Navigation Menu

Nursing Homes, Independent Living & Assisted Living: What’s The Difference?

Nursing Homes, Independent Living & Assisted Living: What’s The Difference?

The Spectrum of Care

When living in one’s home is no longer feasible, figuring out the next place for senior living can be difficult.  It’s crucial to find a safe, stable, and comfortable environment where you or your loved one can feel at home. A location convenient for family visits is also an important consideration. There are dozens of housing options for seniors, which is why it’s important to understand the differences among them before making any major decisions.

Three of the most common types of housing for seniors are

  1. Independent Living Communities
  2. Assisted Living Communities
  3. Nursing Homes

At first glance, these categories may seem to overlap in service scope, but when we take a closer look, we find distinctly different levels of care and services.

Independent Living Communities

Independent Living Communities (also known as 65+ or Retirement Communities) are designed to appeal to the 65 and over set who are no longer able or interested in maintaining a home. These seniors, though, can manage their activities of daily living and require less personal assistance.

The actual types of homes may vary depending on the area. An independent living complex may include apartments, townhouse or cottage style residences. Usually, a full kitchen with small-scale kitchen appliances, as well as washers and dryers are included with each unit. Almost all communities include property management, housekeeping, on-site dining, and limited transportation. Some independent living communities offer luxury amenities such as gourmet dining, fitness programs, golf, organized museum events, concierge, and even weekly wine tastings! Most communities sponsor active social gathering, outings, and opportunities for seniors to mingle with neighbors.

Independent Living Communities are convenient for the seniors who can take care of themselves but do not want to worry about the stress of maintaining an entire home.

Assisted Living Communities

Assisted Living Communities (also called Assisted Living Facilities or ALF) are availableAssisted Living Facilities for seniors who may need assistance with daily tasks. This form of living is also beneficial for older adults who may be at risk living alone. Some residents only need help with homemaking such as meal preparation and laundry, whereas others may require a hand with personal care such as dressing, toileting, bathing, or medication management. The real added value for residents is to be found in a lifestyle that affords both safety and socialization.

Apartment size ranges from studio to two bedrooms, and there are central or shared laundry facilities. Kitchen appliances are mini-sized, and there are no ovens in each apartment for baking. Some communities include a central “country kitchen” where residents with a passion for cooking or baking are free to indulge. One feature commonly built into the structure of an ALF is “universal design” to provide accommodation for those with physical challenges. Assisted living communities also offer a variety of activities for learning and social engagement, as well as van transportation for shopping, outings, and medical appointments.

Many Assisted Living Communities have secure floors and separate activities for people with advanced dementia or Alzheimer’s. This provides flexibility and support for couples who want to remain together. For example, while one spouse benefits from memory care, the other enjoys the respite from caregiving and time for other pursuits.

Nursing Homes

Nursing Homes (also known as a Skilled Nursing Facility or a Long Term Care Facility) are based on a medically driven model defined by State Licensure and Medicare Certification Criteria. Residents usually qualify for nursing home placement by having a complex medical condition, the need for assistance with at least two activities of daily living, and moderate to advanced dementia. (Activities of daily living include: eating, dressing, bathing, toileting, and mobility for walking and transfer)

The layout of a nursing home differs depending on the facility, but rooms may either be private or shared. The rooms may have their own bathroom, or there may be a shared bathroom in the hallway. Most nursing homes offer an activities program that members can participate in if they’d like.

How To Decide

We know it is a challenge to find the perfect care community for your loved one. It takes research, connections, time and expertise. Long-term care placement is highly emotional and often scary, but the best tools for good placement are your gut and your senses.

It’s important to compare the health care offered at each community, the cost, as well as the personal needs of your loved one before making a final decision. At ElderCareSmart, we can help you in choosing a high-quality provider and compare the cost of each.  Give us a call today 

Today … Understand elder person’s needs and wishes • Help families and caregivers address immediate issues • Advocate and coordinate among multiple providers

Tomorrow … Map a long term plan for the elder’s care needs • Facilitate and coordinate details of ongoing care • Navigate senior living issues for best outcomes

Elder Care Smart