Assisted Living Vs Nursing Homes: Whats The Difference
Senior living communities come in many shapes and sizes, and theres no universal approach for aging loved ones. Many people think of senior living and nursing home as synonymous, but over the past 30 years the terms have grown apart, and nursing home isnt the senior care catch-all it used to be.
In fact, A Place for Mom surveyed 100 families who contacted us seeking nursing homes for their relatives. After consulting with our Senior Living Advisors, 89 of those families determined that a nursing home wasnt the right choice for their aging family member, and they selected a more social, communal senior living environment.
So whats the difference between assisted living and nursing homes, and which fits your loved ones needs? Learn more about the services, features, and costs of assisted living versus nursing homes to help find the best community for your aging relative.
Access To And Contact With Staff
In an independent living community, seniors might not have regular contact with the staff, unless they sign up for a meal or other service. In these communities, a seniors involvement with the staff is largely dependent on the seniors preferences. Someone who eats every meal in the community center might frequently see the staff, but someone who prefers a quieter existence might forget the community even has staff.
In assisted living, staff are there to monitor and check in on residents. Although they dont diagnose medical conditions, they will stay in touch with seniors to ensure theyre thriving. If a senior appears to need more help, staff may drop by more frequently or talk to the seniors family. One of the primary benefits of assisted living is that it offers families peace of mind that someone is looking out for their loved one.
Ask About Staffing Patterns
To feel confident that you or your loved one will be well taken care of, its important to ask questions about the staffing levels and workload at an assisted living facility. For example:
- How many staff members are actually involved in residents care?
- How many people are working at any one time?
- What are their duties during those timesdo they have time to interact with residents?
- Are there registered nurses on site?
- How do staffing patterns differ at night?
- What happens when a staff member is sick or otherwise unable to be at workis there enough cover?
Choosing an assisted living facility
Visit a facility at different timesduring activities and meal times, for exampleand seek feedback from residents and their families or via online reviews.
What to look for in the staff:
- Do they have time to speak with you or does it feel rushed?
- Do they appear genuinely friendly and interested in you?
- Do they interact warmly with current residents? Or do they seem stressed or overwhelmed?
- How do they handle emergencies?
What to look for in the residents:
- Do they appear happy?
- Do they enjoy interacting with one another?
- Do they seem like people youd enjoy getting to know?
- Are there hobbies or groups on site that look interesting to you?
What to look for in the facility:
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Ways To Pay For Il And Al
Aside from the distinct levels of care these residential settings provide, the biggest difference between IL and AL is the financial resources that seniors and their families can use to cover the cost of living.
Since independent living communities dont provide residents with medical services, Medicare, Medicaid, long-term care insurance and other financial aid programs wont cover the cost. Instead, seniors must pay privately using funds from Social Security benefits, pension income, retirement savings, life settlements, annuities and other personal funds.
Read:How to Pay for Independent Living
Because AL communities provide a greater amount of assistance, there are more options available for helping cover costs. Residents can pay to live in AL by using savings and the personal funds listed above, as well as certain long-term care insurance policies and Aid and Attendance benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Medicare does not cover assisted living, but Medicaid offers some financial assistance for low-income seniors. Keep in mind that Medicaid eligibility requirements and coverage rules vary from state to state.
Read:How to Pay for Assisted Living
Assisted Living Facilities Provide Personal Care
Residents of a nursing home require a higher level of care than those in an assisted living facility. At an assisted living facility, the primary focus is on helping residents with basic tasks for example, staff may help residents get in and out of the tub, get dressed in the morning, or manage their medication.
An assisted living facility will have processes in place for emergency situations, but they’re not required to have a round-the-clock, skilled nursing staff onsite. In addition, residents are typically allowed to come and go, although they’re sometimes required to be signed-out by a staff member or family member.
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Assisted Living Vs Nursing Home: Whats The Difference
Its a life-changing experience if the time comes when your mom or dad stops living at home and transitions into a senior living facility. Not only is it a complex decision with many practical details to consider, its also an emotional one.
Giving up full autonomy and independence is difficult for any person, and your mom and dad are probably no exception. Theres also a chance that the home your parent is leaving is a place of many memories, perhaps since you were a young child. This can make it even more difficult to say goodbye.
But there is some positive news during this transitional phase and its this: There are different senior living options, each with their own approach depending on the level of care that your mom or dad wants and needs.
Generally speaking, we tend to categorize senior housing into two broad groups: Assisted living facilities and nursing homes . While they might seem like the same thing, there are some important differences to understand between assisted living vs. nursing home.
