What is the Difference Between Assisted Living and Nursing Homes?

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Assisted Living vs Nursing Homes

It’s natural that as our bodies age, we may need help with more and more day-to-day tasks. Perhaps you’ve noticed this occurring for a loved one—from struggling to put on support hose first thing in the morning to fumbling with medications just before bed. Or maybe you’re the one needing assistance. Either way, you’re wondering whether it’s time for a change: Would life be better in a senior living community? Which kinds offer help with everyday activities?

The good news is that you have many options when it comes to senior living. Because there are many choices, however, it can be confusing to know how they differ and which would be best for you or your loved one. For aging adults needing supportive services, there are two main options: assisted living communities and skilled nursing facilities, also known as nursing care centers or nursing homes. Here’s how they compare.

The similarities between assisted living and nursing homes

Both types of senior communities focus on keeping their residents safe, healthy and happy. Both provide support with what are referred to as Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). These include bathing, dressing and personal care. Other similarities include:

  • Medication Management: Medication errors are a leading reason older adults end up in the emergency room. Managing them can be difficult, especially for seniors who take multiple prescriptions daily. Both types of communities can help residents safely manage their medications.
  • Life Enrichment: We know isolation and loneliness put older adults at greater risk for health problems, such as depression, diabetes and high blood pressure. Assisted living communities and nursing care centers offer a variety of life enrichment activities designed to meet residents’ physical, emotional and spiritual needs.
  • Supportive Services: What causes many older adults to make a move to a senior living community of some kind is the need for support with tasks like housekeeping, laundry and transportation. Both types of communities offer these services.
  • Safe Environment: While their physical layouts are very different, assisted living and nursing care centers are both designed with the security of an older adult in mind. From handrails and grab bars to emergency call systems, both include features to help residents stay safe.
  • Well-balanced Meals: Good nutrition is also a focus for both types of communities. Residents benefit from well-balanced meals and nutritious snacks each day. This is a big plus for adults who may be struggling to shop for food and plan and prepare meals at home.

The differences between nursing homes and assisted living

The biggest differences between these two senior living options are the assistive or medical services provided, physical layout and living arrangements.

Care and Services. Residents in an assisted living community generally need and receive custodial care. For example, a person who lives with memory loss and isn’t safe living alone may need live-in companionship. An adult with limited mobility may need help transferring from their bed to their favorite chair.

In contrast, residents in a nursing center require around the clock care and monitoring. They typically live with more complex health care conditions that require the assistance of a skilled nurse or a physical or speech therapist. Some require respiratory care services.

Physical Layout. One obvious difference when you tour both a nursing care center and an assisted living community is their appearance. While a nursing care center generally looks a little institutional because of the type of care provided, an assisted living usually resembles an upscale apartment community.

Living Arrangements. Residents in an assisted living community usually have their own apartment or suite, whereas nursing home residents are more likely to share a room with another adult.

Assisted living: Benefits beyond assistance

Most aging adults seeking help with daily living are not at the level of need addressed by nursing care centers. For many, a Five Star assisted living community may be just what is needed. Our communities offer help with housekeeping, maintenance, laundry and transportation but so much more—including restaurant-quality dining and convenient health services as well as games, clubs and other fun social activities. You get just the amount of help you need to live exactly the life you want to live.

How may we assist?

If you’re looking for an assisted living community, find out if there’s a Five Star Senior Living community near you. We’ll be happy to tell you about all the programs and services we offer to make life easier and more enjoyable!