Assisted Living or Nursing Home: What’s the Difference?

Assisted Living or Nursing Home

Is there a difference?  When you hear the words “nursing home” you conjure a picture in your mind.  What about “assisted living”? They are two very different environments offering very different kinds of care. But the line between them is becoming more and more  blurred with the latter providing higher acuity care than ever before.  But what is the best for the residents in terms of quality care, cost and practicality? Traditionally assisted living  was limited to non-medical care, one person transfers, and assistance with ADL’s (Activities of Daily Living). The state of CO does not require there to be a nurse on staff. People enjoyed the home-like environment and apartment style living.  They also enjoyed the more independent feel of the community that did not include higher acuity residents. Assisted living was not trying to be all things to all people and many are still this way.

When is it a  Nursing Home? When it is licensed as such.

Anymore you will find that some assisted living communities have added nurses to their staff, will use Hoyer lifts, offer third party home care assistance to fill in the gaps left by traditional assisted living staffing (such as up to 24 hour sitters,  specialty care nurses,  and companions who will give one on one attention). Residents can remain in the community as long as they are safe, but at what cost? Once you reach the highest level of care in an assisted living you may be paying upwards of $2000 in addition to your room and board.  And that may not even include overnight care. If you add hourly home care at around $25 per hour to fill in the gaps, it adds up very quickly.

It’s a catch-22. You move to assisted living for the independent feel, then your needs increase. You want to stay and add more care,  to mimic the services of a nursing home.  While a true nursing home or long term care facility is licensed to provide medical care. It already has nurses 24 hours a day, medically trained staff, an on call physician, and CNA’s as opposed to caregivers or aides already there as part of the program. Some offer restorative nursing as a routine. (In a private pay nursing home this may be included in the rates.)

Skilled Nursing Facilities and Long Term Care Difference

Some of us have visions of our grandparents in an old style nursing home. There may be not so pleasant memories of what that may have looked, smelled and felt like. Today there are two kinds of homes we call skilled nursing facilities (SNF’s). One is designed to provide short-term rehab, paid for by insurance. New ones are being built to look and feel like a five-star resort with restaurant style dining and a recreational program that feels like day camp.  PT, OT and Speech Therapy are offered daily and at a rigorous pace.

The second is the traditional nursing home. This is a home where you may spend the rest of your life. Usually these are not so fancy, but they do not have to remind us of the nursing homes of days long gone by.  The good ones provide excellent care. There are small, private homes and large corporate facilities that may also be combined with rehab facilities. Bottom line is it should not smell, it can be homey and welcoming, not sterile and clinical. And there should be a regular recreation/activities program for residents to enjoy and have meaningful experiences everyday.
Take some time and explore what’s out there before you have the need for yourself or a loved one. There is a difference.

image of resident room showing home-like features with warm colors, soft quilt and curtains
Private room in Aspen Siesta

Visit Aspen Siesta  in person to get your baseline of what an excellent nursing home is. Then  you can compare the rest.

Call (303) 757-1209 to schedule a visit