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What’s the difference between a nursing home and assisted living?

On Behalf of | Jun 11, 2020 | Elder Law |

One of the most difficult aspects of aging is the impact on a living situation. For most people, aging in place is not possible. That could be due to the sheer amount of medical support needed, the availability of family caregivers, or the cost of providing care in a private residence in this manner.

It is during these conversations you’ll begin to hear about nursing homes and assisted living facilities. So what, exactly, are the differences between these two options?

A nursing home means 24/7 medical support

A nursing home is a licensed care facility generally for frail, elderly individuals, and those with chronic illnesses who need routine care, the state of Colorado explains. That means there is a nurse available 24/7, and residents get help with daily living activities such as dressing, cooking and eating, and bathing.

A nursing home might also include certain “skilled” nursing services for short- and long-term care.

Generally, when an individual moves into a nursing home due to old age and related medical conditions, there is little chance they will return to their previous, normal home.

Assisted living is a midway point

An assisted living facility is something of a middle ground. It is for those individuals who need more support than they can get through in-home care, but do not need the constant medical supervision provided by a nursing home.

The Colorado Eldercare Planning Council compares assisted living to more of an apartment building environment – meaning a reception desk instead of a nursing station, and private rooms with locked doors. There are staff that can assist with some daily life activities, but there is no 24/7 medical care available.

How Finances play a part

If you’re having conversations with loved ones about long-term care, there are a few things to keep in mind regarding costs.

A nursing home will generally be more expensive than an assisted living facility. This is often because a resident in assisted living receives and requires significantly fewer medical services. Both nursing homes and assisted living facilities may have units dedicated to memory care, but the services they provide will differ as well.

In addition, you have to keep financing in mind. How will the room in a nursing home or assisted living facility be paid for? Will certain benefits programs cover or defray the costs? Are there extra services the facility will not provide, potentially requiring additional spending?

Discussing changes to an elder’s living situation can be difficult, but coming up with answers is a vital piece of life planning for elderly individuals and loved ones.