- Assisted living vs nursing home

Assisted Living vs Nursing Home

Assisted living vs nursing home When it comes to finding the right care arrangement for seniors, the options of assisted living and nursing homes often come to the forefront. While both provide supportive environments for elderly individuals, they cater to different needs and priorities. Assisted living facilities offer a blend of personalized assistance and independence, fostering a sense of community and engagement. On the other hand, nursing homes provide more intensive medical care and supervision for those with complex health conditions. By delving into the distinctions and similarities between these two types of care settings, individuals and families can make informed decisions that align with the specific needs and preferences of their loved ones.

Aging is a natural process, which leads to both physical and psychological changes, making it difficult for us to go through our daily routine without support. At some point, we might require help with everyday tasks, such as dressing, eating, or bathing. Many seniors are in need of medication management as well. Depending on the level of independence and current state of health, one might consider various long-term care options. Two of the most common long term care solutions are assisted living and nursing care, but seniors might be confused when it comes to choosing a particular option, as they are not aware of the differences between these senior living options.

How are assisted living and nursing care similar?

You might not be aware of this for a fact but assisted living and nursing care communities have a lot of things in common. First and foremost, both facilities have been created to meet the needs of aging seniors, the ultimate goal being to keep them safe and happy. Once integrated into such a center, seniors will receive assistance with common ADLs, including bathing, dressing, eating, and toileting. They might be helped with personal care, in accordance with their level of independence.

One of the services that both communities are able to offer is medication management. At some point, one might be unable to follow a medication schedule, with errors in judgment increasing the risk of health events. If a senior has to take a lot of medication, he/she might become easily confused. In such situations, it is safer for the personnel to handle the medication management, or at least supervise the resident in question while taking his/her medication. This service ensures that seniors maintain the best possible state of health, especially when it comes to those who suffer from chronic conditions.

From a different perspective, it is worth mentioning that both assisted living and nursing care facilities help seniors avoid social isolation, with a lower risk of depression and anxiety as a result. The concept of life enrichment is well promoted within such communities, with residents reporting an improved mindset upon moving in. It is a known fact that loneliness is associated with chronic health issues, including high blood pressure and diabetes. Given that both communities are able to meet the needs of seniors, it should come as no surprise that they offer the best possible quality of life. The needs met are not only physical, but also spiritual and emotional.

Aging comes with its challenges, especially in terms of household chores. As one might begin to show signs of aging, it can become increasingly difficult to handle certain activities, including those related to housekeeping. Laundry and grocery shopping can turn into hassles, not to mention that seniors might rely on their caregivers for transportation. Upon moving into a long-term care community, whether assisted living or nursing care, one will discover that such supportive services are readily available.

Seniors living alone are at risk of accidents, especially as their physical health deteriorates. They might fall and suffer fractures, or lose their balance, which can increase the risk of various other injuries. Even if they have a satisfactory state of health, re-arranging their home environment to minimize risks might be too expensive. Both assisted living and nursing care communities offer a safe, adapted environment for living. The physical layout is simple and safe to navigate, with every element having been chosen with the challenges experienced by seniors. For instance, all living units are equipped with emergency call systems, which can be used in case of major health events. Safety elements reduce the risk of falls, including handrails, non-slip mats, and grab bars.

Cooking might be one of the most challenging for seniors, as it involves a lot of steps, not to mention physical abilities. For this reason, seniors living alone might be dealing with nutritional problems, failing to eat well-balanced meals. Good nutrition represents a top goal for both communities, with residents having access to nutritious meals and snacks. Most seniors report feeling relieved, as they no longer have to go grocery shopping or struggle to prepare their own meals. Many facilities offer dietary options, for instance, for those who are suffering from diabetes, need a low-sodium diet, or are lactose/gluten intolerant.

How are nursing homes and assisted living communities different?

If you are thinking about a long-term care option, it might help you to know the differences between assisted living and nursing home care. In the paragraphs that follow, you will find detailed information on the cost, level of care, amenities, and services each of these two communities have to offer, so you can take an informed decision.

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are both options for senior care, but they have distinct differences in terms of the level of care provided, the types of services offered, and the overall environment. Here's a breakdown of the key differences between nursing homes and assisted living:

Level of Care
Nursing Homes: Nursing homes, also known as skilled nursing facilities, provide a higher level of medical care and supervision. They are suitable for individuals who require significant medical attention, including those with complex medical conditions or those recovering from surgeries.

Assisted Living: Assisted living facilities focus on providing assistance with daily activities while maintaining a level of independence. They are generally suitable for seniors who need help with tasks such as bathing, dressing, medication management, and meals, but do not require constant medical attention.

