Assisted Living vs. Nursing Homes

Many believe that “nursing homes” are a catch-all phrase for senior living, but in reality, it’s actually one separate form of senior care all on its own. For example, a nursing home’s focus is on providing skilled nursing care while assisted living’s main goal is housing that provides certain care assistance. All-in-all, both types seek to improve the lives of seniors but some communities may offer more of a natural progression of care as someone ages.

Keep reading to learn how assisted living communities differ from nursing homes, what they have in common, and which type of senior living facility is right for you or your loved one.

What is Assisted Living?

Assisted living is meant for people who cannot live on their own but do not require medical attention 24/7. It is a higher level of care over independent living but a lower acuity of care compared to Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF).

Assisted living facilities sometimes have a registered nurse or health clinic onsite, but medical care is not the focus of the facility. Instead, staff are there to provide supportive services to residents with instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs), which include managing money, medication management, shopping, and more.

These communities have programs in place for various recreational activities. Also, there are typically several living options available, from shared senior apartments to private rooms.

What is a Nursing Home?

Nursing homes offer 24-hour supervision for residents – the highest level of care outside of a hospital. People considering a nursing home for their loved one should make sure that level of care is medically necessary before exploring this option. It is recommended that the senior be assessed by their primary care provider and get a referral based on their health condition.

A licensed physician supervises any care provided by the nursing home and administered by a full-time nurse or medical professional. Some medical procedures and therapies are offered on-site for convenience.

Similarly, because of their level of care, nursing homes can be used as a short-term solution for rehabilitation services to recover from surgery or injury in situations where it is imperative that a caregiver be always present.

In general, nursing home residents require more complex health care, skilled nursing services from medical professionals, and assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), including eating, hygiene, and mobility. Some nursing home residents are resistant to help due to some behavioral, cognitive, or medical conditions.

Assisted Living vs. Nursing Homes: Similarities and Differences

While there are many similarities between these two options, like:

  • Both provide senior housing.
  • Both provide assistance with activities of daily living.
  • Both assist with medication management.
  • Both offer meals, laundry, housekeeping, and maintenance.
  • Both have various living options for residents.
  • Both may be able to help residents suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and require memory care services.
  • Both offer long-term residential care.

…there are also distinct differences, particularly in their care options.

For example, nursing home care is a type of care that primarily focuses on residents’ medical needs through skilled nursing care. There are fewer recreational activities, as the typical nursing home resident may not be as capable of interacting as much.

On the other hand, an assisted living community focuses on assistance with personal care on top of socialization with other residents through a variety of daily activities. An assisted living care facility is an ideal choice for older adults who would normally require specialized home care or other regular assistance and supervision, but who want to live in a community of other seniors.

Monthly costs and payment options for the two care options also differ. Typically, the resident and/or their family members will pay out of pocket for assisted living; additionally, they may utilize long-term care insurance, Medicaid, Medicare, or other forms of financial assistance. Nursing home care may have eligibility for Medicaid because it is usually necessary medical service.

Choosing Assisted Living or a Nursing Home

Assisted living communities and nursing home facilities are not opposing senior living options, but two options in the healthcare spectrum to support the continuation of care during the natural aging process. While these terms are often confused or used interchangeably, they are not the same type of senior care in many different areas. Ultimately, choosing the right fit comes down to care needs. Many older adults who live in nursing homes, could flourish in senior living communities with lower levels of care. Assisted living communities also provide a unique type of care for seniors who need a nursing home temporarily, but cannot return to their previous living situation.

Ultimately, we recommend you look for a senior living provider that offers the full spectrum of senior care options. While you may not need skilled nursing care now, it is possible that in the future you or your loved one will be in need. A senior living provider, like McKnight Place, can assist in making the transition between care levels seamless and stress-free. We hope this guide helps you to make an informed decision about senior living. If you have any questions about what senior care is right for you or your loved one and the cost of care, please reach out directly to one of our locations.

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