Assisted Living vs. Nursing Homes

As time marches on, many seniors begin to experience physical and neurological health problems that can make it a lot harder, and less safe, to live on their own. When that happens, seniors and their families generally start to consider assisted living.

You’ve probably heard the term “assisted living,” as well as the term “nursing home.”   But, what’s the difference between the two?  And, which one should you consider when your loved one needs help?   

According to the Centers For Disease Control (CDC), there are around twice as many assisted living facilities as nursing homes in the United States. Many seniors may need assisted living at some point in their life but many never need to make the transition to a nursing home. Let’s take a look at the difference between the two.

Assisted Living Facilities

Assisted living provides assistance for people who may need some help with activities of daily living (ADL’s).  They’re often set up so that couples can move in together. Residents can get help with things like laundry, meal preparation, household cleaning, and personal care, depending on which services they actually need.

Housing is usually set up like an apartment or a condo, with a good degree of privacy that feels like regular apartment living. Staff are available to provide assistance when necessary.

Assisted living facilities also organize outings and other activities to keep residents occupied and entertained. Scheduled outings for things like shopping are typical, and in some facilities, residents may be able to have their own car if they’re licensed and capable of driving.

older senior couple talking to woman

Nursing Homes

A nursing home is a facility that provides around the clock care from skilled medical professionals, like nurses and medical assistants. They cater to residents who need a lot of assistance with self-care, and who have more intensive medical needs.

Many nursing homes also offer rehabilitative services to help people transition from a prolonged hospital stay, before going home. These tend to be relatively long, but ultimately temporary stays. A person might stay at a nursing home in this context if they’ve had a stroke, or sustained an injury like a broken hip.

There are also nursing homes that specialize in memory care for patients with Alzheimer’s, Lewy body dementia, and other neurodegenerative diseases that cause a long term decline in cognitive and memory functions.

Nursing homes are more likely to be covered by Medicare and Medicaid due to the fact that they provide skilled nursing care. General assisted living is usually classified by government programs as “custodial care,” and you’ll often have to pay out of pocket, or purchase long term care insurance at some point to help you cover the cost when you need it.

Choosing the Right Kind of Living Arrangement

For most seniors with health problems, or who need help with some ADL’s like bathing, dressing and doing laundry, a regular assisted living facility can provide the right level of assistance from staff, along with the degree of independence that active seniors want to have.

Nursing homes are ideal for people with more serious health issues, who need daily medical care beyond basic things like medication management and transportation to doctor’s appointments.

Need Help Navigating The Choices?

Senior Living Options of the Desert is Southern California’s leader in senior living referral. We’ve been helping families find compassionate care for their loved ones since 2004.  We’d be honored to help you and your family.

Whether you’re looking for independent living, assisted living, memory care, or another form of senior care, our local family advisors will help you find the right option for you and your family. Our mission is to provide families with the best residential care options based on care needs and location, no matter what the budget. And, our services are always FREE.

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