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Why Assisted Living Isn't a Nursing Home

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Why Assisted Living Isn't a Nursing Home

July 31st, 2019

By Lauren Bozarth 

If you or a loved one are considering the next steps of senior care, it is critical to understand the different options available. 

While assisted living and nursing homes are both common paths for older adults, they are not the same. Learn why assisted living isn’t a nursing home and how to distinguish between the two.


Similarities Between Assisted Living and Nursing Homes

Although assisted living is not a nursing home, the two senior living options share similarities and overlap in services.

Assisted living facilities and nursing homes both exist to provide a community and offer residential care to seniors. Each community type prioritizes keeping residents safe, healthy, and happy. 

Additionally, assisted living and nursing homes support Activities of Daily Life (ADLs). These ADLs include routine activities that seniors may no longer be able to accomplish on their own, such as personal care, bathing, and dressing.

Assisted living and nursing homes both focus on life enrichment. Each community type offers programming and activities that address wellbeing among multiple dimensions, including emotional, social, spiritual, physical, and educational needs. 

Medication management is usually a function of assisted living facilities and nursing homes. However, assisted living facilities often charge a fee for this service, because it is not included in the basic care.


What is the Difference Between a Skilled Nursing Facility and an Assisted Living Facility?

In general, the level of care provided marks the main discrepancy between a skilled nursing facility and an assisted living facility.

Nursing homes provide 24-hour nursing care and supervision for seniors who need a higher degree, or greater frequency, of medical attention.

Assisted living facilities, on the other hand, are designed for older adults who may be less dependant on around-the-clock care. Some residents chose to live in assisted living facilities because they enjoy the environment and extra support.

There is also a contrast in the look and feel between the different communities. 

Assisted living facilities tend to have a more relaxed feel, often resembling an upscale apartment community while nursing homes look and feel a bit more formal because of the type of care provided.

Nursing home residents frequently share a room with another senior, unlike most assisted living residents who have their apartment or suite, providing more space and privacy.

Since assisted living facilities house relatively independent adults, these communities offer more socialization and recreational activities, such as yoga, movie nights, and shopping trips.


What are the Criteria for Assisted Living?

While criteria for assisted living may differ depending on the facility, there are general requirements for admission.

Most assisted living communities expect residents to require help with at least two Activities of Daily Living, a series of basic activities performed by individuals daily necessary for independent living at home or in the community. These activities include:
•    Personal hygiene
•    Dressing
•    Meal preparation/eating
•    Maintaining continence
•    Transferring/mobility

How do you Qualify for a Nursing Home?

Qualifying for a nursing home is a bit more complicated and may involve extensive paperwork, especially if a third party is paying for the around-the-clock services that nursing homes provide.

If you are looking into transitioning to a nursing home, staff members will walk you through the admissions process. However, it is helpful to have a rough understanding of the process beforehand.

In addition to needing assistance with Activities of Daily Living, the following are typical requirements required to qualify for a nursing home:
•    Physician’s Order for Admission to a Skilled Nursing Facility
•    Physician’s Order for Medications and Treatment
•    Medical History and Physical
•    State-Required Form
•    Negative Tuberculosis (TB) Test or Chest X-Ray
•    Nursing Home Admissions Paperwork
•    Financial Assessment Paperwork


Are Nursing Homes More Expensive than Assisted Living?

When comparing the costs, nursing homes generally appear like the more expensive path; but this is not always the case out-of-pocket.

On average, assisted living facilities cost approximately $3,950 per month, while nursing homes run around $6,800 per month. The reason for this price jump from assisted living to nursing homes is the level of services provided.

However, assisted living can end up costing more than nursing home care because these facilities are “private pay,” meaning that Medicare and Medicaid generally do not cover the expenses or much of the expenses.

Medicare and Medicaid may cover the cost of nursing homes if patients meet the requirements. Otherwise, these centers will also accept private pay, which may offer perks, such as upgraded rooms or leisure activities.

Medicaid may help pay for nursing home care if an individual has limited assets and a low income. The person eligible for Medicaid must also meet the requirement for Nursing Home Level of Care, generally defined as an individual being unable to care for themselves for a sustained time and not having assistance would result in them being in danger to themselves.


Is Assisted Living Better than a Nursing Home?

With nearly 49,000 assisted living communities and over 15,000 nursing homes in the country, there is an extensive amount of options to choose from nationwide.

The right route of eldercare depends entirely on the individual’s medical and personal needs.

Assisted living is often an attractive option for those who are still reasonably independent. This living arrangement allows older adults to attain the extra care they need while also enjoying more privacy, space, and socialization than a nursing home. 

However, a nursing home may be a more suitable move for people who require extensive medical attention or need frequent hospital stays. The more Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) that a person requires assistance with, the more likely a nursing home may be necessary.

Those who have Alzheimer’s or dementia do not necessarily require to stay in a nursing home. Many assisted living facilities offer specialized areas for individuals with Alzheimer’s, ensuring increased supervision.

Determining the next step in elder care is never an easy decision to make, but it is an important one that requires thorough research and consideration. 

With a clearer understanding of assisted living and nursing homes, take the time to decide which path of senior care is right for you or your loved one today.


Do you have questions about skilled nursing, independent, and assisted living? We would love to chat with you. Give us a call at 314-831-0988 or complete our contact form



Activities of Daily Living- https://www.investopedia.com/terms/a/adl.asp

Cost of Senior Living - https://www.payingforseniorcare.com/assisted-living-vs-nursing-homes.html

National Center for Assisted Living - https://www.ahcancal.org/Assisted-Living/Facts-and-Figures/Pages/default.aspx