Understanding assisted living and nursing homes and the differences between them can help you determine which care option might work best for your parent or older relative.
A nursing home
(also known as a skilled nursing or long-term care facility) provides 24-hour nursing care and protective supervision because their residents need assistance all of the time. They also provide rehabilitation, medical services and assistance with the activities of daily living. People with long-term mental or physical conditions who require a 24-hour protected environment with medical and healthcare services need nursing home care.
On the other hand, assisted living facilities (also known as catered living, personal care homes or boarding homes), provide help with daily tasks such as bathing, grooming, taking pills on time, housekeeping, getting meals, managing the bills and using transportation. You’ll often hear these tasks referred to as ADLs, for “activities of daily living.” Whether assisted living makes sense for your parents will depend on how well they do performing the tasks of daily living on their own.
Be aware that not all assisted living facilities take people who live with Alzheimer’s disease
. If they do, such residents are often housed on separate floors with additional professional staff to accommodate their needs. If your parent has Alzheimer’s and you are considering assisted living, make sure the facility is qualified to care for a person with dementia. Ask to see any certification papers they have received from state regulating bodies, and have them describe the training the staff has received related to caring for people living with dementia.
Unlike what exists for nursing homes, regulations governing assisted living facilities are inconsistent and determined by each state, so be sure to do your homework. Some assisted living facilities have voluntarily gone through an accreditation process and are listed on the website of the Rehabilitation Accreditation Commission at carf.org
. For a list of non-profit facilities and tips on what to look for in an assisted living facility, go to the website LeadingAge.org
(formerly American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging).