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What is The Difference Between an Assisted Living Facility and a Nursing Home? Print
Written by Judith Kuchar, R.N.,   
Sep 21, 2006 at 10:26 PM
What is The Difference Between
an Assisted Living Facility and a Nursing Home?

Judith Kuchar, R.N.,

    What is the difference between an Assisted Living Facility and a Nursing Home?                   
    A clear understanding of terminology is essential when families are making life decisions. The following is an explanation of two types of long term care facilities. Both provide long term care to the residents, but they vary in the level of services. 
    Long-term care comprises the personal care and other related services provided on an extended basis to those who can no longer perform everyday tasks for themselves.  Long-term care services can be received in a variety of settings including a person’s home, an assisted living facility, a nursing home, and other settings.
Assisted living is a portfolio of services that focus on maintaining each resident’s independence and dignity.  It is a type of healthcare designed for the individual’s daily needs which may include bathing, dressing, balancing a checkbook, medication reminders, etc. Twenty-four-hour supportive services are available to meet planned and unplanned needs.  Residents in assisted living may have their own rooms, suites or apartments.  They may also share their quarters with their spouses or roommates.  Some residents may suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or other memory disorders; many assisted living facilities provide special units to care for such residents.
    Assisted living facilities offer an alternative to those who no longer want to live alone but do not need 24-hour skilled nursing care.  It is important to obtain information on staffing, level of services for current and possible future needs, pricing, and discharge policies.
    Nursing home services provide personal care, 24-hour skilled nursing care, medical care, rehabilitation services, and assistance with activities of daily living.  Personal care includes toileting, continence, eating and transferring. It includes additional help for residents with cognitive impairment, which may include memory loss or dementia.  These services may be short or long term in duration.  Many nursing homes provide respite care (short-time supervision while the family or caretaker is away). The level of care provided is more skilled in a nursing home with nurse supervision on a 24-hour basis.
    Some campuses provide both assisted living and nursing home services. This is an ideal scenario, as the resident may transfer from one to the other depending on the level of care required.  Most long-term care is needed by the older population, but an accident or illness can strike at any age.
    Choosing the proper facility can be confusing.  It is helpful to discuss these options with your physician. Visit the facilities and question the staff regarding your special needs and the services they provide. 
    This process can be daunting for both the physician and the family, especially during crises when such decisions typically occur.  Thinking ahead about potential placement, and making plans to visit various facilities can help reduce the stress at a future time when such a decision has to be made.

Judith Kuchar is a Certified Dementia Practitioner, a board member on the National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners, and a Certified Instructor in Dementia Care.
She is a frequent contributor to FOLO. Judith is currently Executive Director of The Plaza Regency at Park Ridge, Park Ridge, NJ.       

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