How is Assisted Living Different than a Nursing Home?

Sunrise Senior Living  |  December 30, 2019
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Understanding the different types of senior care can be a little confusing for families. When a loved one needs help, it’s often hard to navigate your way through the maze of options available. Because an assisted living community and a skilled nursing center sound so similar on paper, deciding which one is the best fit requires research.

Adult children who haven’t been through the search for a senior housing solution can easily assume an assisted living community is simply a more upscale version of a nursing home. The reality is, there are very significant differences between these two levels of care.

What is Assisted Living?

Assisted living communities are a senior housing option where professional caregivers offer the support that residents need to live their most independent lives. Each resident typically has a private apartment or suite, with caregivers nearby, around-the-clock, to provide assistance when necessary.

Residents also receive support with personal care tasks (e.g., bathing, grooming, dressing), medication management, toileting, and continence care. Here are several other standard services and amenities usually included:

  • Chef-prepared meals and healthy snacks
  • Transportation services
  • Laundry and housekeeping
  • Wellness programs

Another important part of daily life in an assisted living community is the life-enrichment opportunities. Residents enjoy social activities and events both on and off campus.

While these can vary from community to community, a few examples include book clubs, art workshops, card groups, movie nights, shopping trips, and cultural outings. Low-impact exercise classes and a fitness center are also common.

What is a Nursing Home?

Unlike an assisted living community, where the assistance is focused on non-clinical support, nursing home residents typically have more complex medical needs. Skilled nurses are available 24-hours a day, and occupational and physical therapists are usually on staff. Most nursing homes have a Medical Director who has oversight for all of the clinical care.

Like assisted living community residents, people who reside in nursing homes also need help with some basic living tasks, such as bathing, dressing, eating, and managing medications. Nursing home residents typically have a private or semiprivate room with a bathroom, but not a living room or kitchenette.

They enjoy three nutritious meals each day and the opportunity to participate in life-enrichment activities. Nursing homes provide laundry and housekeeping services, and most offer at least a limited transportation schedule.

Many nursing homes have a dedicated program for short-term rehabilitation. Unlike long-term residents of the community, rehab patients often come for a short-term stay. It is usually after they are hospitalized from for an illness, injury, or surgery. Once the individual meets their rehabilitation goals, they return to their private home or assisted living community.

Which Type of Senior Housing is Best for My Family Member?

This decision should be based on your senior loved one’s needs and wishes. It may help if you sit down together and create a list of what areas of daily life they are struggling with.

Another suggestion is to complete the Sunrise Care Questionnaire. The 4-minute questionnaire will help you identify what type of care is a good fit for your loved one’s needs. You can print the results or have them emailed to you to share with other family members.

A Variety of Senior Care Options at Sunrise

At Sunrise, we offer older adults a wide range of senior living communities from which to choose. From stand-alone assisted living and memory care communities to The Monogram Collection, there is a solution for every need.

Call us at 888-434-4648 for help finding a community near you!