group of senior people in assisted living home

The Differences Between Nursing Homes And Assisted Living Facilities

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Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are 2 options when it comes to senior care and senior housing. But you may be wondering how they differ. The easiest way to explain the different options is that Nursing Homes are mainly caring facilities that provide housing, while Assisted Living is one of the senior housing options that provide a level of care. 

Assisted Living Assists Seniors With Self-Care

Many of the residents at assisted living facilities do not require constant supervision. Some of these facilities have their resident nurse and, in some cases, a health clinic on site. The focus on assisted living involves helping residents with DLA’s (daily living activities), such as taking medications, eating, dressing, and bathing. Emergency medical care is made available through standard channels and is easy to access for all the residents. 

Assisted living venues are also not required to hire skilled nurses. The medical care levels are also different from what a nursing home provides. 

Nursing Homes Offer Medical Care

nursing-care facility

The nursing homes that also go by the name of skilled nursing-care facilities are primarily seniors with severe and chronic medical needs. These types of patients include residents that have dementia and those that are confined to some kind of wheelchair or bed. 

Most of the residents in nursing homes have mental health or physical issues that require constant attention and monitoring from skilled nursing professionals. This care is available 24/7. 

At the same time, many patients stay in a nursing home for a few weeks or months to receive essential rehabilitative care following an incident such as a heart attack or a stroke. Around 25% of the patients in different nursing homes stay for 3 months or less.

What Do Assisted Living Facilities Provide?

Assisted living homes are the ideal solution for the vast majority of individuals. When a senior’s home is not a viable option any longer, an assisted living venue is often the next choice.  

Assisted living facilities are often eager to take on new residents, and each venue will provide the potential resident and their families with an extensive tour of the venue. It is usually advisable to look for a facility close to family members and make inquiries from family and friends who already have a loved one living in an ALF (assisted living facility). Social and medical services are also excellent sources for finding the right assisted living facility for a loved one. 

kind nurse taking care of senior people

The assisted living facilities involve a residence whereby professional and trained caregivers help each resident with ADLs (activities of daily living). These facilities are all licensed and held accountable by state governments. They are also required to have Home Health Aides, and RNs in a particular ratio set out by a licensing authority. They also usually have dieticians and an activity director responsible for providing activities and exercise, which are usually held in the mornings,  afternoons, or both. 

The Marketing Director usually takes potential residents on a tour of the facility where they typically highlight these points:

  • They offer a comfortable and secure environment.
  • The resident will have their room.
  • The staff is there to help with all ADLs and other tasks according to an “as-needed” basis.
  • The facility provides socializing opportunities and companionship for the residents.
  • The facility has an onboard activities director, along with daily activities.
  • The main highlight of each day includes dinner served in a communal dining room.
  • Some facilities specialize in working with and accept patients with dementia. 

One of the main highlights of a private living facility is that the venue is a “private-bay” establishment. They might have coverage from an insurance provider that offers long-term care policies, but these facilities aren’t covered by a government program such as Medicaid or Medicare. Some of the methods to pay for “long-term care” at an Assisted Living Facility often include out-of-pocket personal payments, private funds, and financial aid from the person’s VA (veteran affairs) pension with other types of financial options. 

The average cost to stay in an ALF is around $3,950 every month for regular residents and approximately $5,100 a month for residents who require supervised memory care. While most assisted living options are facilities that offer help with ADLs, some facilities provide memory-care in wings or special wards inside the facility. 

An assisted living facility is regarded as “independent” living options that ensure the residents have the resources and safeguards in place that require additional support. These support services can include 24-hour basic assistance and ADL like bathing, dressing, toileting, eating, continence, and transferring (walking) when necessary. In certain cases, an individual’s independence levels can also be assessed through IADL’s (instrumental activities of daily living). These are activities that include the skills needed to reside within a community without the need for assistance. 

