Assisted Living

5/5/2020 | By Seniors Guide Staff

Updated on 1/4/21

When you’re looking into what type of care your aging loved one needs, or what type of care to plan for yourself in the future, it’s important to understand the terms. There are many types of retirement housing and senior care facilities, from retirement villages to assisted living to skilled nursing facilities, and each one has its own characteristics. Here, we’ll focus on comparing two of these types of senior housing: assisted living communities and nursing care.

The Level of Care

While residents of an assisted living facility are not able to live independently, they do need less medical care than those in a nursing facility. The type of care they need is often called custodial care. Assisted living residents need help with at least one activity of daily living (ADLs). Maybe, for example, they have trouble bathing, preparing meals, or they have mobility issues that mean a facility employee needs to transfer them from bed to their favorite chair. But in general, for instance, they are more mobile or ambulatory than a resident of a nursing facility. Many assisted living residents need help managing medication and transportation to doctor’s appointments or other errands. Assisted living communities offer three meals a day, housekeeping, and laundry services.

Residents of a skilled nursing facility, on the other hand, need around-the-clock care and monitoring. Nursing home residents will most likely have a more complex health condition that requires them to be under the care of skilled medical professionals. Nursing home care is medical care. While assisted living facilities may help residents get to their doctor, in a nursing facility, most non-emergency medical care and medical supplies are provided on-site. In addition to the help with ADLs, meals, housekeeping, and laundry services assisted living facilities offer, a skilled nursing facility adds skilled nursing care and physical and occupational therapy.

The Facility and the Staff

Assisted living facilities usually offer a home-like atmosphere, with private rooms or apartments. Residents eat meals in a common dining area and attend entertainment and recreational programs. There are no strict regulations about what staff assisted living facilities must employ. Larger assisted living facilities usually employ some registered nurses full time, and smaller facilities hire visiting nurses or part-time registered nurses to supervise nurse assistants. CNAs, or certified nursing assistants provide most resident care. Moreover, these facilities are staffed with security personnel at all times, in case of any emergencies.

In addition, skilled nursing facilities often feel more like hospitals; this is because, for example, of the medical nature of the care provided. Although many will provide home-like touches in their dining and common areas. Residents are more likely to share rooms.

Meanwhile, skilled nursing facilities hire more professional medical staff than assisted living facilities do. And unlike assisted living facilities, there are state regulations about the staff a skilled nursing facility must employ. Each nursing home has an attending physician, who examines, monitors, and oversees the treatment of each resident. So, while nurse practitioners or physician’s assistants may make some patient visits for the physician, the attending physician must visit the resident at least a few times a year. Likewise, attending physicians also work with a resident’s family physician to ensure the right care for the resident. Regulations require nursing facilities to be staffed by licensed nurses 24 hours a day.

The Costs

Consequently, skilled nursing facilities are more expensive than assisted living communities, because the level of care is higher. According to a 2020 study from Genworth, the average monthly cost of a private room in a skilled nursing facility is $8,821, which comes to about $105,852 a year. This price does vary quite a bit, depending on where you live and the fees of the individual facility. To reduce this cost, skilled nursing facilities usually offer shared rooms, a feature that many assisted living facilities don’t offer. The average cost of a shared, or semi-private room in a nursing home is $7,756, or about $93,072 per year. In comparison, the average monthly cost of an assisted living community in the United States is about half that of a private room at a nursing home, at $4,300. This comes out to $51,600 per year.

Seniors Guide Staff

Seniors Guide has been addressing traditional topics and upcoming trends in the senior living industry since 1999. We strive to educate seniors and their loved ones in an approachable manner, and aim to provide them with the right information to make the best decisions possible.

Seniors Guide Staff