Planning for Your Parents’ Future: Assisted Living vs. Nursing Home Differences

Senior receiving care at an assisted living community

When it seems like it’s time for a parent to leave their home behind for a new level of care, there is a range of options available, including assisted living communities and nursing homes. Because you want the best environment for your parent, you may be asking yourself how to find a nursing home for your mother or father, and whether that’s even the right choice to begin with. If you’re asking yourself what the difference is between assisted living and nursing homes — read on to find out.

Step 1: Notice Changes in Behavior

The first question a family member should ask before moving forward with assisted living or a nursing home for their parents is whether the time is right to move out of their home. We have previously discussed the differences between in-home care and assisted living communities, and one of the main advantages of assisted living is having 24/7 access to assistance for the activities of daily life. For loved ones who are facing a cognitive decline or memory-related challenges, simply completing day-to-day tasks can be too much to handle.

If you start to notice your loved one is struggling with mobility issues, it may be time to start considering a move to an assisted living community or a nursing home. In these situations, the activities of daily life can often become too much to handle. Parents who have trouble doing essential daily activities without a reminder or physical assistance may need a more accessible environment and the help of care staff to take care of challenging daily tasks.

Assisted living communities or nursing homes may be a good option for parents who need help:

  • Bathing
  • Getting dressed
  • Taking the proper medication doses at the correct time
  • Getting to appointments at the correct time
  • Scaling stairs
  • Maintaining the home or yard

Consider how much these challenges impact the wellbeing of your loved one. If they lack the mobility and attentiveness they once relied on for a healthy life at home, it’s worth looking into alternative living options.

Step 2: Consider the Circumstances

One of the most important factors in your decision is the level of medical care your loved one may need. True to their name, nursing homes typically have licensed nursing staff on-site at all times to address medical issues in a clinic-like setting. Of course, these services typically come at a higher cost than senior care options without a complete medical staff on site.

While assisted living communities provide some level of medical assistance, their true appeal lies in their ability to provide personal care services in a comfortable, home-like setting. The environment of an assisted living community is like an apartment home, compared to a nursing home, which can feel more like a medical facility. Assisted living communities are typically social, activity-oriented and comfortable. While nursing home services tend to focus on the medical needs of residents, assisted living incorporates more of an emphasis on social activities, community outings and making the residents’ experiences feel as much like home as possible.

For these reasons, you should speak with a doctor about the best move for your loved one. If they need ongoing medical assistance from a licensed nurse throughout the day and night, a nursing home is probably the best option. On the other hand, if your parent just needs assistance in case of emergency overnight, or just needs assistance with personal care in the overnight hours, assisted living could be a great choice.

Step 3: Research Your Options

Most people know the type of environment that is best suited for their parents, so getting a firsthand glimpse of daily life at a senior care community can provide valuable insights into whether or not the option is a good fit.

There are always exceptions, but if you’re curious about assisted living vs. nursing home differences, use this table as a general guide:

 Assisted LivingNursing Home
Ideal forSeniors who need personal care, medication management and are receptive to social environmentsSeniors who need extensive personal care and mobility assistance, and/or have a need for licensed care staff 24/7
Care ServicesAssistance with the activities of daily living, medication assistance, some on-site nursing, visiting health care providers, visiting therapies and hospiceAssistance with the activities of daily living, medication assistance, on-site nursing 24/7, visiting health care providers, visiting or in-house therapies and hospice
Additional ServicesRecreational opportunities, transportation, meals, laundry, housekeepingMeals, laundry, housekeeping
CostTypically less expensiveTypically more expensive, but often will accept Medicaid as payment for services.
Residential SpacesPrivate rooms with private baths. Can feature full kitchen or kitchenette and a variety of floor plan options. Ample interior and exterior commons areasPrivate or shared rooms with shared baths, with interior commons areas

Step 4: Get Set with the Right Solution for Your Loved One

If you’ve done your homework and decided that assisted living is the best option for your parent, we are here to help you find the ideal community for his or her situation. Get in touch with our team to learn more about our assisted living communities. If you’re ready to see our communities for yourself, be sure to schedule a tour!