Have you been feeling overwhelmed in choosing a senior living environment for yourself or someone you love? There may be many different options, with a wide range of residence types, fee structures, and services provided. Two common categories of senior living environments are Assisted Living Facilities and Skilled Nursing Homes. Let us review a few significant differences between them.

First, while both environments provide assistance to individuals, a skilled nursing home may be better equipped to meet the needs of people who need help with daily living.  Examples of daily living include, bathing, dressing, eating, mental health support, medication management, social support, and financial management, such as a reminder to pay bills. An assisted living facility, on the other hand, may provide meals and social activities, but would expect residents to be more independent in their own care.

Therefore, a skilled nursing home is a medical facility, while an assisted living facility is a residential facility. Skilled nursing homes often have shared rooms and feel more like a hospital, while assisted living facilities range from small stand-alone houses to high-rise apartment buildings. Newer skilled nursing homes, however, are being designed to look and feel less like institutions and more like residences. It can be important to take a tour if the type of setting is an important factor in your decision. 

Second, with few exceptions, skilled nursing homes are required to have a registered nurse on site for a minimum of 8 hours every day, 7 days a week. For assisted living facilities, licensed practical nurses or registered nurses must be accessible and on-call, but are not legally required to be on-site. This is because, generally, skilled nursing homes were designed for short-term assistance, while recovering from an accident or incident, like a stroke. The goal for most skilled nursing facilities is rehabilitation, and a return to independent living. It is considered a temporary residence. Assisted living facilities, on the other hand, are designed to support residents living a normal life for as long as possible, with help nearby when necessary. Assisted living facilities are considered permanent residences. Their goal is to provide sufficient support for residents to live as independently as possible for as long as they desire. 

Finally, the cost can be a significant difference. Skilled nursing care costs more than assisted living because of the level of medical care required. Medicaid or long-term care insurance may help cover the cost of skilled nursing care because it is medically required, whereas assisted living facilities are typically not paid for with health insurance or Medicaid programs. 

If you are choosing a senior living environment for yourself or a loved one, be sure to talk with our team. We can help you protect your assets and discuss qualifying for Medicaid assistance, should you need to rely on it for long-term care. Please contact us to schedule an appointment.