Nursing Homes vs. Long-Term Care Centers

Most people have heard of nursing homes or long term care, but not everyone knows exactly what they are. Due to the fact that both of these things are quite common when dealing with situations involving the care of elderly people, it can be easy for everything to run together and for us to think of them as essentially the same thing- however, there are some differences. Let’s take a look at them now:

Nursing Homes vs. Assisted Living

Because nursing homes have been around for so long, it’s likely that doctors are much more familiar with the policies of a nursing home, as well as funding mechanisms, than they are with an assisted living facility (such as admission requirements, services offered—like personal care, 24-hour skilled nursing care, medical care, or rehabilitation services). 

Another difference is that unlike regulated nursing homes, assisted living facilities are regulated by the state and are licensed by the Department of Health. Also, there is no one definition agreed upon to refer to an assisted living facility, although many of them allow seniors such things as housing, meals, and help with a few activities of daily living (or ADL) as well as management of medications. Many states also use the term “Assisted Living” in their licensing, but some also call them “personal care homes” (in Georgia), “residential care residences” (in Indiana), or “homes for the aged” (in Washington). Likewise, some models of housing can look like assisted living residences but not be licensed, and those only provide the minimum amount of services, like room and board and recreational activities.

Nursing Services in Assisted Living

Doctors should be aware that availability of any health-related resources in assisted living facilities can vary greatly by state, as well as even by residence within the same state. Some states only see assisted living as one stop on the road of care between independent living and nursing home care, and they only give limited nursing services. However, other states, such as Oregon and New Jersey, see assisted living as a legitimate option to nursing homes, as they allow, but do not require, that assisted living facilities provide more extensive nursing services in order that residents can age-in-place.

Understanding the Differences

There have been several studies done that prove an assisted living facility may have inaccuracies or lack of information in any of their marketing materials that can be so important to make an informed choice (like staffing, rate increases, and discharge policies.) No wonder both families and doctors often have issues deciding the best type of care in a tough situation. However, families will normally look to doctors for advice on what to do, and without the proper information on all the issues this can lead to some issues:

  1. Premature placement in a nursing home, or
  2. Inappropriate placing in an assisted living facility, which can lead to a second placement in a nursing home.

As people continue to age, more and more of them will seek out long-term care, and it’s so important that doctors and physicians know what’s both similar and different between the two so that they will be able to better serve the individuals and families who turn to them for help.

So, if you are in the position to start considering whether a nursing home or other long-term care facility would be appropriate for you or your loved one, be sure to do your own research. Find out as much information as you can about each facility, go over your options, and speak with your doctor about any concerns or questions. By doing so, you will be able to make the best, most informed decision that will help to take care of any needs you might have.