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Assisted Living vs. A Nursing Home: Where Do I Belong?
Chelsea Sayegh

By: Chelsea Sayegh on November 1st, 2018

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Assisted Living vs. A Nursing Home: Where Do I Belong?

Aging & Caregiving

Most people use the terms “assisted living” and “nursing home” interchangeably. However, they offer two very different types of care. And depending on the needs of you or a senior parent, one option could be the right choice while the other could fail to meet specific needs.

Before deciding between assisted living or a nursing home, you need to really understand how these two options differ. Let's look at what assisted living communities and nursing homes have to offer, and find out how to determine which one is best for you or your loved one.

Assisted Living

Assisted living communities provide just that – assistance. These are communities for seniors to live in and have access to whatever level of assistance they need to get through daily life, while still managing most activities on their own. Residents in assisted living communities don’t require constant care and still maintain a level of independence. So, for example, a senior in an assisted living community might be able to get around on their own, but they have some difficulty getting dressed or doing laundry. Staff members working at the community are available to help with those tasks.

The level of care seniors receive at assisted living communities can vary, since there’s no single definition applied to communities nationwide. That means if you’re looking for an assisted living community, you need to carefully evaluate the services and amenities provided by each community you’re considering. Here are some beneficial services to look for:

  • 24-Hour Emergency Response – Even though you or your senior loved one may be relatively independent, accidents or illness can occur. That’s why it’s essential to choose a community offering 24/7 emergency response to address any issues that arise.
  • Nursing and Care Services Based on Need – A senior’s needs today might not be the same as the needs they have in a few months or years. Choose an assisted living community with the option to increase care as needed.
  • Full Dining Services – For seniors, especially those with conditions like diabetes that impact diet, full dining service is immensely important. As you get older, it's sometimes challenging to prepare nutritious, healthy and delicious meals. Luckily, assisted living communities take the responsibility of managing their own diet off seniors' shoulders and ensures they get a healthy meal three times a day.
  • Residence and Yard Maintenance – Many seniors are ready to move from their homes because maintaining it on their own can be a challenge. Moving into the right assisted living community can eliminate these burdens. Look for an option that includes maintenance services, from changing a light build to keeping the grounds well manicured.
  • Personal Laundry – Doing laundry can also be a challenging responsibly for seniors. If you or your loved one struggles with laundry, you can find an assisted living community that offers this service.
  • Exercise and Wellness Programs – One of the greatest benefits that comes with moving into an assisted living community is the access seniors have to exercise and wellness programs. From swimming to aerobics to yoga and more, most assisted living communities offer some programs to keep seniors healthy and active.

Another key aspect to consider when you’re looking at assisted living communities is whether or not the community offers memory care for those with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Seniors facing these challenges require specialized care to maintain their daily health and safety. In the early stages of memory loss, these residents can still live with the regular assisted living population. However, as these conditions become more advanced, seniors are able to move into the memory care area of an assisted living community, where they have access to staff members who are specifically trained in dementia and Alzheimer's care.

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Nursing Home

When you’re comparing assisted living communities and nursing homes in Connecticut, the biggest difference you’ll notice is the level of care residents are provided. In a nursing home, residents require constant nursing care and do very little on their own. This environment is best for seniors who don’t need hospital care, but are unable to live on their own or in an assisted living community.

Nursing homes have skilled nurses on staff around the clock to care for patients, and the design of the facility is more similar to a hospital than an assisted living community. For example, needing help with lifts to get in and out of bed is a strong indicator that you or your senior loved one are better suited for a nursing home rather than assisted living. Residents can also receive services like medical care, physical therapy, and speech therapy.

While the level of need might be great, many nursing homes still try to provide a warm, comfortable environment, with activities and caring staff members.

How to Determine Where You Belong

Choosing the right type of community for yourself or a senior loved one might seem like a hard decision to make. By assessing your own needs, and comparing those needs to what assisted living and nursing homes offer, you can successfully determine which is your best option. Use the guidelines below to evaluate your needs.

Assisted Living

  • You do not require a high level of care, but you’re no longer able to live at home safely.
  • You may want to downsize or take advantage of laundry or cleaning services.
  • Cooking is becoming a burden, and having dining options three times a day is appealing.
  • You would feel more comfortable if you had access to 24-hour emergency response, just in case an accident occurs.
  • You are no longer able to drive, and want to take advantage of the transportation provided by an assisted living community. (Many communities offer transportation to medical appointments, errands, shopping, activities, and more.)
  • You want easy access to social opportunities like the clubs and fitness programs many communities offer.
  • You need help with daily activities like personal hygiene, dressing, medication management, and more.

Nursing Home

  • You are ill or disabled and in need of 24-hour skilled nursing care.
  • You struggle with essential tasks like eating, or getting in and out of bed.
  • You have recently suffered an illness or injury and require short-term rehabilitative care. This could also include recovery from surgery like joint replacement or cardiac surgery. (You could potentially move to assisted living once your recovery has progressed.)
  • You don’t have a financial means to cover the cost of assisted living. Many assisted living communities are private pay, while nursing homes take Medicaid.
  • You are comfortable being on a waiting list. (Some nursing homes have waitlists that are years long.)

It’s essential to live somewhere that is sensitive to your needs and can guide you to the care option that is right for you or your loved one. One path could be that you move first to assisted living and enjoy your senior years. Then, as your care needs increase, a nursing home could be your backup plan. To make this transition easier, senior living communities like Wesley Village have a 5-star nursing home, Bishop Wicke, right on their campus. Residents typically enjoy an easy transition to skilled nursing care if needed.

Ultimately, when it comes to determining if assisted living or a nursing home is right for you,  there is no single right answer. It all depends on your specific care needs. As you’re looking for a senior living option for either yourself or a senior loved one, make sure you’re evaluating each community based on the level of care it can provide. One of the easiest ways to determine if a community or facility is right for you is to pick up the phone and call. There will be someone, no matter which community you're interested in, who can better direct you in your search. 

Learn more about assisted living communities in this free guide, The ABCs of Assisted Living.

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About Chelsea Sayegh

I started working as a Marketing Coordinator for United Methodist Homes in October of 2016. I work on public relations, website management and community planning for their award winning independent and assisted living communities. As a graduate of Ursinus College with a degree in Media and Communications and a passion for serving nonprofits, United Methodist Homes has become my home away from home. I spend my days working in a community filled with smiling faces, helpful hands and wonderful residents. I have a passion for assisting seniors and take great pride in being able to promote a company with such a positive mission and values. As an individual committed to learning and growing, I have jumped right into this exciting career!

Our Blog is a 2016 Platinum Generations Award Winner! The Generations Award is an annual international competition for excellence in senior marketing recognizing professionals who have communicated to the 50+ Mature Markets.