If you spent some uninterrupted time with a parent who is a senior during summer vacation, you may have noticed changes that leave you wondering how safe they are living alone. Families sometimes panic at the first signs of change in an older loved one and think a nursing home is the only solution.
Adult children are often unaware of another quality senior care option: an assisted living community.
We thought you might find it helpful to learn more about the similarities and differences between these two types of senior care.
A Comparison of Assisted Living and Nursing Homes
Let’s first talk about what these communities have in common.
One primary similarity is both provide residents assistance with what are referred to ADLs. The acronym stands for the Activities of Daily Living. They include personal care tasks such as grooming, bathing, dressing, and toileting.
Other similarities between assisted living and nursing homes include:
- Support with Medication Management: Mistakes managing medication are one of leading reasons seniors are sent to emergency rooms everyday. It isn’t uncommon for older adults to take multiple medications each day. Remembering which ones to take when and how much to take can be a challenge.
- Support with Daily Chores: Another reason adults make a move to a senior housing community is the need for help with everyday tasks such as laundry and housekeeping. As we age, these types of everyday activities become more difficult.
- Transportation Services: Both types of communities usually offer in-house transportation. This allows older adults who no longer drive a safe, reliable way to get to and from the pharmacy, medical appointments and more.
- Good Nutrition: Planning menus and cooking healthy meals can be a lot of work, especially when you are doing it for only one person. Both of these kinds of communities employ or contract with dieticians and chefs who are able to ensure seniors’ nutritional needs are met.
- Wellness Programs and Life Enrichment Activities: Research shows that loneliness is now considered to be a serious health risk for seniors. It contributes to chronic health conditions such as diabetes, depression, obesity and high blood pressure. In addition to the socialization that comes from being surrounded by peers, residents of senior care communities have a wide range of daily enrichment and wellness activities to participate in.
- Safe Environment: From step-free showers to grab bars, emergency call systems, and sturdy handrails, assisted living communities and nursing homes are designed with senior safety in mind.
Despite the number of similarities, however, there are some marked differences between an assisted living community and a nursing home.
How Assisted Living Communities Differ From Nursing Homes
The two most significant differences you will notice when you visit are the level of medical support provided and the physical plant.
Nursing Homes Residents Have More Complex Medical Needs
Unlike an assisted living community, residents of a nursing home typically live with more complex health conditions. They require around the clock supervision and support from skilled caregivers. Some also need services such as infusion therapy and respiratory care.
Seniors who reside in an assisted living community have different types of needs. Most require what is considered to be custodial care. This simply means they need assistance with the activities of daily living to safely maintain their independence.
For example, people with Alzheimer’s disease, adults who need help with toileting or continence care, and seniors with vision or mobility impairments typically find an assisted living community to be a good solution.
Assisted Living Communities Look More Like Apartment Communities
The physical difference between these two types of communities reflects the types of care each one delivers. Nursing homes usually have a more clinical appearance because they provide a higher level of medical care. Residents often share a room and a bathroom.
By contrast, an assisted living community feels and looks less institutional. These communities are more comparable to a nice apartment complex. Residents generally have their own apartment with a kitchenette, living area, bedroom and private bathroom.
Senior Living in the Pacific Northwest
To learn more about senior living communities in and around Seattle, please head over to the Retirement Living section of our Resource Center. You can explore local communities that offer services ranging from short-term rehab to specialized memory care.