Assisted Living vs. Nursing Homes: How Do They Compare?

Seniors Care

When you’re searching for senior living communities, there are differences primarily in the level of care provided, and the terminology is different.

Two of the more common types of living communities are assisted living and nursing homes, and while the terms may be used interchangeably there are significant differences.

The following are things to know when comparing assisted living and nursing homes.

What Is Assisted Living?

First, what is assisted living?

In an assisted living community, seniors can maintain an active and also social lifestyle, even though they may not be able to live alone anymore, or they might not prefer to.

The amenities of an assisted living facility may vary but can include restaurant-style dining options, activities, and social gatherings.

At an assisted living facility, residents have help with daily activities like laundry and housekeeping, and many of the apartments in assisted living facilities are spacious enough to accommodate couples and often include kitchens or at least mini-kitchens.

Assisted living communities tend to have fewer residents than nursing homes, and you would usually live in a studio, or perhaps a one-bedroom apartment, while in a nursing home rooms are often shared.

Depending on the assisted living community, you might make your own meals, drive your own car and come and go as you want.

The median cost of assisted living in the U.S. is around $4,000 a month, and this also includes transportation and scheduled outings.

What Is a Nursing Home?

In a nursing home, there is skilled nursing and medical staff providing care around the clock, as well as monitoring.

A nursing home is usually intended for someone who can’t live independently and has a severely debilitating physical or mental condition.

For example, someone in a nursing home may be wheelchair or bedridden.

Nursing homes offer prescription medication management, palliative care, help with daily living activities, and specialized rehabilitation services. There may also be dental care provided, and meal options intended to meet the requirements of each individual resident.

Nursing home care can cost upwards of $7,500 a month in the U.S., but there are many programs and options for lower-income residents.

Ultimately the overarching difference between assisted living and nursing homes is that nursing homes are a clinical setting. Assisted living is more of a social setting that’s similar to what life would be like at home.

Who Might Be a Good Fit for Assisted Living?

Someone that would benefit from assisted living would likely need only minor help and doesn’t require full-time medical care. They might need help with certain activities but overall can live independently.

A good fit for assisted living would also be someone who wants to have a social life but doesn’t want to deal with the maintenance and upkeep of living independently in their own home.

If someone is currently in good health, but could in the fairly near future need more help, they might find that assisted living is a good option for them.

On the other hand, someone who might benefit from nursing home care would not be able to function independently. For example, they have a rapidly deteriorating condition or can’t do basic things like feeding themselves.

There are a lot of components of an assisted living facility that can be beneficial in the life of a senior.

They can participate in new activities, learn skills, and continue having a challenging, fulfilling life.

Socialization can improve mental and physical health for seniors as well.

What Is Long-Term Care?

There’s another term that you may also here along with nursing home and assisted living, which is long-term care.

Long-term care is an even more general term than nursing homes or assisted living.

Long-term care doesn’t necessarily have only to take place at a facility.

Long-term care could refer to care received at home, for example, or it could be in an adult day care center or other community locations.

Long-term care community services can include transportation services and meals.

If you’re not sure if your loved one can continue to live entirely independently, there are varying levels of care to be aware of.

Research facilities and determine how well they’ll fit your loved one’s needs not only currently but in the future, particularly if the person you’re seeking care for has a condition with the potential to deteriorate fairly quickly.

Learning the differences in levels of care is a good starting point as you make an important decision.

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Susan Melony is an entrepreneur and writer based in Kansas City, MO. She is also a blogger, foodie, editor, and digital nomad passionate about health and life. You can follow her on LinkedIn.

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