Assisted Living vs Nursing Homes: Picking the Right Option

Moving into a long-term care center, like a nursing home or an assisted living facility, can be a daunting task. You may not even know what kind of care you need! If you or a loved one are facing the possibility of moving into long-term care, don’t despair. Knowing your options will help you make the right choice.

Is an Assisted Living Facility the Same as a Nursing Home?

Not by a long shot! Assisted living facilities are designed for seniors that have more autonomy, and only need assistance with a few daily tasks. Nursing homes, otherwise known as “skilled care facilities,” are intended for adults that require constant supervision, and need to have professional care on hand at all hours.

An assisted living facility offers assistance with daily tasks like eating, bathing, housekeeping, and medication management. Private or shared apartments are available, and they really do feel like apartments, somewhere you can see yourself or your loved one living comfortably. An assisted living facility offers a plethora of recreational activities, and some homes even have scheduled transportation around town. However, while medical help will be readily available for emergencies, there tend to be only a few trained nurses or medical professionals on the grounds; assisted living facilities are intended for adults who don’t need constant supervision.

Nursing homes tend to be a bit more crowded, and roommates are more common. Their atmosphere is much more like a hospital than a home, and the recreation activities available are much more limited. However, a nursing home will offer assistance with daily tasks, medication management, housekeeping, meals, and skilled nursing, and a few limited medical procedures can be performed on-site. 24-hour supervision is available to residents who need it. Nursing homes are intended for adults who require extensive personal care, aren’t mobile without assistance, have severe cognitive problems, require daily medical care, and/or are not of sound enough mind to consent and resist receiving care.

On average, an assisted living facility will be cheaper per month than a nursing home. However, you’ll most likely have to pay for assisted living out of your own pocket. Some states have Medicaid assistance for assisted living, and the office of Veteran’s Affairs can help fund assisted living for a veteran or their surviving spouse; however, this will require redistributing or spending down your own assets first. On the other hand, you can be assured that every state will have some Medicaid provision for helping you pay for nursing homes.

When to Move from Assisted Living to a Nursing Home?

Making the transition from assisted living to a nursing home can be a trying time, and knowing when to make this move is often difficult. There are several things you should consider while thinking of transferring.

First of all, your loved one’s physical and mental wellbeing should be paramount. If your relative’s physical or mental health has declined notably, it may be time to move. It’s worth doing some research first, though, as some assisted living facilities offer special memory care services for patients suffering Alzheimer’s or dementia. Speak with both your loved one and the assisted living facility’s memory care staff to see if it would be a good fit.

Another factor to consider, closely tied to physical and mental wellbeing, is quality of life. Some people do well with the extra attention they receive in a nursing home; others resent the invasion of privacy. If moving out of an assisted living facility, your loved one may be leaving friends behind, and due to the more severe physical and mental decline typically found in nursing home residents, it may be hard to make new friends. The more limited recreational activities and travel ability in nursing homes can also decrease quality of life.

Review your loved one’s assisted living contract. If you or your relative is required to pay for a residence for a set amount of time, it might be a good idea to wait until the contract expires before moving. If you’re being charged upwards of $6000 for care, it may be time for a cost-benefit analysis of your assisted living facility versus a nursing home; fees in assisted living typically only get this high when you or your loved one require some sort of specialized care.

You or your loved one may be asked to leave your assisted living facility for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, the resident will genuinely need a higher level of care than a facility can offer. Sometimes, it’s because the resident is troublesome. If it’s the latter, you might be able to keep using the facility longer if you manage to minimize your, or your loved one’s, need for assistance.

Every individual is different, so when it comes to long-term care, you have to customize for the most benefit. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities excel at different things, so you need to do the research, look around your area, and find the option that’s right for you.

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