison, AR 72601

1 (877) 512-3851
Hot Springs Social Security Office 71913112 Corporate Terrace

Hot Springs, AR 71913

1 (800) 772-1213
Jonesboro Social Security Office 724041809 Latourette Drive

Jonesboro, AR 72404

1 (866) 842-7369
Little Rock Social Security Office 72201700 W Capitol Street

Little Rock, AR 72201

1 (866) 593-0933
Mountain Home Social Security Office 72653955 Wallace Knob Rd

Mountain Home, AR 72653

1 (888) 226-3232
Pine Bluff Social Security Office 716013511 Market Street

Pine Bluff, AR 71601

1 (800) 772-1213
Russellville Social Security Office 728022708 E Parkway Drive

Russellville, AR 72802

1 (800) 772-1213
Searcy Social Security Office 72143701 Airport Loop

Searcy, AR 72143

1 (800) 772-1213
Sherwood Social Security Office 721203608 East Kiehl Ave

Sherwood, AR 72120

1 (877) 512-3854
West Memphis Social Security Office 72301202b 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.

  • For help determining if you are eligible for Medicaid, or to find a Medicaid planner, visit the American Council on Aging’s website.
  • For a list of materials needed to apply and relevant contacts, visit the Arkansas Medicaid website.

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.

Staffing Requirements

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.

Reporting Abuse

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.