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Key Differences Between Nursing Homes and Senior Living Communities

Nursing homes and senior living communities offer several benefits, but there are differences, including environment and levels of care, that seniors  should be aware of before choosing an option.

Key differences between nursing homes and senior living communities

Nursing Homes: Round-the-clock Care and Supervision
With a focus on medical care – delivered by doctors, nurses and aides, nursing homes are ideal for seniors who are dependent upon nursing care due to a physical or mental condition. In addition, occupational, physical and speech therapists are often on staff to help slow the progression of chronic conditions.

Most residents live in nursing homes permanently because they require constant care and supervision. However, some nursing homes offer a short-term recovery stay option, like Carroll Lutheran Village, to people who need extra time and care to recover from a hospital stay before returning home.

Nursing homes feel more like a hospital, simply due to the seriousness of the attention provided to residents. There is usually a central nursing station so staff can easily keep a watchful eye on each resident. Accommodations often are semi-private. Services such as nutritional counseling, respite care, hospice care and end-of-life care are typically offered.

The goal of nursing homes: Delivering the highest level of care possible outside a hospital setting, providing assistance and helping each person stay as comfortable as possible.

For more information on nursing home, read HelpGuide’s A Guide to Nursing Homes.

Senior Living Communities: Amenities and Services Focus on Independence
At senior living communities, resident independence is the primary focus. Everything is centered on active aging (i.e. being engaged in life), from stimulating activities to life-long learning to dynamic wellness and overall peace of mind. Amenities can include multiple dining venues, a pool, a library, walking/biking trails, outdoor patios for cookouts and socializing, a fitness center and  more.

Senior living communities also typically offer a range of accommodations, from private apartments to freestanding homes that include safety features (e.g. grab bars, emergency call system) and wide open spaces to easily maneuver assistive devices (e.g. walker) to support independence.

These communities also offer a continuum of care, which includes independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing – allowing residents to remain in the same community as their care needs change.

A quick look at the different care options typically offered in senior living communities:

  • Independent Living
    Designed for seniors who are living successfully on their own and want a maintenance-free lifestyle so they can spend more time taking advantage of physical, mental and spiritual growth opportunities as well as enjoying more freedom, fun and friendships.
  • Assisted Living
    Tailored to those who need extra help with daily living activities (e.g. dressing, bathing, medication management) but are able to live without 24-hour monitoring. It also includes all the ingredients for an active, fulfilling life as well as the freedom of maintaining a home.
  • Rehabilitation
    Occupational, physical and speech therapy are provided on-site to residents and sometimes on an outpatient basis for those recovering from illness or injury.
  • Long-Term Care
    Skilled nursing care is provided to residents who are recovering from an illness, injury or surgery and need 24/7 monitoring and medical assistance on a long-term basis.
  • Memory Support
    Residents dealing with the challenges of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia benefit from the specialized attention and therapeutic programs offered in senior living communities‘ memory support neighborhoods.

The goal of senior living communities: Replace home maintenance chores and worry with the freedom to engage in new adventures, connect more with friends and family, explore new horizons and goals, and enjoy life to the fullest.

Choosing to go with a nursing home or senior living community depends upon a senior’s needs. Nursing homes are the best solution when a constant care is required. Senior living communities are the best solution for seniors who want more out of life – than taking care of a home – and peace of mind knowing they can remain in the same community as their care needs increase.

Learn more about senior living communities in our Senior Living Options Guide.