Senior living resident and nurse hold hands on a cane

What Is the Difference Between Assisted Living and a Nursing Home?

To understand the difference between assisted living and a nursing home, first you need to know more about the residents who typically make each of these senior living options their home.

In an assisted living community, the goal is to help residents remain as independent as possible. Residents have a great deal of freedom and are likely to live in their own rooms or apartments. Their care services usually involve help with activities of daily living, like housekeeping and laundry, as well as meals and medication management, if necessary.

Residents of nursing homes, also known as skilled nursing facilities, have more medical needs and require extra help monitoring and treating those conditions. In addition to a licensed medical team, residents’ care plans may involve physical, occupational or speech therapy, as well as other medical services.

Keep reading to learn about more differences between assisted living and a nursing home.

Services Provided

Assisted living residents are generally in fairly good health but may need some help with activities of daily living, which can include everything from personal care like bathing, dressing and other basic hygiene to help with meals and keeping living quarters tidy and safe.

Nursing home residents, or skilled nursing residents, rely on an additional level of care to protect their health and safety. While nursing homes can offer temporary care following a surgery or hospitalization, many residents of skilled nursing facilities need long-term care by a team of health care professionals. Residents with conditions like cardiac failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure, diabetes, fall-related injuries, bone fractures, post-surgical recovery, Parkinson’s disease and stroke all benefit from skilled nursing care.

Nurse talking with an assisted living resident

Living Quarters

Another distinction when comparing assisted living vs. a nursing home is the physical space where residents live. In a skilled nursing setting, residents can expect to choose between private and semiprivate accommodations. Residents are encouraged to bring pictures, plants, mementos and other items to create a familiar, comfortable atmosphere.

Many assisted living communities, including Deerfield in Des Moines, offer comfortable private floor plans that consist of one or two bedrooms, living space, a kitchenette and a bathroom. Residents typically furnish their apartments with their own possessions, including bedroom and living room furniture.

Medical Care Team

If you or your loved one needs full-time medical care, a community that offers skilled nursing is the best choice to provide an appropriate level of care. Skilled nursing communities offer the confidence that your health is in good hands. Each resident’s care is overseen by a board-certified medical director, and ongoing care is provided by skilled nurses who are registered and certified, as well as certified nursing assistants.

While residents of assisted living and nursing homes both have access to 24-hour nursing care for emergencies, assisted living residents typically manage their everyday medical needs separate from the community’s medical care team. Many take advantage of their community’s free transportation services to attend off-site medical appointments.

Daily Activities

Any reputable retirement community provides social, cultural and recreational activities for residents at every level of care. However, there are some differences in the way each day unfolds for residents of assisted living vs. a nursing home.

Senior man painting

For an assisted living resident, there are ample options to fill each day. From attending group fitness classes to enjoying amenities like the woodworking shop or creative arts studio, residents have the freedom to pursue activities that pique their interests.

Although medical conditions may prevent skilled nursing residents from taking advantage of all the same kinds of amenities, personalized care plans are developed with the guidance of a licensed social worker to help ensure each day is filled with opportunities for physical, social and emotional enrichment.

Now that you can distinguish what’s the difference between assisted living and a nursing home, you may feel better prepared to consider exploring a community that meets your unique needs.

At a community like Deerfield, you can find flexible lifestyle options and many care options that allow you to remain in familiar surroundings even if your health care needs change over time. Fill out the form below to learn more about assisted living at Deerfield.