The difference between senior living and nursing homes?
How Senior Living is Different from Nursing Homes
Misperceptions abound when it comes to senior living. But perhaps the biggest one is that the term ‘senior living’ is just a fancy way to describe a nursing home. Because of this many older adults brush off the idea of senior living without ever really learning how dramatically it can benefit them. However, the reality is that the two couldn’t be more different. In fact, there’s even a type of senior living designed for active, older adults who are perfectly healthy! Here’s exactly how senior living is different from nursing homes.
Types of Senior Living
Before we discuss the difference between senior living and nursing homes, first it’s important to clarify that senior living isn’t just one type of care. There are actually several types of care within the umbrella of senior living: active living, assisted living and memory care. Here’s more about each:
Active retirement living – Caters to active, older adults who are able to live independently and are interested in a more vibrant, social lifestyle with people of similar age in an environment that gives them more freedom to enjoy life without the hassles of home upkeep.
Assisted living – Offers many of the same features as active living in terms of accommodations and lifestyle. However, this type of senior living also provides support with daily activities such as bathing, dressing and medication management, as well as 24-hour staffing.
Memory care – Designed just for those with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia and features specially trained staff onsite 24/7, programs tailored to each resident’s cognitive abilities, and an environment that is safe, yet calming and comfortable.
Four Ways Senior Living is Different from Nursing Homes
Regardless of whether a senior living community offers active living, assisted living, memory care, or all of the above, there are some key differences from nursing homes such as:
Care – Nursing homes provide 24/7 nursing, which for the majority of seniors is not required and its often specialized care such as treating wounds, intravenous (IV) therapy, injections, and catheter care in addition to monitoring vitals, similar to a hospital. In fact, most nursing homes are no longer offering long term stays but are limited to short term rehab stays that cap at 100 days per year, following a hospital stay and covered by Medicare Part B. These settings are working under the direction of a medical director. Although memory care is specialized, the focus is on dementia not necessarily medical care. What’s more, assisted living residents are medically stable and onsite medical care is not available in independent living.
Accommodations – Since nursing homes are primarily a medical setting, they feel more like hospitals. Residents typically live in small rooms, often with a roommate, which means there’s not a lot of privacy or personal space. On the other hand, senior living features a range of accommodations from private apartments to free-standing cottages in some communities.
Lifestyle – One of the main benefits of senior living is the focus on lifestyle and wellness, especially in our communities. Our signature Whole Life LivingTM program is centered around four facets of wellness – Eat Better (Culinary), Move Better (Vitality), Think Better (Staying Sharp), and Live Better (Living with Purpose) – all grounded in a socially connected environment down to the design at each community. Nursing homes are more focused on managing symptoms than the preventative, healthy aging in senior living.
Safety –Both senior living communities and nursing homes remain vigilant about health and safety by closely following public health guidance, including practicing infection control protocols such as frequent handwashing, mask-wearing, and social distancing. But, quite honestly, senior living communities typically have much better success in preventing and/or containing illness for two reasons. One, residents require less interaction with healthcare providers compared to those in nursing homes. Two, because senior living is more likely to have private accommodations, large campuses with ample space (both indoor and outdoor), and residents are typically more mobile, it’s much easier to social distance.