Although you’re probably quite familiar with the terms “assisted living” and “nursing care,” you may not realize that you’re working with the wrong definitions of the words. Both may be offered by the same providers, but they really are quite different from one another.
In the past, you may have equated assisted care with nursing home living because the two seem similar at first glance. The intent of both types of care is to provide daily support for older adults and individuals with certain disabilities. Both are associated with retirement living, and they can often be found within the same building!
Assisted care and skilled nursing are each a different tier of assistance offered by Continuing Care Retirement Communities, or CCRC, which are facilities that offer greater independence to residents by providing various levels of household and medical care to those who need it.
But despite similarities, there are significant differences across the care spectrum.
Each provides different levels of skilled medical supervision, style of living, personal and communal spaces, services, and overall ambiance. Taking a closer look at the differences between these two types of care may help you choose the right residence for your aging parent.
Level of Medical and Personal Supervision
The primary difference lies in the level of care and the degree of supervision provided.
Nursing care at a CCRC provides residents a great deal of skilled medical assistance on a daily—or even hourly basis—in a more structured environment.
A CCRC that offers skilled nursing staffs nurse aides or registered nurses who help residents with virtually every aspect of daily health care. This includes getting out of bed, personal hygiene, getting dressed, eating, taking medications, and other bodily functions. This degree of medical supervision is appropriate for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or other cognitive disorders, have significant health issues that cause disability, and for those who are convalescing from a fall or other catastrophic health event.
Assisted living, on the other hand, tends to focus on personal care services and provides only minor medical supervision.
Assisted care works best for those seniors who are able to handle most of the day to day activities of living, but just need a little help with tasks like preparing meals or getting to a doctor’s appointment, offering services that make it easier for residents to live independently.
Home-like or Home Sweet Home
When you think of a skilled nursing care, you probably envision the traditional nursing home with long halls dotted with doors where each room contains two to four beds. But that’s not the case at a CCRC.
There’s no hint of the dreary institutional nursing home at a CCRC. Nurse’s aides may still make the rounds, checking on residents and providing medical care as needed, but residents maintain their own schedules and their own private rooms that have most of the comforts of home.
But where a room in skilled nursing may feel like home, assisted living is a home.
Assisted care at a CCRC provides a type of senior living where residents have more than just maintain private bedrooms, apartment-style living provides residents with their own kitchens and living spaces, too. Support staff is merely a visitor in a resident’s private home, providing a service just as a plumber or electrician would.
The Tiered Approach
CCRCs offer the full continuum of care in a tiered approach that accommodates the changing needs of older adult residents.
A senior is able to move into an apartment as an entirely independent adults, then begin receiving support services (or relocate to an assisted living apartment) when a little more help is needed with day-to-day activities, and transition to a skilled nursing care unit following a serious medical event.