What Is the Difference Between Assisted Living and Nursing Homes?

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When planning for the future, it’s important to discuss long-term care options. Of course, for many families, this can be a difficult subject to approach. Nobody wants to think about the prospect of leaving home, whether it’s for themselves or loved ones. And, it doesn’t help that there are so many negative perceptions about senior living.

Oftentimes, this stereotype is caused by confusing assisted living residences with nursing homes. While both facilities provide care and support to older adults, they offer significantly different experiences. For starters, assisted living is more of a social setting than a medical one. It gives older adults an opportunity to age gracefully with their peers, enjoy modern, luxurious amenities and participate in fun activities and events. Although health services are available, they’re just a small part of the experience.

Overall, the purpose of assisted living is to improve the quality of life for seniors who need some support in their golden years. Let’s take a closer look at assisted living and how it differs from traditional nursing homes.

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An Assisted Living Community Doesn’t Feel Like a Hospital

If you’ve ever stayed in a hospital, you’ll probably agree that it’s not the most comfortable environment. It’s cold, boring and completely void of the warmth and comfort of home. This is because medical care — not comfort — is the main priority of hospitals. You experience limited privacy as nurses and doctors stream in and out of the room, and you probably became bored due to the lack of activities.

Because they’re also focused on medical care, nursing homes tend to feel like hospitals. Caregivers are available 24/7 to deliver round-the-clock nursing care to residents who are usually wholly reliant on others. Those in assisted living communities, however, don’t require that level of constant, intensive health care. As a result, they provide settings that are comfortable, welcoming and suitable for engaging in social interactions.

In many assisted living homes, you’ll find some amenities that are just like home where residents can relax and mingle, such as living and dining rooms. Residents also have private suites and bathrooms, which gives them a sense of independence and privacy. Ultimately, these communities deliver a homelike feel — residents get the comfort of their own accommodations while also enjoying access to a wider space and community.

Assisted Living Offers Modern Amenities

A common concern when it comes to senior living is boredom. Seniors might worry that because they need some extra support, others will assume they’re bedridden or can’t enjoy engaging, entertaining activities. Fortunately, assisted living communities know this couldn’t be further from the truth. That’s why many homes are beautifully decorated and feature modern amenities, such as:

  • Fitness and pool facilities

  • Lounges with fireplaces

  • Beauty salons

  • Restaurant-style dining

  • Libraries

  • Moving theaters

Many assisted living communities offer fitness areas where residents can stay active and participate in daily exercise classes. Some homes have beautiful landscapes with gardens, lakes for fishing and walking paths. If pampering is how you like to relax, some homes feature on-site salons and beauty facilities, where residents can access spa and wellness treatments.

Another major perk of assisted living communities is the food. As those of you who have stayed in hospitals know, health care facilities aren’t exactly known for providing delicious meals. Assisted living communities, on the other hand, often deliver delicious, chef-prepared homemade food that’s also nutritious in a restaurant-style setting with table centerpieces. With all these modern, luxurious amenities, residents can rest assured they’ll never be bored.

Assisted Living Communities Offer Opportunities to Stay Social and Active

We’re social creatures, and that doesn’t change with age. Even the most introverted older adults enjoy socializing with like-minded people every now and then. Since nursing homes are geared toward medical care, scheduled activities are an afterthought. As a consequence, it’s easy to feel isolated and lonely, which can turn into depression.

Assisted living homes, however, have activities directors who fill monthly calendars with activities and events to pique varying interests, which helps foster relationships between residents. These can range from trips to the local theater or museum to a bingo or movie night event. Many communities also host celebratory social gatherings, such as holiday or birthday parties.

Whether it’s an exciting night out on the town or a casual event within the home, these types of social activities greatly benefit seniors overall health and wellness. Not to mention friends and family can join activities, field trips and meals, so they never lose that vital connection. Socializing and connecting with others helps prevent those feelings of isolation nursing home residents commonly experience. Staying active and engaging in activities helps promote independence and give residents a sense of purpose.

The Bottom Line

The advantages of living in an assisted living community include increased socialization and entertainment opportunities in a more relaxed and stress-free environment. Unlike nursing homes, assisted living facilities aren’t focused on full-time nursing care or addressing a resident’s health needs. Rather, they’re centered on a resident’s holistic needs, including physical, mental and spiritual well-being. If you’re looking for a long-term care facility that offers support, the comforts of home and makes you happy, assisted living is a great option.