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 Wis. Admin. Code ch. DHS 89.

RCACs are either certified or registered.

  • Certified RCAC: house both private pay tenants and those eligible for 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 Wis. Admin. Code. chs. DHS 12 and DHS 13 – Caregiver Background Checks and Allegation Reporting.

Learn more about the Department of Health Service's (DHS) role in regulating RCACs.

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 about terminology included in the facility directories below using the Assisted Living Directories and Glossary.

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 DHS. Additional details are located on the Assisted Living Facility Profile Basic Information page.

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

Assisted Living Facility Survey Guide

Complaints Regarding Wisconsin Health and Residential Care Providers

The Division of Quality Assurance (DQA) is responsible for assuring the health, safety, and welfare of persons using health and residential care provider services in Wisconsin. If any individual believes that a caregiver or DQA regulated provider 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 Wis. Stat. §§ 51.61 and 51.30 (State Alcohol, Drug Abuse, Developmental Disability and Mental Health Act).

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

DHS 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

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: March 14, 2022