"What are Levels of Care?" and "Why are every facility's levels different?" Great questions and a big consideration when choosing the right assisted living facility for your loved one.
Everyone who moves into an assisted living facility needs assistance of some type. It can be as simple as needing assistance with nutritional meals, assistance with managing medications, or assistance with tasks such as laundry and housekeeping. It can be as complex as a need for total assistance with bathing, grooming, and dressing due to limited physical abilities or a decrease in the memory needed to complete those tasks alone. Facilities typically evaluate a potential resident to determine how much assistance they will need with daily tasks so that the facility can adequately schedule the staff needed to provide for the needs of all it's residents.
The State of Florida requires minimum staffing hours* (not ratios) to meet the needs, both scheduled and unscheduled, of all residents. The staff members who count towards those hours are also required to provide direct care or supervision of the residents so, while valuable, members of the care team like housekeepers, cooks, and the nice lady who sits at the front desk do not count in this number of hours.
A large part of knowing how many hours of staffing to provide each day goes back to the on-going individual assessment of each resident and how much assistance they need with their activities of daily living. This is evolving almost daily - one resident goes to the hospital, another resident returns from rehab needing more care than when they left, and a resident who returned from rehab a month ago is increasingly becoming more independent with their activities of daily living. All of these could change the staffing hours of a facility.
Understanding the Levels of Care in each facility you are considering for your loved one is important. It is a cost factor that can continue to increase throughout residency and can move a facility out of reach for long term affordability. Knowledge is power, experienced guidance is invaluable.