What is Assisted Living?

Today’s seniors have more options for living a vibrant, independent life than ever before. Because there are so many choices, it can get a little confusing. Assisted living, independent living, skilled nursing and other types of services sound similar, but each provides specific assistance and support.

We’ll break it down, so you know what assisted living is, what it provides and what it doesn’t. You’ll also learn the difference between skilled nursing facilities, nursing homes and assisted living communities. Knowing what assisted living is will help you make the best choice for your senior living. 

Is Assisted Living Right for Me?

Assisted living is a type of residence that includes access to round-the-clock support. Seniors and younger adults who require some help with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) may benefit from residing in an assisted living facility. Assisted living residents may also need simple medical care or medication management.

Residents of an assisted living community can stay for short periods of time, but longer term is more common. Assisted living communities often have apartment-style residences with features such as a kitchenette and private bathroom.

It’s important to note that a skilled nursing facility is different than an assisted living community; we’ll explain more about that below. But first, let’s look at what ADLs are.

What are Activities of Daily Living?

Activities of Daily Living (or ADLs) are the basic tasks that a person needs to be able to do on their own to live independently at home. These tasks are often physical in nature and one must be able to: 

  • Undress and dress oneself
  • Bathe and groom oneself, brush teeth
  • Move freely and safely
  • Feed oneself
  • Control bladder and bowel movements
  • Use the restroom properly

If a senior or adult is having trouble with one or more ADLs, it could indicate they might need in-home care or should start thinking about moving into an assisted living community.

Benefits of Assisted Living

Residents can feel safe and supported knowing they have attention close at hand for assistance with ADLs and other needs:

  • Home-like setting in apartments or cottage-style living quarters
  • Three healthy and tasty meals a day
  • Assistance with medication management
  • Opportunities to engage in social activities and events
  • Option to bring pets (in some cases)

Another benefit of assisted living facilities is that some are equipped with amenities and services such as housekeeping, transportation, restaurant-style dining and fitness centers. Assisted living communities support living independently, but assistance is always available. 

What Does Assisted Living Not Provide?

For all that assisted living communities provide, there are a few things they don’t, including complex medical care such as:

  • Catheter care
  • Injections
  • Short term rehabilitation
  • IV therapies
  • Acute or chronic wound care
  • Extensive or specialized medical care
  • Memory loss or dementia care

Assisted living facilities may not work for all people. In-home care can address more complex medical needs with skilled nursing care in the home.

Assisted Living vs. Nursing Home?

Assisted living facilities and nursing homes are sometimes used interchangeably. However, there are significant differences between the two, and they should be viewed as separate options that support different needs.

Assisted living communities have a home-like feel, with private or semi-private apartments that include private bathrooms, kitchenettes and other home-like amenities. People who reside in assisted living facilities engage in various recreational and social activities. Residents may need assistance with ADLs and medication management. Assisted living communities encourage and promote living as independently as possible.

Nursing home residents may need help with:

  • Personal, one-on-one care
  • Mobility, including transfering to bed or a chair
  • Daily medical care
  • Specialized care for cognitive and behavioral support needs

Social and recreational activities are limited. Nursing homes will also have more supervision and safety features, such as secured doors to prevent wandering.

Assisted Living vs. Skilled Nursing

Assisted living communities are supportive of people living as independently as possible, surrounded by like-minded people and engaging in a variety of activities. You’ll live in a residential-style private or semi-private apartment with many home-like touches and round-the-clock care if you need it.

Skilled nursing care is provided by trained registered nurses under a doctor’s supervision. Skilled nursing can be done in a skilled nursing facility, rehabilitative center, nursing home or in-home. Additional differences include:

  • Most skilled nursing is short-term or temporary for rehabilitative purposes, with a goal of getting you back on your feet.
  • Assisted living is typically provided for an extended period of time and is designed to provide the residents with an enjoyable quality of life that balances independence and support.

  • Residents receiving skilled nursing will have more medical oversight and structure to address their current health status and needs. 
  • Assisted living residents enjoy a greater degree of freedom that reflects their physical and cognitive ability to be more independent.

  • Skilled nursing may be covered under your health insurance or Medicare programs.
  • Assisted living is usually not covered by insurance or government programs.

Navigating Your Choices

The options can be overwhelming for those new to navigating senior living, assisted living communities or rehabilitative care. BrightStar Care offers an alternative to assisted living with in-home care. We offer personal care, companion care, skilled nursing and other high-quality home care services for adults and seniors, as well as infants and children, all in the privacy of your home.

Contact Us

If you or a loved one are considering an assisted living community or in-home care, please contact a BrightStar Care agency for a personal assessment or call 866.618.7827.

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