Finding and Choosing a Residential Care Apartment Complex

What is a Residential Care Apartment Complex?

A Residential Care Apartment Complex (RCAC) is an independent apartment complex where five or more adults reside. Apartments must each have a lockable entrance and exit; a kitchen, including a stove (or microwave oven); and individual bathroom, sleeping and living areas. RCAC is a type of Assisted Living.

An RCAC does not include a nursing home or a community-based residential facility, but may be physically part of a structure that is a nursing home or community-based residential facility.

Sizes of RCACs can vary. Currently, RCACs range from 5-109 individual apartments, with the average complex size being 36 apartments. 

What Services Are Provided by a Residential Care Apartment Complex?

RCACs also provide, to persons who reside in the place, not more than 28 hours per week of the following services:

  • Supportive Services: Activities related to general housekeeping, transportation to access community services and recreational activities.
  • Personal Assistance: Services related to activities of daily living, e.g., dressing, eating, bathing and grooming. The most common meal plan utilized by tenants of the RCACs is that consisting of two meals per day.
  • Nursing Services: Health monitoring, medication administration and medication management.
    • Health monitoring means the assessment of physical, functional and cognitive status to detect changes that may indicate health problems and to facilitate appropriate intervention.
    • Health monitoring and medication management are the most common services required by senior tenants primarily due to improper medication administration and poor/questionable nutrition practices.
  • Emergency Assistance: An RCAC shall ensure that tenant health and safety are protected in the event of an emergency and shall be able to provide emergency assistance 24 hours a day.

RCACs provide services either directly, or under contract, and the services must be part of the tenant's service agreement.

RCACs are not for those persons who are incompetent or for those with Alzheimer- related dementia or other infirmities of aging that require more in-depth monitoring by health care professionals.

Licensing Information

Independent apartment living options are classified as an RCAC and must adhere to State Administrative Code, DHS 89.

RCACs are either certified or registered.

  • Certified RCAC: house both private pay tenants and those eligible for the Community Options Program (COP) or Medicaid, and are inspected every two years, plus complaints investigated.
  • Registered RCAC: house only private pay tenants, are not inspected, and only complaints are investigated.

All RCACs must adhere to Chapters DHS 12 and DHS 13, Wisconsin Administrative Code - Caregiver Background Checks and Allegation Reporting.

Department licensing specialists inspect certified RCACs every two years, via unannounced surveys. However, a facility may be visited between these inspections, if there are any complaints received by the department.

Learn more about the Department's role in regulating Residential Care Apartment Complexes.

Looking for a Residential Care Apartment Complex?

Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRC): ADRCs provide information on broad range of programs and services, help people understand the various long term care options available to them, help people apply for programs and benefits, and serve as the access point for publicly-funded long term care. These services can be provided at the ADRC, via telephone, or through a home visit, whichever is more convenient to the individual seeking help.

County-By-County Directories of Wisconsin Residential Care Providers: Locate a health or residential care provider in a specific county.

DHS Provider Search:  Locate a health or residential care provider and obtain compliance history information.

Statewide Residential Care Apartment Complex Directories

Learn more about the information and terminology included in the facility directories listed below.

Compliance Information

Choosing Wisconsin Residential Care Options: Learn more about the compliance history of individual facilities for the four assisted living provider types regulated by the Department. Learn more about the information included on the facility profiles.

DHS Provider Search: Locate a health or residential care provider and obtain compliance history information.

Assisted Living Facility Survey Guide (PDF)

Complaints Regarding Wisconsin Health and Residential Care Providers

The Department of Health Services Division of Quality Assurance is responsible for assuring the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of Wisconsin.  If any individual believes that a caregiver, agency, or Department regulated facility has violated State or Federal laws pertaining to regulated entities, that individual has the right to file a complaint.

Client Rights

Wisconsin Client Rights: Anyone who is receiving services for mental illness, a developmental disability, or substance abuse in the state of Wisconsin has specific rights under Wisconsin Statute 51 (State Alcohol, Drug Abuse, Developmental Disability and Mental Health Act) subsections 51.61 and 51.30.

Advance Directives: An advance directive describes, in writing, your choices about the treatments you want or do not want or about how health care decisions should be made for you if you become incapacitated and cannot express your wishes.

Resources for Choosing an Assisted Living Facility

The Department of Health Services does not refer residents for placement in assisted living facilities.  The links below to state and national resources may be useful in selecting an assisted living facility.

More help

Wisconsin Coalition for Collaborative Excellence in Assisted Living (WCCEAL) is a coalition that is dedicated to improving the outcomes of individuals living in Wisconsin's Assisted Living Facilities.

Caregiver Center, from the Alzheimer's Association, provides online resources and a telephone helpline that can help you determine your care needs and care options.

Thinking of Moving to an Assisted Living Residence? (PDF) This guide from the Coalition of Institutionalized Aged and Disabled and the Nursing Home Community Coalition of New York State provides those thinking of moving to an assisted living residence with questions to ask and things to consider.

Last Revised: September 14, 2017