Nurse assisting elderly woman

The Similarities and Differences of Assisted Living and Nursing Homes

Study after study shows that compared to women, men are less likely to seek medical help or support whether it’s for a physical illness or a mental health problem. It can be dangerous since the lack of proper diagnosis and, more so, treatment can worsen the condition until it becomes difficult to manage or even untreatable.

Men who think they might need more intensive monitoring but don’t want to visit the doctor all the time try assisted living or a nursing home. Here’s how they are similar and different:

1. Kind of Care Provided

Both nursing homes and assisted-living facilities provide care for the elderly. However, there are some differences in the kind of care they provide.

For example, nursing home residents receive more intense services that are highly medicalized, while independent living facilities are designed to meet only the “custodial” needs of their residents. This means that nursing homes provide intensive “health-related” care.

Under US federal law, nursing home residents are entitled to have services of registered nurses on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. While some staff members in assisted-living facilities may be nurse assistants or certified nursing assistants only, there is usually no requirement for them to have RN training.

2. Cost and Availability

Both nursing homes and independent living facilities offer long-term care options to people who need assistance with daily life activities. However, the cost of these services is usually more expensive in a nursing home than in an assisted-living facility. Moreover, the availability of beds for these two types of facilities also varies across different countries.

Fortunately, the cost of nursing homes and assisted living can be covered by insurance, including Medicare. Most insurance companies provide different types of long-term care policies and plans.

3. Location

Nursing homes and assisted-living facilities are located in institutional settings but not in one specific location. However, some nursing homes are also located on the grounds of hospitals with special units dedicated to acute medical care for their residents so that emergency hospitalization will not be needed.

Meanwhile, assisted-living facilities can be located either in a separate building or within a special area of the community. Some have their own homes, while others are located in group home settings.

4. Regulations

Both nursing homes and assisted-living facilities are regulated by government agencies at the local, state, provincial, or national levels. Regulations include:

  • Building and fire safety
  • Sanitation
  • Food preparation
  • Use of physical and chemical restraints (e.g., medications and apparatus such as wheelchair and bedrails) for clients who pose a danger to themselves or others
  • Privacy and confidentiality of client records
  • Licensing, certification, and training requirements

While each state has its regulations on assisted-living facilities, the services provided by nursing homes are strictly regulated by federal law under the U.S. Nursing Home Reform Act (NHRA). Assisted-living services are not regulated by federal law.

5. Medication Management

In most nursing homes, residents are given medications as needed. However, in assisted-living facilities, medication is usually only provided on a scheduled basis. In either case, both nursing homes and assisted-living facilities to rely heavily on the use of prescription drugs to treat their older adult clientele.

6. Social Needs

Both nursing homes and assisted-living facilities rely heavily on their clientele to provide the social stimulation they need to maintain a higher level of functioning. In nursing homes, it is easier for staff to monitor and control interactions between residents because of the physical setting that limits residents’ ability to roam around the facility.

In assisted-living facilities, interactions are more likely to occur naturally. While services offered by both types of living facilities include some socialization, the quality and quantity of social activities depend largely on the individual arrangements made with each facility.

7. Staffing

Nursing homes have a higher staff-to-resident ratio than assisted-living facilities because they provide a wider range of services that require a bigger support team. In nursing homes, residents are likely to receive more services.

These may include help with personal care, medication management, and daily activities, all of which require a higher number of staff members on duty at the same time.

Assisted-living facilities typically have smaller staffs that are responsible for providing more individualized attention to clients. Staff size depends on the client’s needs in each facility, but assisted-living staff typically provide fewer services per client. This limits the number of staff members needed during any given shift.

Which one should you pick? That really depends on your personal needs. Both nursing homes and assisted-living facilities have their unique benefits and drawbacks.

In both cases, you should feel comfortable with the staff who will be taking care of you, as well as take a look at the physical environment that is offered to ensure that it meets your individual preferences.

In terms of costs, nursing homes tend to be a more expensive option. However, assisted-living facilities might not be an option for individuals who do not have the daily support they need to remain safe and healthy.

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