What Is The Difference Between A Nursing Home And Assisted Living?

January 15, 2024

To start with, it is important to know what an assisted living community is. Also, why would you choose a nursing home? While we’ll see that there are many similarities, there are equally as many differences. However, understanding the differences is critical for anyone deciding between the two.

Knowing the difference between assisted living and nursing homes will require diving into how each works.


What Is Better? Assisted Living Facilities or A Nursing Home?

We hate to say this, but it depends on where it reside and their service. Both nursing homes and assisted living facilities are very different, offering different services, so it is impossible to recommend one over the other right off the bat. Usually, nursing homes are for individuals who require more intensive care, while assisted living is perhaps for those who don’t need as much attention but still may need help with daily tasks.

Generally, many assisted living communities are meant to encourage residents to be as independent as possible. On the other hand, a nursing home is structured to provide personal and medical attention to people who may not be in the best health.

This article lists seven differences between assisted living facilities and nursing homes, which should help you make the right decision for your loved one.


Physical Layout Of Assisted Living Communities Versus Nursing Homes

How the facility is laid out plays a significant role in the care offered or at least how the facility is geared to provide that level of care. Nursing homes are laid out in a way so that they can provide the maximum amount of care, along with a quick response in times of emergencies.

However, because nursing homes are geared toward providing care, they don’t appear to offer a home-like feeling. The atmosphere is more professional, a lot like a hospital. But many still strive to strike the right balance between comfort and reasonable medical care, yet the priority is keeping residents, mostly seniors, safe from wandering off or falling.

On the other hand, assisted living facilities tend to provide a more home-like feeling; it offers an atmosphere of support in an open community. The facilities are meant to be a place where seniors can get the assistance they need when they need it but not have people in their way, which gives them a sense of independence. Thus the facilities provide minimal personal care.

Residents in assisted living facilities have their own rooms or, at times, a full suite, while in a nursing home, the room may be shared with others.


Living Arrangements

Assisted living facilities are designed to provide privacy and a sense of community. Regular activities like yoga are part of daily living. Thus residents live in apartment-like facilities or a studio-style layout, often without having to share a room. Plus, there are significant community spaces with various recreational activities, from golf to swimming and pool tables.

Though nursing homes may also have a couple of community spaces, that’s not the focus of these facilities. Nursing home residents may spend most of their time in their rooms and be taken out by a couple of times a day, for fresh air as scheduled.


The Level of Care Offered By The Facility

One of the main differences between both types of facilities is the level of care offered to residents. Generally, nursing homes employ more people and are typically more certified and educated.

Usually, nursing homes will employ registered nurses (RNs), who will be on staff almost all the time providing skilled nursing care. This means nursing homes have what it takes in terms of expertise to care for residents’ medical needs such as providing medication management.

On the other hand, assisted living homes or facilities, as they are called, offer less care. However, it must be noted that the level of care and quality are two different things. Assisted living residents continue receiving high-quality care if they choose the right facility but at a level less than a nursing home.

Assisted living facilities don’t monitor their residents as closely and don’t offer the same level of medical care. However, the facility may still employ medical staff, who are present 24/7. The goal of these facilities is to help ensure that residents can live as independently as possible while still helping with daily tasks as needed, so there isn’t much hand-holding, so to speak. In other words, it is more about community than medical attention.


The Price of Nursing Homes Versus Assisted Living Facility

A significant difference between the two facilities is the cost associated with them. Assisted living facilities are usually cheaper compared to nursing homes.

It isn’t unusual for nursing homes to cost twice as much compared to assisted living facilities. That’s because the level of care is much higher, requiring more staff and trained nurses. This is why the cost of running a nursing home is higher.

Most assisted living facilities may appear expensive, but they are more affordable than most people think. Nursing homes can cost twice as much as an assisted living facility, but the prior is often covered via private and state insurance policies. That’s what may make nursing home facilities appear more affordable.


Duration of Stay

Those living in assisted living may spend up to two years. However, the average stay in a nursing home can be up to 2.5 years or around 835 days. Some may have to spend a longer time in a nursing home than they would need to in an assisted living facility.


Covered By Insurance

There are exceptions to this, but private and state-provided insurance will not cover assisted living. However, some may step outside the norm and help with the costs, but exceptionally rare for it to happen. Be sure to check your long-term care insurance policy for coverage.

Nursing homes are more frequently covered by insurance policies as it is defined as being part of medical and personal care. In most cases, it may be partial coverage, like it can be with most other medical services.


Final Word

The right choice for your loved one will all depend on what they need. If they require skilled nursing facilities then a nursing home is the right choice. If all they need is periodic monitoring then assisted living communities would be worth considering.


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