Is the Care the Same in an Assisted Living and a Nursing Home?
An estimated 1.2 million Americans now live in assisted living communities, according to the National Council for Aging Care. However, many people are still uncertain about what, exactly, assisted living means.
Assisted living is a housing option that provides physical and emotional support in a warm, homey community. Assisted living communities foster a sense of independence and personal growth in the people who live there.
People who are considering moving into an assisted living community tend to have a lot of questions. They may be unclear on the differences between assisted living and nursing homes. They may also wonder whether they’ll still have the independence, privacy and intellectual stimulation that they have valued throughout their lives.
They may also wonder whether they’ll have access to the support they need to live their best lives.
Deciding between a move to an assisted living community or a nursing home is a very personal matter, which ultimately comes down to what’s best for each individual and their family.
Whenever you’re making a decision, it helps to have as much information as possible. In this blog, we put together an overview of what assisted living has to offer and how it compares to the care offered in a nursing home.
Assisted Living Community or Nursing Home?
Many people believe that assisted living and nursing homes are one and the same. In fact, the two are very different. That’s why it’s a good idea to take your time considering the options and weighing the pros and cons of each.
The Difference in a Nutshell
Assisted living allows individuals to live in private rooms and remain independent while receiving support with the daily tasks they need, such as bathing or dressing. You should consider assisted living if you can largely take care of yourself but need some support in certain areas.
Nursing homes provide a higher level of care with 24/7 support. Individuals can have private or shared rooms. You should consider a nursing home if you need regular support to go about your daily life.
Nursing Homes Provide a High Level of Care
Nursing homes can provide a high level of support. The residents of nursing homes often require help with everyday tasks like getting dressed, using the bathroom and getting in and out of bed. Some nursing homes are also set up to provide skilled nursing services on an as-need basis.
People who struggle with performing their own personal care may feel more comfortable in a nursing home, where they’ll have round the clock medical attention and daily check-ins with nurses.
Besides helping with personal support, skilled nursing services can provide physical therapy and tube feeding. They can help with rehabilitation efforts and they can monitor a frequently changing medical condition, as in the aftermath of an accident or a health crisis. Medical staff at the nursing home also supervise the medication and treatment of all the nursing home residents.
If residents need assistance with memory impairments such as dementia, they can move to a memory care community. Memory care provides specialized support for those with neurological problems including Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia and more. While some nursing homes may help with these needs, they usually have a dedicated memory care area to support these residents.
Assisted Living Communities Promote Independence and Help with Daily Living Activities
If you don’t need regular assistance to go about your day, you likely don’t need a nursing home. Instead, you may want to consider assisted living. Assisted living communities are designed for people who can still care for themselves but may want help with certain basic tasks.
Unlike nursing homes, people who move into assisted living communities have their own apartments, complete with kitchen and bathroom. They are also able to decide for themselves just how much help they’d like with the activities of their daily lives.
This will look different for each person. Tasks like cleaning, doing laundry and performing household maintenance can be outsourced to staff, although people are also free to do their own dusting and mopping if they prefer. People who enjoy cooking are free to prepare their own food, in their own kitchens. They can invite dinner guests, too.
But for those who love fine dining and gourmet cuisine, there are also restaurants located right in the community. The chefs there are happy to accommodate dietary restrictions and preferences.
Living Independently in a Supportive Environment
The goal of an assisted living community is to ensure that the people who live there are free to pursue exceptional lives with the support that makes that possible. To that end, assisted living offers people a supportive living environment where they can feel confident, cared for and independent at the same time.
Again, this will look different for everyone. Assisted living allows people who love to drive to keep their cars. Those who want to do their own grocery shopping and pay visits to family and friends are encouraged to do so. But assisted living communities also offer wellness programs and a well-trained staff able to care for those who need support.
In an assisted living community, people have access to as much—or as little—support as they need.
Assisted Living and Wellness
Some people wonder whether assisted living communities can provide the same level of support as nursing homes do. The truth is that assisted living communities and nursing homes have different residents. Nursing homes do offer more support than assisted living communities but assisted living communities still provide the support that independent individuals need to remain independent. The best assisted living communities also take a holistic approach to health and wellness that can help you stay healthy and active for longer.
Assisted living communities focus on physical activity and good nutrition as the best, most natural way to stay strong and healthy. A fit, well-nourished body is also better able to fight off disease and to recover from injuries.
Assisted living communities also foster intellectual stimulation by planning lifelong learning activities and outings. It’s been well documented that mental stimulation, along with physical exercise, can help keep your brain young and your spirits high. This helps promote long-lasting good health.
Similarly, maintaining strong social ties through frequent visits to family and friends and by forming new friendships, can help maintain optimal mental and physical health. Assisted living communities can make it easy to build connections and deepen social engagements.
Finally, many assisted living communities actively foster spiritual health to further promote holistic wellness. Assisted living communities give people access to religious services and help them to observe their own traditions. Assisted living communities can also help people search for meaning through nature, art and volunteerism.
Enrichment Activities in Assisted Living Communities
Assisted living communities offer a range of enrichment activities and programs designed to stimulate the people who live there. There are visits to museums and concerts for those interested in the arts. There are also visits to local zoos and aquariums for people who are fascinated by natural history. For nature lovers, some assisted living communities offer walks through their beautiful grounds and the opportunity to garden. Other communities are located near parks and arboretums.
These are just a small sampling of the activities that may be included in an assisted living community’s activities, amenities and services. You may also see regular shopping trips and day-long excursions on their regular calendar of events.
Assess Needs on an Individual Basis
Just as every child grows up at a slightly different rate, every adult ages differently. This means that a person’s chronological age isn’t the only factor to consider when evaluating the level of support they’ll need.
It’s important to assess the needs of each person who may be considering a move to either a nursing home or an assisted living community. This kind of assessment can be carried out by a doctor, a geriatric case manager or an employee of the nursing home or assisted living community. If you’re considering moving with your spouse, you should evaluate each of your individual needs and ensure you find a solution that can accommodate both of you.
Many organizations rely on standardized forms to evaluate the personal support needs of individuals. In Maryland, healthcare professionals use a form called the “Resident Assessment Tool” to assess individuals’ needs. The same tool is used to measure individuals’ desire and ability to take part in social activities.
This assessment can help doctors and other medical professionals determine the level of support needed by each individual. It can also be a useful indicator for individuals who are considering a move to a nursing home or an assisted living community. It’s a good idea to discuss the assessment with representatives of any nursing home or assisted living community you are considering moving to as well. Those representatives can help you understand if their community will fit your needs.
If you live in the greater Baltimore, Maryland, area, or if you’re considering a move to the area during your retirement, we recommend booking a tour at Tudor Heights. Our assisted living community has a rich history and strong values of dignity and respect. We offer many of the great perks and amenities described in this article along with other services designed to help you feel safe, secure and empowered to lead the life you want. Browse our website or get in touch with our friendly team to learn more about our community.