Medical Services
Nursing Homes: Nursing homes have a higher presence of medical professionals, including registered nurses and licensed practical nurses, who can administer medical treatments, manage medications, and provide around-the-clock medical care.

Assisted Living: While assisted living facilities may have trained staff to assist with medication management and basic healthcare needs, they do not provide the same level of medical care as nursing homes.

Amenities and Services
Nursing Homes: Nursing homes primarily focus on providing medical care and rehabilitation services. They may offer limited recreational activities and social programs.

Assisted Living: Assisted living facilities place a strong emphasis on providing social, recreational, and cultural activities to promote an active and engaging lifestyle. They often offer a range of amenities such as fitness centers, dining options, and organized outings.

Nursing Homes: Residents in nursing homes generally have more significant medical needs and may have limited mobility or cognitive impairments that require constant supervision.
Assisted Living: Assisted living residents maintain a higher level of independence, receiving assistance with specific tasks while enjoying the freedom to participate in social activities and maintain their hobbies.

Suitability for Different Needs
Nursing Homes: Nursing homes are ideal for individuals with serious medical conditions, disabilities, or those in need of post-operative care.

Assisted Living: Assisted living is suitable for seniors who need help with daily activities but do not have complex medical needs that require constant medical attention.

It's important for individuals and their families to carefully consider the needs and preferences of the senior when choosing between nursing homes and assisted living facilities. A thorough assessment of the level of care required, medical needs, independence, and desired lifestyle will help determine which option is the most suitable for a senior's unique circumstances.

Compare nursing home and assisted living - Cost

Nursing Homes: Nursing homes tend to be more expensive due to the level of medical care provided and the presence of medical professionals on staff.

Assisted Living: Assisted living facilities are often more affordable than nursing homes because they offer a more limited range of medical services.

Nursing home costs and assisted living costs vary based on several factors, including the level of care provided, location, and amenities offered. Generally, nursing homes tend to be more expensive due to the intensive medical care and round-the-clock supervision they provide. The costs of nursing homes encompass medical services, skilled nursing care, rehabilitation, and accommodations. In contrast, assisted living costs are often more affordable as they offer a balance between assistance with daily activities and maintaining independence. Assisted living expenses typically cover room and board, meals, housekeeping, and social activities. It's important to note that both types of facilities may offer different pricing structures and payment options.

Assisted living has an average cost of $4,300 per month or $51,000 per year. It is clear that the overall cost will differ from one facility to the other, and from one state to the other. The more assistance one requires with everyday tasks, the more expensive assisted living is going to be. When it comes to nursing home care, the median cost is $7,900 per month or $94,000 per year, should the senior in question opt for a semi-private living unit. On the other hand, the average cost of a private unit is $9,000 per month or $108,000 per year. Once again, there might be differences between various communities and states. The more care one requires, the more the senior in question will have to pay. Generally speaking, it is a known fact that assisted living is more affordable than nursing home care.

Compare assisted living and nursing home - Level of care

By choosing assisted living, you will benefit from assistance with everyday activities, such as toileting, dressing, eating, and bathing. The level of care offered depends on your level of independence, ability to complete certain tasks, and current health status. Personal care might be available, but to a limited extent. Usually, such communities encourage seniors to maintain their independence for as long as possible, providing assistance for several ADLs. Otherwise, seniors are allowed to everything pertaining to the daily routine on their own.

Within a nursing care community, seniors benefit from a higher level of care. Once again, depending on the level of independence and current state of health, seniors might receive 24/7 care and monitoring. This is because most seniors living in such a facility are suffering from chronic conditions, benefitting from the assistance of a skilled nurse. Sometimes, the care is completed by various specialists, such as the speech, occupational, or speech therapist. Respiratory care might be offered in certain facilities as well.

Assisted living versus nursing home - Amenities

Both assisted living and nursing care communities offer adapted living units to their residents. With assisted living, seniors benefit from a home-like setting, having the possibility to choose between private and semi-private apartments. Some of the living units have kitchenettes, so residents can prepare their own breakfast or various light meals. All the suites have a private bathroom, equipped with safety features, as well as an emergency response system in case of major health events.

When it comes to amenities, seniors residing in assisted living communities have access to a wide array of options. Some of these amenities target their physical health, including swimming pools, tennis courts, fitness centers, and yoga studios. Other amenities target mental health, with common options including libraries or reading rooms, painting studios, computer rooms, etc. Seniors have access to what is known as life enrichment programs, meant to encourage socialization. However, should they not prefer the group setting, there are plenty of individual options available.

