Nursing Home vs. Assisted Living

nursing home vs assisted livingLearn the difference between assisted living, nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities.

If you have a growing concern for your independent loved one’s safety and well-being, it may be time to start looking into assisted living or nursing home options. While the decision can be heart wrenching at times, knowing that she will be well cared for in a setting appropriate to her needs will make the process rewarding in the end. While you want to provide her with all the autonomy she is used to, you can’t afford to neglect her safety and care to do so.



When it looks like some kind of senior living option is on her horizon, familiarizing yourself with your options will help you make a decision that works for you and is best for her. Keep reading for help determining which is ideal for her in that all-important question: nursing home vs. assisted living?

Assisted Living or Nursing Homes?

Since the first assisted living facilities opened, a new question has popped up in the minds of senior citizens across the nation: "nursing home vs. assisted living: which one is right for me?" The definitions and helpful tips below should help you decide which setting is ideal for your situation. Assisted Living

Assisted living facilities (ALFs) came about in the early 1990s through a backlash against the institutional setting often found in skilled nursing facilities at the time. Seniors who wish to receive custodial care in a more home-like atmosphere have been opting for assisted living ever since.

Living quarters in assisted living facilities often consist of private apartments or rooms that can house the residents’ own furnishings and decorations. Aids and staff respect resident privacy whenever possible and foster an atmosphere of independence and autonomy. However, shared meals, laundry service and light housekeeping are virtually always included.

Most assisted living residents receive custodial help with a limited number of activities of daily living, such as dressing, bathing, eating or toileting. Aids are always on hand to help with tasks at an average aid to resident ratio of 1:8 during the day.*

Seniors who do well in ALFs often enter the senior care community at a younger or more physically stable stage and can stay in their familiar surroundings until the end of life (a concept known as "aging in place"). Barring any serious injury or medical problems that would necessitate continual medical care, interventions can be provided by the facility as necessary.

Nursing Homes

Unlike assisted living, nursing homes (also called skilled nursing facilities) provide round-the-clock medical attention to residents. Seniors who need a great deal of help with activities of daily living, have severe cognitive impairment, or suffer from debilitating medical problems, often need the level of care available to them in these skilled nursing facilities.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the vast majority of skilled nursing facilities in the U.S. are registered to accept residents with Medicare, Medicaid or both. This is important because the cost of nursing homes is typically higher than the cost of assisted living, but is more often subsidized by these government programs because of its emphasis on medical care. To learn more, see our information center about the costs of nursing home care.

Help with medication dispersal, access to physical and occupational therapists, healthy meals, and a variety of other amenities make nursing homes a virtual one-stop-shop for residents who might otherwise forgo such services on their own.

Nursing Home vs. Assisted Living: Take Your Pick

The question remains: which is best? Assisted living, nursing homes and other types of senior care all have their benefits and drawbacks. The trick is to find the level of care that meets your loved one’s needs and will continue to do so for quite some time. For more help determining the best fit for your loved one, see our article, "Finding the Right Level of Elder Care," or speak with an agent directly to discuss your needs.

Our hope is that this discussion gets you thinking more specifically about your loved one’s individual needs. Once you have an idea of where he falls on the continuum of senior care, call the toll-free number at the top of this page to speak with an elder care specialist who can further help you, free of charge. The all-important question: "nursing home vs. assisted living" is something we deal with everyday. Let us help you find a place that will meet your loved one’s need and promote his well-being.

*Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000