Assisted Living vs Nursing Home: Which is RightAssisted Living vs Nursing Home- Which is Right for Your Loved One- for Your Loved One?

You know your loved one has reached the point where they need more help than you can provide. Aging in place doesn’t look like a safe enough option and providing the care yourself simply isn’t feasible with the many responsibilities your own life puts on your shoulders.

The time has come to look into your senior living options. But like many people at this stage, you face an important question: is assisted living or a nursing home what’s right for your loved one?

What an Assisted Living Facility Provides

Assisted living facilities are designed for seniors that need help with many of the acts of daily living (ADLs), but still want to maintain some independence. Residents typically have their own apartments, but can call on staff to help with day-to-day tasks like getting dressed in the morning, taking their meds at the right time, staying clean, and getting three healthy meals a day.

In addition to helping provide for a senior’s needs, assisted living facilities also plan many activities to keep seniors social and active. From exercise classes to crafts to holiday celebrations and trips to local museums, seniors in an assisted living facility can count on having lots of options to socialize with fellow residents and keep busy.

Assisted living costs an average of $43,200 a year, although the amount varies a lot by state and facility, and some insurances and benefit programs can help cover the costs.

For a lot of seniors that need more help than their families can reasonably provide, but are still relatively healthy, assisted living hits the sweet spot. For some though, a greater level of care is needed.

What a Nursing Home Provides

The main difference between nursing homes and assisted living facilities is that nursing homes have medical staff on-the-clock for 24 hours a day. If your loved one needs medical help at any point, day or night, someone will be there to provide it.

That extra level of professional medical care comes with some tradeoffs though. Nursing homes don’t usually offer as many social activities as assisted living facilities, and they don’t provide the same level of independence. While they still offer some private rooms, most rooms are shared and are less like individual apartments than hospital rooms.

That’s one of the aspects of nursing home living that inspires most families to consider assisted living first, but for seniors that need more extensive care and frequent medical help, assisted living won’t be enough. Many families who move seniors into assisted living end up realizing the facility doesn’t provide the level of care needed and have to move their loved one to a nursing home within a year or two. When a nursing home is the right place for your loved one, it’s best to recognize it sooner rather than later.

As you’d expect, having a trained medical professional on staff for 24 hours a day doesn’t come cheap. Nursing homes cost an average of $92,387 a year for a private room and $82,125 for a shared room, but Medicare will often help cover the cost of a nursing home stay, as does long-term care insurance.

How to Determine Which is Best for a Loved One

There are basically two questions your family needs to discuss amongst yourselves and with your doctor to figure out whether an assisted living facility or nursing home is the best choice for you. Unfortunately, neither question is “which one does your loved one prefer.” This is a case where what they want and what they need may not be the same thing.

Is your loved one still fairly active and healthy?

Assisted living offers more recreational activities and social opportunities, but is only a good choice for someone who needs a little bit of daily help versus frequent medical care. If your loved one is still pretty independent, but is having trouble staying on top of three meals and day and taking their meds on time, assisted living is probably just right for them.

Does your loved one need full-time medical care?

If your loved one has complicated medication needs, is incontinent, or has an illness that puts them at risk of frequent medical emergencies, then they need to be in a nursing home.

Many seniors dread the idea of a nursing home, but they’re better than being in and out of the hospital all the time while trying to make an assisted living facility work. Getting your loved one the level of care they need will make their days safer and easier, even if it doesn’t look that way to them at first. Do your research to find the facility in your area that’s the best fit for their personality and needs and trust yourself that you’re doing what’s best for them.

Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based copywriter and lifelong student with an ongoing curiousity to learn and explore new things. She turns that interest to researching and exploring subjects helpful to seniors and their families for


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