Assisted Living vs. Nursing Homes

What is assisted living?

Assisted living gives its residents personalized care in a residential setting. An assisted living facility can provide care for seniors or disabled people who need support in their day-to-day functioning, enabling them to maintain a fairly independent lifestyle.

Most often, they will provide services with medication management, personal hygiene help, housekeeping, meals and laundry. They will also provide social activities and programs – giving residents opportunities for social contact combatting the debilitating effects of isolation when living alone.

Three levels of care in assisted living facilities include:

  • Level 1 – Low level of care: For the person who is fairly independent but needs occasional assistance or support. They may need reminders about daily living requirements or some supervision to make sure that these are performed safely. Other help may include getting to doctor visits, managing some behavior challenges or help with some social activities.
  • Level 2 – Moderate level of care: This level of care is given to a resident who requires substantial assistance in health or personal care areas. They may still be able to perform some levels of personal care but need help with others. Help with doctors’ visits, medical treatment or managing behavior can be handled at this level of care.
  • Level 3 – High level of care: A high level of care refers to a resident who needs extensive, on-going assistance in several areas of personal or health care needs. There may be physical or mental impairments that affect their ability to perform daily tasks and require complete assistance. A person who needs this level of care may need nursing home care.

Services provided at assisted living facilities

Typically, assisted living facilities provide support and care for daily living needs. These may include: medication management, some medical services such as basic podiatry care, emergency care, meals, personal care and social and recreational activities.

Costs of assisted living

Assisted living costs vary but, according to the Genworth Cost of Care survey for 2020, monthly median costs nationally were $4,300. This is slightly under the cost of care for in-home care but almost half the cost of a nursing home facility.

What is a nursing home?

Nursing homes, also known as skilled nursing facilities, provide a variety of different types of care but include 24-hour medical care to those who are unable to care for themselves. They will provide nursing help, supervision, and rehabilitation services such as occupational therapy. Like an assisted living facility, nursing homes provide three meals a day and social activities for residents.

Services provided by nursing homes

A nursing home will provide extensive medical care — the most thorough care a patient can receive outside of a hospital. In addition to skilled nursing care, a nursing home facility will provide care for daily living activities such as bathing, dressing and eating. Skilled care services, beyond nursing, include those provided by medical professionals such as respiratory and occupational therapists.

Benefits of nursing homes

The benefits of nursing homes include supervision of daily living activities by medical professionals who can help with bathing, dressing and hygiene. This means that your loved one will get the medical care they need throughout the day. Medically trained professional staff can help you or your loved one manage medications, therapies and other needs that other facilities cannot. Having the security of medical staff on hand can be a tremendous relief for the person in need of care and family caregivers.

Why choose a nursing home facility over assisted living?

When you or a loved one needs medical help to manage their ongoing daily needs, then a nursing home is the right choice. While assisted living facilities can help with care, access to medical supervision and care is limited and may not be enough for your loved one. If you still have questions, many states have guideline requirements for when a person should have nursing home care.

Costs of skilled nursing facilities

According to the 2021 Genworth Cost of Care Survey, daily costs for skilled nursing home facilities average $297. These costs are considerably higher than assisted living facilities or in-home care because of the need for medically licensed staff that are on hand round the clock.

Assisted living vs. nursing home: which is the right choice for my loved one?

Choosing between assisted living and nursing home care will depend on how much medically assisted care you or your loved one will need. Assisted living facilities are perfect for those who can manage daily living activities fairly independently but need physical help to manage. A nursing home will provide you or your loved one with extensive care for daily needs and allow for meals, activities in an adaptable, safe environment. Medical professionals will help to manage the care and therapies that may be needed, relieving stress on both the loved one and the caregiver.