Posted: April 27, 2020
Sometimes, people use “nursing home” as a general reference to any place where members of the senior community live. However, this is definitely not accurate.
Like assisted living, nursing homes offer a specific type of living situation that differs significantly from other forms of elder care. Simply put, assisted living offers a homey, social environment where individuals can receive personal care, whereas nursing homes provide round the clock medical and personal care in a more clinical setting.
But, the 3 areas that best describe the differences between assisted living and nursing homes are who moves to these communities, their costs, and the type of facility.
Assisted living is for people who desire an enriching community of their peers but need some assistance with everyday activities such as cooking, laundry, or getting dressed. However, residents do not need care provided by a nurse or skilled care worker.
Nursing homes are for individuals who need highly skilled medical care around the clock. Their conditions are often more complex and serious, requiring more highly trained and qualified staff, typically a nurse, physical therapist, or occupational therapist.
Because nursing homes require a higher level of care and more highly trained staff, they cost more than assisted living. The average maximum for assisted living is around $6,800 per month. This same price is the average minimum for a month’s stay in a nursing home.
However, because the focus of a nursing home is on medical care, not community, Medicare or Medicaid often cover all or a portion of the cost. Medicare will cover a specified number of days in a nursing home. If one does not qualify for Medicaid but must stay longer than the specified time period, they will most likely be privately paying.
Assisted living, on the other hand, is rarely covered by Medicare because it is more akin to a regular living situation. However, Medicaid will cover assisted living in some states, like Indiana.
Because nursing homes are for people who need consistent medical care, they resemble medical facilities like hospitals more closely. While they are more homie than a hospital, you will see much more medical equipment and the like than you would in assisted living. Residents also typically share rooms with each other and have very little options on that end unless they are privately paying.
Assisted living communities, on the other hand, tend to resemble apartments. Residents have a host of options when it comes to accommodation, from private apartments to cottages. The communties themselves are also designed to offer a homey environment with a lived in feel. In an assisted living community, you might find libraries or living rooms and common areas built for the residents to interact with one another.
The guiding factor of your decision should be how much care and what type of care do you or your loved one need. If medical care is a priority and will be needed throughout the day, perhaps a nursing home would be the best option. If assistance with daily tasks like getting dressed or remembering to take a medication is the main need, then assisted living might be the best option.
Sometimes, people just need a few months of highly skilled care, such as those who have had a bad fall or are recovering from a stroke. These individuals will spend a few months in a nursing home and then move to assisted living. So, keep in mind that you have options, but the level of care needed should always be put at the forefront.