Any attempt to understand assisted living and its role in providing long-term care to the frail elderly is hindered by the lack of a common definition of assisted living. Places known as ALFs differed widely in ownership, auspice, size, and philosophy. Indeed, the results of this national survey identified four different types of ALFs within the industry that had very different patterns with respect to accommodations, services, staffing, policies on admission and retention of residents, and price. Some of these types, such as those offering high privacy and high service, appeared to be consistent with the philosophy of assisted living. Other types, such as the low-minimal privacy and service types were much closer to the traditional concept of domiciliary care or board and care, with few services and relatively little privacy.
"Assisted living is known by dozens of different terms throughout the country. ...The multitude of names for assisted living reflects the diversity of services offered in the cloudy nexus between retirement housing and skilled nursing care."
Hodlewsky, National Center for Assisted Living, 1998