Assisted Living vs. Nursing Homes: Making the Best Choice for Senior Care

Discover the differences and determine the right long-term care option for your parent.

April 12, 2024

3 min read

friendly assisted living staff member helps resident prepare for the day

Making decisions about the care of a parent as they age can be challenging and emotional. It’s not just about choosing a place to live; it’s about finding the right environment where they will thrive. For families trying to choose between assisted living and nursing homes, understanding the differences is crucial for finding the right care.

In this comparison, we’ll explore each option so your family can make an informed choice.

Assisted living facilities: Greater independence with the right support

Assisted living communities offer a balance of independence and support. Designed for seniors who require some daily assistance but still wish to lead an active lifestyle, these communities provide a social environment that combats loneliness in seniors and fosters physical, emotional and cognitive wellness.

A social lifestyle designed to maintain good health

Studies show that good friends are good for your health. Community living has been proven to reduce a variety of ailments, from cognitive decline and heart disease to anxiety and depression. One of the benefits of senior living communities is that they offer daily events and activities for seniors. The programs offered by a community can indicate whether or not it would be a good fit.

Personalized care

Assisted living communities respect residents’ independence while offering support for activities of daily living (ADLs), such as getting dressed, bathing and medication assistance. Care isn’t one-size-fits-all, though. Finding a community that offers a personalized approach ensures that individual care needs are met, and changes in health and well-being are noticed.

While assisted living communities don’t typically offer skilled nursing services, you may find a community that offers regular care assessments and on-site healthcare services – giving residents and their families peace of mind.

Senior living amenities and services

Amenities such as a fitness center, swimming pool and nutritious dining experiences all enhance the well-being of older adults. Entrusting daily tasks such as cooking, cleaning and household maintenance to a professional staff frees assisted living residents to enjoy life and spend more time doing things they want to do.

Nursing homes: Intensive senior care services

Nursing homes cater to individuals who require extensive 24-hour medical care for acute or chronic illnesses. These facilities are equipped with professional healthcare personnel, making them suitable for complex health conditions that cannot be self-managed or addressed in an assisted living community.

Long-term care facilities can provide for many needs and services. Understanding your family’s long-term care options will help you make a confident choice.

Full-time medical care

Skilled nursing care and professional healthcare practitioners providing round-the-clock care are the key components of nursing homes. These facilities offer a higher level of medical attention, which includes rehabilitation, intensive therapies and specialized care plans.

Structured environment

Nursing homes offer a medically oriented environment rather than the social setting you’ll find in assisted living communities. While less emphasis is placed on social events, many nursing home facilities do offer some activities.

How to choose between assisted living and a nursing home

At its core, the decision between assisted living and a nursing home comes down to the level of care required. It’s about aligning care needs with the right environment – one that not only ensures safety but also promotes a sense of belonging and happiness.

For those who benefit from daily support but don’t require round-the-clock skilled nursing care, assisted living can be the perfect solution. Thanks to the supportive environment, a short-term assisted living stay can also provide a safe place to recover following an illness or injury – before your parent returns home. Conversely, when constant medical care is the priority, a nursing home may offer the necessary resources and expertise.

If you’re not sure your parent is ready for either care option, keep in mind that the social, supportive environment found in assisted living can help maintain good health, allowing your parent to age in place. Many assisted living communities also offer independent living – with the option to add care services should needs arise.

Not sure where to start? Creating a long-term care plan will help your family prepare for changing care needs and identify available resources.

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Not sure where to start?

There’s a lot to learn when you become a caregiver, and you may be wondering where to start. Fortunately, many of the experiences you’ll encounter are common, and we've pulled together resources to help you along your journey.

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