Senior Housing: The difference between assisted living and nursing homes

By Janie Dalrymple, Your Patient’s Advocate Founder

Finding the right senior living care option for a loved one can be a difficult process. To add to the stress, many options such as skilled nursing facilities and assisted or independent living are not covered by insurance, unless you have long-term care insurance. 

Families determining the next step for their parents or grandparents should carefully consider each option and choose the one that best fits the individual’s needs and comfort levels. 

If you are deciding between a nursing home or assisted living facility for your loved one, it is important to understand the difference between the two. 

Assisted living facilities work to provide care that enhances the lives of their patients. Individuals choose their daily routines but are given reminders to take medication and receive assistance with everyday activities. Adults who can no longer live alone but may not need full-time medical assistance should consider assisted living facilities to enjoy a more social lifestyle. 

Skilled nursing facilities or nursing homes provide 24-hour home care. This includes all meals, health care assistance and medication administration. This option is best for seniors needing full-time medical care due to health disabilities or significant physical or mental limitations. 

Another option is group homes, which are considered a mix of assisted living facilities and nursing homes. There are fewer residents in these facilities, but there is more medical staff available for each patient.

When choosing one of these options, make sure to look for a welcoming atmosphere, a variety of activities, enough staff, safety and security, and high-quality care. Any of these care options would reduce the workload of a full-time caregiver — often a family member — who likely spends a significant amount of time at a family member’s house.

Finding senior assistance outside of the home is not your only option. Individuals can elect to bring in an in-home caregiver provided through an agency. Caregiving agencies often require an hourly minimum, which can be on a daily or weekly basis. The cost for this option is typically higher, which is why many follow a more affordable path with assisted living facilities or nursing homes. If your family member does not like change, this option may not be a fit, as agency health care workers have a high turnover rate. 

This decision does not have to be made on your own. Health care organizations like Your Patient’s Advocate can help determine the needs of a patient and suggest a care plan that will create a wonderful quality of life. These organizations can help families and health care teams communicate, providing education to health care workers to ensure your family members receive the best care possible. No matter what option a family chooses, it is the right decision if it is in the best interests of a family member.

Your Patient’s Advocate