Is your elderly loved one starting to require a higher level of care than usual? If so, then you’ll soon bear the burden of choosing the right senior living community for them. Since there are numerous senior living communities that come with different costs, benefits, and the like, finding the best senior care can be daunting.

Which is why it’s best to do your research, ask questions, and thoroughly compare each senior living environment to the other.

Skilled Nursing vs. Assisted Living

Among the senior living options, two of the most common are assisted living communities and skilled nursing facilities. Unfortunately, not a lot of people know the difference between the two. To help you and your loved one make this life-changing decision, here are seven main differences between skilled nursing and assisted living facilities:

1.    The Facility’s Goal

Skilled nursing facilities look to rehabilitate seniors so they could be able to return to living independently or to move into another senior care option, such as assisted living facilities. With that said, seniors in skilled nursing facilities only stay for a short period of time.

On the other hand, seniors in assisted living facilities are in it for the long run. The goal of assisted living is to help seniors maintain their independence while being provided with the day-to-day care they need. It’s important to know that one senior care option isn’t better than the other because all care facilities cater to every kind of need.

Both assisted living and skilled nursing offer enrichment activities to keep seniors entertained, such as social groups, events, group discussions, group exercises, religious services, field trips, dining choices, game nights, and more. This makes the senior care community feel more like an actual community or home.

2.    Level of Care Administered

Senior care communities are there to empower seniors and help them live their best quality of life for as long as possible. One of the main differences between these communities is the services and the level of care offered. To know the best senior living option for your loved one, all you have to do is to know their needs and the type of care required to keep them healthy – emotionally and physically.

Does your loved one need daily therapy? Artificial respirations? Or IV medications? It might be best for them to stay at a skilled nursing facility where their needs will be properly met by the right staff and environment.

On the contrary, if your loved one does not require constant medical attention, assisted living facilities may be better for them since assisted living residents generally need minimal assistance in terms of:

  •         Activities of daily living (eating, dressing, bathing, etc.)
  •         Social support
  •         Mental health
  •         Medication management
  •         Financial management

If you’re unsure about what your loved one needs, it’s best to ask the senior’s medical team since they’re the ones who know exactly what they need.

3.    Length of Stay

We’ve established that skilled nursing is meant for seniors who are recuperating from a disease or when there is a sudden decline in the senior’s health. For this reason, seniors may temporarily stay in skilled nursing facilities to recover before moving (usually permanently) into an independent living facility or even to an assisted living.

On the flip side, assisted living is a senior community where seniors stay long term. They’re able to enjoy living independently, surrounded by their peers, while receiving all the help they need when they need it.

4.    Staff Availability

Skilled nursing facilities usually have, at the very least, one registered nurse in the premises 24/7. While assisted living facilities should have an on-call licensed practical nurse and/or registered nurse. The law doesn’t state that nurses have to be in the facility at all times. With that said, if you think your loved one needs constant medical care, nursing facilities is the better option.

Honesty and awareness are important in assessing your loved one’s needs. You wouldn’t want them to move into an assisted living facility only to find out they need to be transferred to skilled nursing a few months later. However, no matter how prepared you are, this situation may inevitably happen due to a sudden shift in the senior’s health. But rest assured that thoroughly assessing your loved one’s current and future needs will save both parties from further frustration and additional expenses.

5.    Cost

Skilled nursing facilities usually cost more than assisted living because of the 24/7 medical care the patients receive. However, there are different ways to help lower the cost of skilled nursing. Programs such as Medicaid and insurances such as long-term care insurance are of great help. While the price of senior living isn’t cheap, it shouldn’t hinder your loved one from receiving the care they rightly deserve.

6.    Level of Independence

In terms of the level of independence, skilled nursing facilities do not offer much independence since it’s all about helping seniors recover from recent hospitalization or health decline. Seniors in skilled nursing usually need constant monitoring and overall medical care.

On the other hand, assisted living highly encourage its resident to be independent as much as possible. The residents have the freedom to make their own schedule and also they get to decide when they need assistance.

Assisted living facilities have a daily schedule of activities. The staff should only encourage, not force, seniors to participate. Most assisted living facilities also have transportation services that seniors can use when they need to doctor’s appointments or social events.

7.    Insurance Coverage and Other Payment Options

Seniors may use their Medicare and/or Medicaid programs in skilled nursing since it primarily focuses on medical care. But these programs (health insurance and Medicare programs) cannot be used to cover the cost of assisted living.

While there are numerous long-term care insurance policies that can help your loved one pay for assisted living, most of the costs are paid by the senior’s personal funds. If you want to know more about payment options, it is best to consult with your local elder law attorney for more information.

It’s easy to see why seniors would pick assisted living communities over skilled nursing facilities because of the perks and the independence offered. However, it’s important to remember that choosing the right senior living environment all boils down to the level of care your elderly loved one needs.