Lets take a closer look at the precise differences between these two types of facilities so you can help your parent make an informed decision that best suits their particular care needs and desires for this next stage of life.
What Services Do Assisted Living Communities Provide
Assisted living communities offer services and amenities that focus on encouraging important aspects of senior wellness, including physical health, intellectual stimulation, and social connection. Assisted living communities may offer some of the following:
- Restaurant-style dining, happy hours, and activities based on resident interest
- Outings and transportation to local stores, theaters, and museums
- Help with laundry, housekeeping, and maintenance
- Assistance with ADLs, including medication management, bathing, and grooming
- Suites with mini-kitchens or larger apartments that allow couples to age together
- Accessible spaces and widened doorways for residents with wheelchairs or walkers
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Nursing Home Vs Assisted Living: What Are Your Options
As you age, you may need extra help with daily activities. Many older adults choose to lead a simplified life by hiring at-home care or moving to a nursing home or assisted living facility. These housing options provide a number of benefits, including assistance with cleaning, bathing, shopping, and meal preparation. For those with specific medical needs, some facilities offer skilled nursing care onsite.
According to a study by the NIH, about 1.5 million Americans aged 65+ live in nursing homes, while 1 million live in assisted living communities. But are there differences between nursing homes and assisted living communities? And, if so, what are they?
If you’re wondering whether one of these long-term care options is right for you , keep reading. Below, we’ll compare the differences and overlap between a nursing home vs. assisted living. In addition, well dive into other housing options you might want to consider in your search.
Assisted Living Retirement Homes
Assisted living communities offer care staff right on site, including nurses and personal support workers. In many communities, proper nursing staff is available around the clock. They also have specialized amenities including care beds, accessible bathrooms and suites designed for optimal mobility.
There is also a community of people with whom you can socialize. Health problems are often exacerbated by . When people move into an assisted living retirement community they often feel a great rejuvenation. To take a fuller look at the advantages, review our full list of the .
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Residential Facilities Assisted Living And Nursing Homes
At some point, support from family, friends, and local programs may not be enough. People who require help full-time might move to a residential facility that provides many or all of the long-term care services they need.
Facility-based long-term care services include: board and care homes, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and continuing care retirement communities.
Some facilities have only housing and housekeeping, but many also provide personal care and medical services. Many facilities offer special programs for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.
When Is It Time For Assisted Living
Assisted living comes in a broad spectrum of forms designed to help seniors age in place for longer. For some, it’s a way to downsize into a new home for the long term. For others, it’s a way to maintain independence, even though they need some help with daily self-care. Ultimately, focus your decision on the priority needs. Below are six signs that it might be time to consider assisted living:
- Increase in injuries: You or your loved one is falling or sustaining injuries more frequently.
- Worsening health conditions: The person has diabetes, arthritis, or macular degeneration.
- Cleanliness: The individual is experiencing difficulty keeping the house clean or maintaining personal hygiene
- Depression and loneliness: You or your loved one is experiencing increasing feelings of sadness or isolation.
- Withdrawal: The senior’s engagement with people or activities is declining.
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Paying For Assisted Living
Some people buy insurance that includes coverage for long-term care. Standard Medicare coverage does not usually include the costs of assisted living.
In addition, some states offer financial assistance to help low-income individuals pay for assisted living facilities. For example, California provides Supplemental Security Income to help pay for non-medical out-of-home care, which was set at $1,365.77 per month for 2022.
Military veterans and their surviving spouses can apply for “Aid and Attendance” or “Housebound” benefits through the Veterans Administration. These benefits pay a higher monthly pension amount to qualifying veterans. Veterans with one dependent can qualify for up to $21,063 in annual Housebound benefits or $27,195 in annual Aid and Attendance benefits.
Most assisted living residents are at least 85 years old, but younger individuals with disabilities may also choose assisted living.
What Type Of Facility Is Right For You
The kind of facility thats right for you will depend on your health and how much help you need with daily activities.
Here are a few questions to help you decide which kind of facility is best suited to you or someone in your care:
- How much help do you need to take care of daily activities like bathing, dressing, and using the restroom?
- Do you need medical care for serious health conditions?
- Are you able to prepare your meals?
- How do you plan to pay for the care you need?
Once youve decided which type of facility best meets your needs, youll need to explore individual facilities to find a good match.
As you compare facilities, keep these questions in mind:
If possible, visit facilities more than once. Talk with friends, neighbors, colleagues, medical professionals, and local organizations that serve older adults to get a sense of which facilities provide the best care in your area.