Since a state regulates the ALF’s instead of at a federal level, certain states allow these facilities to provide medication reminders and/or medication assistance. However, these venues don’t offer medical services classified as complex. 

The IADL’s (instrumental activities of daily living) include shopping, telephone usage, housekeeping, cooking, using transportation, laundry, handling finances, and handling medications. 

Even though services on offer at an ALF are less complicated, residents have immediate access to several 24-hour emergency systems. These call systems are located in their personal spaces like in their suites, apartments, rooms, hallways, and bathrooms. The staff is also available at all times to match up to the needs of the residents. Assisted living homes also provide easy access to medical services and health care that are personalized to match the needs of the individual. 

doctor serving food to senior patient

The dining area of an assisted living facility provides 3 meals daily, in a shared dining area. Snacks are also usually on offer between the meals. Laundry services and housekeeping are also on offer. Other onsite services provided include a wellness office or pharmacy, physical-therapy sessions, and a hair-stylist and barber. Transportation or shuttle buses are also on offer to go on outings such as shopping for groceries. 

The residents at an ALF are also offered the choice of the space type they would like to stay in, provided these spaces are available at the time. These options typically include cottages, private apartments, studios, shared suites, or one bedroom. In all these living arrangements, a kitchenette is included, a few pieces of furniture, and a refrigerator. These are often appealing environments, as they are similar to a typical home environment. Residents also have the choice of socializing with the other residents and attending wellness and exercise programs. The resident numbers in these facilities can vary and range from a handful up to 300, yet the typical average is usually 50 residents. 

What Do Nursing Homes Offer?

One of the main differences between nursing homes and assisted living is that Medicare will cover care provided in a nursing home for medical expenses, and Medicaid covers long-term care. Residents or their families can also pay out of their own pockets or a long-term care insurance policy. Medicaid is for low-income individuals. For a person to become eligible, the prospective beneficiary has to spend their assets down for care before the coverage kicks in. 

The average monthly costs to stay in one of the US nursing homes is around $6.800. These nursing facilities offer long-term living options for the elderly that require different levels when it comes to medical supervision. These homes regard the residents as “patients” rather than residents, based on the care provided and the environmental setup. These homes are also places for an individual that does not require hospitalization, yet they can no longer be cared for in their homes. Many nursing homes will have trained and skilled professional nurses and nursing aides that are constantly on duty. 

Nursing home with medical supervision

Some of the nursing homes look and feel like hospital environments. The nursing staff provides 24-hour medical care, along with occupational, speech, and physical therapy. Some of these nursing homes will have a “nurses” station on every floor. Some homes also provide special-care units dedicated to the patients that have serious types of cognitive conditions. The nursing homes are for senior patients as well as any other individual that requires round-the-clock care. 

Nursing homes are often criticized by certain people who find them clinical and depressing, and some even feel that these facilities are not offering the right amount of care. As a result, a loved one might require additional monitoring and attention from friends and family members. 

Find a nursing home in your area

Final Thoughts 

Before family members start exploring the best solution for a living option for a loved one, it is essential to take into account the levels of assistance and care that the senior citizen might require, along with their preferences and temperament.

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Margaret Sellars
Margaret Sellars
Occupational Therapist Margaret Sellars contributes to Mobility Deck as an expert on mobility products like wheelchairs, scooters, and walkers. Newly retired, Margaret spends her spare time doing freelance writing from the comfort of her home in Maine. Given her extensive knowledge and professional background, Margaret does the vast majority of the writing for Mobility Deck - so if you have non-tech related questions, she's the one to ask!
Margaret Sellars
Margaret Sellars
Occupational Therapist Margaret Sellars contributes to Mobility Deck as an expert on mobility products like wheelchairs, scooters, and walkers. Newly retired, Margaret spends her spare time doing freelance writing from the comfort of her home in Maine. Given her extensive knowledge and professional background, Margaret does the vast majority of the writing for Mobility Deck - so if you have non-tech related questions, she's the one to ask!

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