When considering living options for older adults, it’s important to take medical needs into account. Some people require a high level of care whether due to a chronic illness, rehabilitation after surgery or something else. Other older adults live independently, and, while they don’t need extra care at present, they want to fully understand the options available if and when their situation changes. When you understand how skilled nursing homes and assisted living communities provide care, you can better evaluate these facilities and decide what’s right for you or your family member or friend.
What Care Will I Receive in an Assisted Living Community?
Assisted living is intended for individuals who can live independently for the most part but may need help with certain activities. The system functions somewhat like a restaurant, in that you have the opportunity to select from a menu of activities you need help with and complete everything else on your own. For some adults, personal care needs like showering and getting dressed have become too difficult to handle on their own. For others, it’s daily household tasks, be it laundry, cleaning or cooking, that can no longer be completed.
Regardless of the specific task, someone at an assisted living community will come and help you with what you need. Prices vary by community, but generally you can expect to pay by the type of housing you choose and the level of assistance you need. If you’re mostly independent but have a single need, such as housekeeping help, you will generally pay less than someone who needs help with several activities of daily living (ADLs).
It’s difficult to generalize about assisted living programs, because they provide a wide range of services; however, all communities offer support for ADLs. To give a few examples, you can request help when using the bathroom, dressing, getting in and out of bed, medication management and rehab services. Depending on the community, they may offer only a few of these services and require that residents move to a skilled nursing community when they need more help than the assisted living staff can provide. Others provide more comprehensive care, for a longer period of time. This may allow adults to remain in the assisted living community even as their needs become more demanding.
Overall, most assisted living housing options include a single-story home, apartment or condo. These residents are likely to have kitchens and private bathrooms depending on the community, and they feel very much like traditional homes.
Couples are frequently encouraged to remain living together, thus assisted living is often ideal for couples in which one individual requires greater care while the other is mainly independent.
Some assisted living communities allow residents to have cars, so this may be a benefit for active older adults. Of course, transportation for organized trips – whether events, errands or doctor appointments, are available so residents who are not able to drive can still get around. The programs offered at assisted living communities help residents live full, active lives and socialize with friends. The importance of these positive social opportunities cannot be overstated.
Since assisted living communities offer help with a select range of ADLs, they provide more support than care when compared to a skilled nursing home. However, the benefit of assisted living is that people with less care needs can get the support they need to excel socially and independently. Adults in assisted living have access to groups, clubs, sports and recreation, entertainment, trips off-site and other social engagements. Thus, many adults enjoy assisted living because they get to have fun with friends while guaranteeing their health and safety are well-cared for.
What Care Will I Receive in a Nursing Home?
Nursing homes provide a higher level of care than assisted living communities, which makes it a great choice for someone who cannot get the medical care they need at home, and do not need hospital treatment. You might also hear these units referred to as skilled nursing homes due to the higher level of care offered for residents.
At a nursing home, you will receive the highest level of care possible outside of a hospital setting. In addition to helping with ADLs, similar to assisted living homes, nursing homes also offer skilled nursing care from registered nurses (RNs). This extra layer of care includes frequent medical check-ins and treatments.
Many nursing homes offer specialized long-term services, such as memory-related care for individuals with dementia, speech therapy or physical therapy. On the other hand, people can stay in nursing homes for a short amount of time; for example, after a surgery an individual may need a higher level of care as they work towards full recovery.
As these examples demonstrate, skilled nursing communities are ideal for individuals who need significant assistance or even 24/7 care. Similar to a hospital setting, many residents have roommates during their stay to facilitate nurses and other staff members. Private rooms are an option; however, it is likely that you will have to pay a premium for them.
Since people enter nursing homes when they need medical care, they don’t usually offer the same range of social programs as assisted living communities. With that said, nursing homes do still have programs and activities in place to keep residents as strong, independent and engaged as possible.
Which Care is Right for Me?
While people tend to use these two terms interchangeably, the reality is that each model offers something different. Many adults move from an assisted living community into a nursing home when the care provided at assisted living is no longer enough, but you can also move directly from living independently to skilled nursing if that makes the most sense for you. There is no “one size fits all” rule regarding which care level is the best option for your needs.
Adults who have been diagnosed with a progressive physical or mental condition may opt to move from assisted living into a skilled nursing center early in the process. This would allow them to adjust to their new space while they are still relatively healthy and feel secure in their new environment. Then, as their condition escalates, they can immediately receive greater levels of care.
Other retirement communities offer services on a continuum of care model, or CCRC, where residents can stay within the community and move from wing to wing (or building to building) as their care needs change – maintaining the life and friends they’ve built overtime.
Nursing homes are more expensive than assisted living communities due to the level of nursing care needed; however, Medicaid funding covers most of the bills for skilled nursing care. In contrast, assisted living care is usually considered an out-of-pocket expense. Waivers may be available in some situations to make the cost of assisted living care more affordable.
Take the time to understand everything offered at assisted living communities and nursing homes and speak with friends or neighbors who may have personal experiences with these places. Learning more about local communities and individuals’ experiences will help you understand your options better so you can decide on the appropriate place based on your unique needs, preferences and capabilities.
Premier Senior Living Care in Oakland, CA
In the Oakland area, Lake Park offers full-service retirement living in a vibrant setting. On the shores of Lake Merritt, Lake Park provides holistic retirement care with natural light, abundant greenery, attentive staff and amenities designed to keep residents happy and active. Our continuum of care model means that residents have access to independent living as well as assisted living and skilled nursing. By offering these services as a continuum, we help residents remain in their community while accessing the highest levels of care. Download our brochure (PDF) or contact us today to learn more about our services.