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Nursing Homes Vs Assisted Living Facilities
What are the differences between a nursing home and an assisted living facility? Many people would be surprised at how these two have become more similar than different over the past 15 years, with assisted living facilities accepting residents with more physical, psychiatric, and cognitive problems than they have in the past.
Options For Assisted Living
There are thousands of assisted living facilities in the U.S., many of them offering specialized services, so prospective residents have options depending on their circumstances and preferences.
Assisted living facilities generally provide meals, housekeeping, transportation, security, physical therapy, and activities for residents. Healthcare and supervision are available 24/7 in most facilities. The facility will create a written care plan for each resident and reassess and update the plan as needed.
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Tips For Making The Transition To Assisted Living Easier
Life in an assisted living facility is an undeniable adjustment. In addition to a new living environment, you are meeting new residents and getting used to the staff. This can feel stressful in the beginning. But there are things you can do to make the transition easier.
Pack well in advance of the move. Dont add to the stress of the actual move by putting yourself in a position where youll need to make hasty decisions about what to take and what to discard.
Know what to expect. Do your homework on the facility. It will be less stressful if you know what to expect. Read all the materials before you move in and make sure all of your questions are answered ahead of time.
Stay busy. You may be tempted to stay in your apartment or living space, but youll feel comfortable much quicker if you get out there to meet the residents, participate in activities, and explore the facility.
Go easy on yourself. Everyone adjusts to change differently, so give yourself a break, no matter what youre feeling. However, if you feel like youre taking longer than you think you should to adjust, it may help to talk to your family members, the director of the facility, or a trusted friend.
Assisted Living Vs Nursing Home: Duration Of Stay
Depending on the services that the assisted living facilities offer, senior citizens may end up staying many years in their new living quarters. Some senior living facilities make it possible for residents to receive continuing care services and accommodations and spend the rest of their lives without moving to any other place. Such facilities are called continuing care retirement communities, and they generally include both independent living, assisted living and even nursing homes all in one community.
Many people who end up in nursing homes do not stay more than half a year in the institutions. Because a majority of occupants go to nursing homes to receive rehabilitative care after incidents like heart attacks or stroke, they only stay for a couple of months before going back home or seeking alternative senior care options. There are some older adults who end up staying several years in nursing homes, but this isnt the norm.
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Average Cost Of Seniors Residences
The average rent for bachelor units and private rooms that include at least one meal is on average $2,210 per month. Cost of seniors’ residences varies across Canada.
Find out about the cost of seniors housing in your province or territory in the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporations Seniors housing reports.
Supporting A Loved One As They Move To Assisted Living
A move to assisted living, even if all parties are in agreement, can be a stressful time. Here are some of the ways you can support a loved one:
Acknowledge your loved ones feelings of loss. Even in the best of situationswhere your loved one willingly chose assisted livinggrief and feelings of loss are to be expected. Leaving ones home is a huge upheaval. Dont minimize their feelings or focus excessively on the positive. Sympathize and respect feelings of loss and give them time to adjust.
Regular contact from friends and family will reassure your loved one that theyre still loved and cared for. Continue to include your loved one in family outings and events whenever possible. If your loved one lives far away, regular calls or emails can make a big difference.
Work through concerns together. While your loved one will likely go through a period of adjustment after moving into an assisted living facility, dont automatically assume that complaints are just part of the transition process. If your loved one has concerns, take them seriously. Talk about what steps you can take together to resolve the issue. And if the problem turns out to be a big one with no apparent solution, be prepared to look at other facilities.
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Paying For Assisted Living And Independent Living
Other than the varying levels of care that the two senior housing options provide, a significant difference between assisted living and independent living is the financial resources that residents use to pay for their stay in the communities. It is essential that you or your loved one identifies a place that they can afford with ease to avoid problems in the future.
Medicaid, Medicare, long-term insurance, and other financial aid programs do not cover expenses for independent living because independent living communities do not offer medical services. A high majority of senior citizens end up paying privately for their stays. They can use funds from retirement savings, social security benefits, annuities, pension income, reverse mortgage funds, life settlements, and other personal funds.
It is quite the opposite for assisted living candidates as they have more financial options than independent living residents. Just like in independent living, assisted living occupants can also use personal funds and savings to cover the costs of their stay. Additionally, older adults can take advantage of some long-term insurance that helps pay for assisted living. Aid and Attendance Benefits from Veterans Affairs is also possible. While Medicare may not pay for assisted living, Medicaid can offer some financial relief to aged adults who have low income. One has to check coverage and eligibility rules in their state to know whether they should go ahead and apply.