Nursing care communities have a different setting than assisted living facilities, the layout rather reminding of a clinic than a home. Residents have the possibility to choose between private or semi-private living units, which are also equipped with emergency response systems and safety features. They have private bathrooms as well. As opposed to the units of assisted living, they might feature hospital beds with oxygenation systems, and other medical features the senior requires. One should keep in mind that most seniors integrated in nursing care communities suffer from chronic conditions, requiring constant medical supervision. The living units do not have kitchenettes or common areas.

As for the available amenities, you might expect these to be more targeted. For instance, seniors might benefit from water therapy, physical therapy, and yoga, as all of these can help them improve their physical health. Other amenities such as reading and painting might be available, but seniors with restricted mobility will benefit from targeted amenities, often provided in their room. Those with a better state of health can visit the common areas and take part in group activities, so that they socialize and interact with one another. In this way, the risk of loneliness is reduced, which also means a lower chance of depression and anxiety.

Both assisted living and nursing care communities have common areas, where seniors can eat their meals or take part to various group activities. This permanent interaction has been proven to contribute to a better state of health. Assisted living have an established daily routine that includes activities to help seniors stay active and connected, but many of them also target creative expression. In some facilities, weekly religious services are available, and seniors are encouraged to serve as volunteers in the local community.

It has often been said that nursing homes do not provide a wide array of recreational activities. However, if you were to take a closer look at different facilities of this kind, you might be surprised. Many of them go at great lengths to offer a lot of options to their residents, including games, educational courses, and animal therapy. Choir practice, cooking classes, and art classes might be offered in some centers. Physical therapists will provide targeted exercise programs, meant to help seniors improve their mobility and strength, with the prevention of falls and other potential injuries. Physical activity delivers significant benefits for aging seniors, reducing the risk of further health issues.

Returning to cooking, it can be satisfying for seniors to be able to cook certain meals for themselves. However, for many others who have moved into assisted living, it is comforting to know that their meals are readily available, with the added benefit of socialization. Meal delivery services are offered in certain facilities of this kind, naturally at extra cost. Even though the meals are served at set times, seniors have access to the dining room all day, so they can have a snack as desired.

In most nursing homes, the meals are prepared by dieticians, with consideration to the residents' dietary needs. Seniors might decide to eat in their own room or join the common area, in accordance with their mobility limitations and personal issues. Should a resident have difficulties eating on his/her own, a personal aid might offer the necessary assistance. This is highly important when it comes to patients dealing with joint stiffness, tremors, or lack of coordination.

Nursing home versus assisted living - Services

By opting for assisted living, seniors will benefit from a wide range of general services, including laundry and linen service, housekeeping, general maintenance, Internet and telephone access, errand running and shopping, meal planning and preparation. Additional services might be available, including medication management, mobility assistance, diabetes monitoring. When it comes to meals, residents benefit from nutritious meals and snacks, with dietary options available.

Nursing care communities might offer more targeted services, in accordance with their residents and their needs. However, these facilities have a similar range of general services to offer. In terms of meals, seniors will benefit from nutritious meals and snacks as in assisted living, but more dietary options might be available. Pureed foods might be available for seniors who are not able to eat solid meals, as well as intravenous nutritious for those with severe health issues.

Assisted living vs. nursing home - Medical care

Seniors who are integrated in assisted living facilities will benefit from medical care, in accordance with their current health needs. It is worth pointing out that medical care is often available at a limited extent and often from third-party providers, which means that the senior will have to cover the extra cost. Within certain communities, seniors benefit from scheduled transportation, which can be used to pick up a prescription or go to various doctor appointments. Some assisted living facilities might offer specialized medical care for those who suffer from dementia or other degenerating conditions.

By contrast, seniors who live in nursing home facilities benefit from 24/7 medical care. The staff is comprised of skilled nurses and doctors, who are ready to help seniors living with chronic conditions. As mentioned above, rehabilitative services are available as well, including physical, speech, occupational therapy. Respiratory care, as previously stated, is offered as well. Both long and short-term seniors might benefit from such services, especially if they have suffered a major health event, such as heart attack or stroke.

What type of senior living facility is right for me?

Assisted living or nursing home care? This is a decision that many seniors are trying to make, feeling confused in the process. In choosing a particular facility, you will have to consider not only your current state of health, but also how much help you might need with everyday activities.

