When you hear "assisted living" or "nursing home," you probably assume that they are one and the same thing. Actually, there are significant differences that define assisted living and separate it from total nursing care, which is typically what patients receive in a nursing home. To help clear up this confusion, the major differences between the two are as follows.
With assisted living, the person or persons residing in a residential care facility (or their own homes) are able to walk, talk, and essentially take care of most things themselves. There are a few things they need help with.
Assistance is provided if the elderly person:
- Cannot cook a meal without endangering him/herself
- Has severe arthritis in the shoulders and cannot wash his/her own hair or body
- Forgets to take medications or takes the wrong medications at the wrong time of day
- Needs help keeping a tidy environment
- Needs help getting groceries
- Needs companionship due to possible wandering risks
- Needs some assistance getting dressed, but generally can do most of the task him/herself
The rest of the time, the elderly person in assisted living is able to do lots of other things, including participating in residential activities and moving about on his/her own.
Total Nursing Care and Nursing Homes
Nursing homes may provide assistance to patients recovering from major hip and knee surgery, but generally, they are total-care facilities. This means that most of the people living in the facility are unable to do most daily living activities themselves.
Patients living in a nursing home:
- Cannot bathe themselves at all
- Cannot care for their personal and oral hygiene if left alone to do it
- Cannot go to the bathroom without assistance
- Need help changing their incontinence briefs and cleaning up
- May need to be fed or are on feeding tubes
- Cannot dress themselves without extensive help
- Cannot be relied upon to take their own pills
- Cannot remember days and times without assistance
- Cannot move about without help (e.g., wheelchair-bound or require a gait belt for walking to prevent falls)
Patients who require this level of care are often at the end stages of life. Their families have placed them in a nursing home for their own safety and because the families cannot care for their elderly themselves. When you have an elderly parent or relative who cannot be left alone and may end up injured, wandering the street, or worse, it is time to consider nursing home care instead of assisted living.