What Is the Difference Between Assisted Living and Nursing Home?

If you are like a good many adult children of older parents who are moving further into their Golden Years, you may be wondering whether the time has come for your parents to live somewhere different than in the private residence currently occupied. Navigating the various types of senior living options available in this day and age can prove to be a highly complicated and even frustrating task. Even coming to a clearer understanding of the differences between different types of centers or facilities for older Americans is complex. 

We want to help make that process at least a bit easier for you. To this end, in this article we discuss some of the essential differences between assisted living and a nursing home. 

There can be a great deal of confusion between assisted living and a nursing home. Indeed, a surprising number of people think that assisted living is synonymous with nursing home. In fact, this conclusion – albeit an erroneous one – is understandable. It’s particularly plausible because very few of us are often in the position of looking for alternative living situations for our older parents. 

The first place to start with understanding the distinctions between assisted living and nursing home is to consider the definition of each of these types of living options. The definitions of these senior residential options provide necessary clarity about both assisted living and a nursing home and explains in basic terms why they are not one in the same.

What Is Assisted Living?

Assisted living is a type of residential community that provides residents with some basic assistance with some of the essential activities of daily living. As a matter of routine, assisted living does not provide residents with medical or healthcare support. A typical resident of an assisted living community is able to undertake some activities of daily living, perhaps even most of these endeavors. 

What Is a Nursing Home?

A nursing home is a facility that focuses more heavily on providing its residents with medical and healthcare assistance and support. These facilities are designed in a manner that permits them the ability to provide around the clock medical and healthcare support for older individuals, people with some type of chronic illness, and even for individuals that are recovering from some sort of illness or condition that is not considered to be permanent. A typical resident of a nursing home is not able to undertake many activities of daily living. Indeed, a nursing home resident may not be able to undertake any such activities.

Specific Differences Between Assisted Living and Nursing Home 

Medical Care: A nursing home provides its residence a range of specified types of medical care and assistance. An assisted living facility does not provide this type of service to its residents.

Mobility Assistance: Both nursing homes and assisted living centers provide mobility assistance to residents. With that said, the level of mobility assistance provided at an assisted care facility may not be as extensive as what is available at a nursing home.

Privacy: Privacy is largely dependent on the specific facility in question. Assisted living facilities and nursing homes alike can have private living quarters for residents. There will be a greater chance for more privacy at an assisted living center by the nature of the types of services offered there versus those at a nursing home.

Housekeeping: Both types of facilities provide housekeeping for their residents.

Pets: Nursing homes do not permit pets. However, some do allow pet visits from time to time. Some assisted living facilities do permit residents to bring a pet along with them to the community. 

Entertainment and Activities: An assisted living center will have a larger array of different types of entertainment and activities. Nursing homes do provide residents entertainment and activities as well, although typically not as much as is seen in assisted living.

Living Accommodations: Nursing homes have semi-private and private rooms. (Semi-private is a shared room.) Some offer their residents the option for a suite. Assisted living facilities offer apartments, private rooms, and semi-private (shared) rooms, depending on the particular community.  

Access to Doctors: Nursing homes have doctors that visit the facilities on a regular and routine basis. When a person comes to live in a nursing home, their medical care typically is provided by a physician associated with such a facility. Assisted care centers do not provide this level of medical care. A resident of an assisted care facility typically maintains his or her existing medical care program, including a primary care physician. An assisted care center usually provides transportation to medical and other types of appointments. Emergency medical care arrangements will be made at an assisted care facility as needed. 

In summary, an assisted care facility is for a person with lesser needs, an individual who is largely independent. On the other hand, a nursing home is for a person who requires much more significant assistance, including with medical or healthcare issues.