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Resident Health
How Good is Your Health?

Assisted living facilities may promise you a forever home, but don't count on it. Older adults and family members want to hear that but care needs change over time, especially as residents get older.

Know that assisted living is appropriate at the time a resident moves in but may not be appropriate down the road. The average stay in an assisted living facility is a little over two years, and the most common reason for moving out is the person needs more care.

The main difference between assisted living facilities and nursing homes is the level of care a resident receives and the freedom given to the resident.

Resident's Needs Change
Resident's Needs Change

Assisted living does not offer complex medical services.

Nursing homes offers residents constant medical supervision.

The residents in a nursing home are more like patients and unable to leave the facility on their own, mainly because they are physically or mentally incapable. While some residents in assisted living might need assistance with medicine management, bathing and other tasks, they are capable of handling most daily living activities on their own.

Assisted living is a wise and appropriate choice for older adults in the early stages of needing help with daily activities but can still maintain a measurable level of independence. But for residents with progressive loss of independence and self-sufficiency, the nursing home is a better option.

Nursing Home Care

A nursing home provides the best care for a loved one when experiencing one of the following health conditions or dilemmas:

  • Moderate to severe cognitive impairment and problem behaviors like resisting care, for example, becomes alarmed if someone helps them bath or shower, dress, or eat. The resident may need to live in a dementia care facility. A nursing home, especially one that has a dementia unit (in this case) have well-trained staff to assist. In assisted living, there's not enough staff to help.
  • Complicated medical conditions that require regular monitoring - people living with congestive heart conditions that take blood thinners need consistent testing to adjust the dosage. Assisted living doesn't provide health care and consistent monitoring. So the residents become at risk for hospitalization.
  • Medication management - provided by both assisted living and nursing homes. It's a program that delivers prescription dosage to the resident. In most states, assisted living staff cannot legally administer medication, but allowed to hand it to the resident.
  • Severe incontinence is best attended to in a nursing home. Assisted living is better for residents who are incontinent, if the person can tend his own needs. That implies changing his bed sheets and briefs. Housekeeping in assisted living changes linens weekly.

Health Conditions that Assisted Living Handle

How assisted living aids residents
How assisted living aids residents

By large, assisted living is attractive for people who have a high level of independence. If your loved one is in good health and doesn't require lots of assistance with daily tasks, it's a tremendous option.

A resident has the freedom of living on her own; knowing she has quick access (on her terms) to a trained staff that lends a hand when needed.

Assisted living provides daily care for bathing, dressing, toileting, grooming, and eating. In some cases, depending on the facility, the resident pays for personal care. It's an additional cost, so check the agreement.

Health or Other Conditions Effectively Handled by Assisted Living

Older adults receive some assistance with basic health care in assisted living. But the oversight, supervising, and treatment of serious illness or disability is not delivered there.

Here's a list that's best handled in assisted living:

  • Physical and Medical Needs - The person needs some help with physical needs like walking, cleaning, cooking, bathing, moving around, and eating. Medical needs include medication reminders and visits to the doctor.
  • Housekeeping - The person has trouble keeping up with maintenance and cleaning. They find it difficult to manage housework and yard work. Assisted living helps with house chores.
  • Personal Care and Grooming - The person requires help with grooming and daily activities. For older adults, doing hygienic tasks are difficult. The staff at assisted living can help with these.
  • Driving Concerns - The person has trouble operating a car safely. Assisted living provides transportation services for residents.
  • Financial Help - The person has trouble paying bills. Assisted living can help money management.
  • Communication Issues - The person has difficulties communicating their needs and emotions. Assisted living can help residents who are not able to express themselves clearly.
  • Isolation and Depression - The person becomes depressed because they're shut out from the world, isolated. Assisted living offers a lifestyle that helps residents be involved and form new friendships and connections.

How to Know which Housing is Best for Loved One

Evaluate senior housing
Evaluate senior housing

When evaluating a loved one's or your housing needs, look to these guidelines for clarity:

  • Location - it's important to consider the facility's location. Is it close to family and friends? Even if you are completely independent at this time, circumstances can change. How far is the facility to medical facilities, or other services you need? If you can no longer drive, what kind of transportation access will you have?
  • Care - if you or a loved one has a chronic medical condition, ask the facility if they are able to handle your health and mobility problems. Let the facility know about your condition and complications. Do you or the loved one need daily help now?
  • Caregiving & Staff Support. - find out the types of care the facility can provide and if the costs includes personal care in your monthly payment. Put thought into your future care needs.
  • Budget - put together your financial budget, and do a comparison of facility's costs. Senior housing is expensive, but nursing home care is more costly.

Hire a geriatric care manager to do a full assessment on your physical and mental condition to get a complete picture of your care needs.

Assisted Living vs Nursing Home

The resident has more rights in a nursing home because it's regulated by the federal government. Whereas, state regulations govern assisted living, and protection of rights vary from state to state. If the assisted living asks your loved one to leave, she probably will have to. Nursing homes can ask her to leave too, but your loved one's rights are more protected there. Choose wisely. Read a more detailed comparison of assisted living compared with nursing homes.

Carol Marak
Carol Marak

After seven years of helping her aging parents, Carol Marak has become a dedicated senior care writer. Since 2007, she has been doing the research to find answers to common concerns: housing, aging and health, staying safe and independent, and planning long-term.