Here is a short overview of the most important aspects to consider:
  • Budget - what is your budget, can you cover the cost of the type of care that might be necessary
  • Level of independence - are you able to care for yourself or do you need help, what are your current limitations, state of health, can you prepare your own meals, etc.
  • Serious health conditions - do you suffer from chronic conditions that require medical care, how much does your current health status influence your ability to function every day, do you require monitoring and support
  • Assistance required - number of ADLs you can handle without support, how much of a task can you complete (bathing, eating, dressing, toileting, grooming)
  • Services and amenities - consider your needs and challenges experienced, also try to decide what kind of amenities would suit you the most
Whether you decide to go with assisted living or nursing care, you will still have to search for a facility that meets your expectations. The first thing to check is if the respective community has been licensed by a state agency. You might also inquire about audits or inspections, and whether the subsequent reports are available. Keep in mind that reputable communities allow you to take visits of the campus; you might have the opportunity to ask questions, with the staff being ready to answer in detail. During the tour, you might be able to observe the other residents, and how satisfied they are with the care offered.

Be sure to inquire about the number of medical professionals available and their availability, especially when it comes to nursing home care. It is always a good idea to check the staff-to-resident ratio, as well as the staff turnover rate. You can ask about the protocol used in case of medical emergency and if seniors are allowed to receive visits from various healthcare professionals. Inquire about the services and amenities offered, and what might be available at extra cost. For instance, both medication management and scheduled transportation are often offered, but some facilities might require additional fees to be covered for these.

As most facilities allow seniors to receive visits, it might be a good idea to check how close the respective community is to your family and friends. Be sure to verify the list of recreational activities available, including when it comes to nursing home care. Inquire whether residents are offered community outings and whether they can become volunteers in the local community. Keep in mind that certain assisted living facilities allow seniors to bring personal possessions and furnishings, while this might be limited or even forbidden in nursing home care communities. Ask about the bathrooms and whether they are private; inquire about various safety features and the possibility of religious expression.

If possible, ask for a copy of the contract and read it with attention. You might ask a family member or friend to review it for you, so that you are 100% certain that you have understood all the terms and conditions. Be sure to check out the part regarding the costs to be covered in particular and do not sign a contract without reading it first. It is for the best to visit various facilities, more than once if possible. You might also want to talk to friends and family members, as well as medical professionals and neighbors; they might be able to provide information on the best facilities for your needs. In addition, you might ask for support from local organizations, as these often have information on long-term care options.

Assisted living versus nursing home care - overview

Assisted living
  • Seniors who are still independent, but might require help with ADLs
  • Opportunity to socialize and interact with others - lower risk of depression and anxiety (social isolation no more)
  • Assistance with ADLs covers bathing, eating, dressing, toileting, and grooming
  • Additional assistance - medication management, mobility assistance, diabetes care, incontinence care
  • Private or semi-private living units, with private bathrooms and emergency response systems in case of major health events
  • Nutritious meals and snacks - can be served privately or in the common dining room
  • General services and amenities available, including recreational activities for life enrichment
Nursing home
  • Clinical setting, recommended for seniors who suffer from chronic health conditions
  • Seniors require medical care and monitoring
  • Higher level of care than assisted living
  • Different therapies available - physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, respiratory care, etc.
  • Might accommodate those who suffer from severe health issues, including dementia
  • Bedridden or wheelchair seniors are often accommodated in nursing home care communities
  • Adapted meals prepared by dietitians
  • Targeted services and amenities, with equal focus on the overall quality of life
Choosing between assisted living and a nursing home is a significant decision that requires careful consideration of various factors to ensure the best fit for the needs and preferences of the senior. As individuals age, their health, mobility, and daily living requirements change, necessitating a thoughtful evaluation of the level of care and support they require. A long-care community can help you or your loved one maintain the best possible quality of life, not to mention it eliminates the risk of social isolation. As you have seen, assisted living and nursing home care communities have certain things in common, but they usually serve different categories of seniors. It is essential to be aware of these differences, so you are able to take the best decision for your situation.

Services provided by assisted living

Short term ALF

Luxury ALF

Assisted living cost

ALF for blind seniors

ALF for deaf seniors

ALF for seniors who smoke

ALF for seniors with Alzheimer's

ALF for seniors with dementia

ALF for seniors with diabetes

ALF for seniors with disabilities

Assisted living for elderly with mobility issues

ALF for seniors with Parkinson

Assisted living centers for couples

Assisted living centers that allow pets

ALF for overweight and obese seniors

Incontinence care in ALF

Christian assisted living communities

Memory care for older people with Alzheimer

Memory care for older people with dementia

Signs of dementia in seniors

Continuing Care Retirement Communities

Caregiver resources

Caregiving for elderly with Alzheimer's disease

Caregiving for elderly with diabetes

Caregiving for elderly with heart disease

Caring for a senior post heart surgery

Caregiving for seniors with Parkinson's disease

Caring for seniors with mobility issues

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