In Fairfield and Westchester Counties call 475-206-0652

Differences Between a Skilled Nursing Facility and an Assisted Living Facility

Differences Between a Skilled Nursing Facility and an Assisted Living Facility

Are you worried about your parent or other senior loved one? Concerned that they may be unable to continue living independently? Many families in this situation find themselves looking for solutions outside of the home. Because care needs change, finding the right solution both for the present and future can be a confusing process. Many terms seem similar, if not interchangeable; knowing when they’re not is important. One of the most common misconceptions is the relationship between a nursing home and an assisted living community. Both are long-term care facilities, but they are distinctly different options.

For aging adults with declining health who are incapacitated in some way or have had a recent accident, staying at home on their own may not be an option. At Oasis Senior Advisors, we understand that thinking about such a major transition is challenging for all involved. That’s why we offer complimentary consultations to help you sort through the pros and cons of the different options available to you. If you want to talk to someone about what’s next for your mom or dad, give us a call at 475.619.4123 or 914.356.1901 or complete our online form, and we will reach out to you. We understand exactly where you are and would like to help.

Common Differences between SNF and ALF

Some of the most notable differences between the two options—skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) and assisted living facilities (ALFs)—have to do with medical necessity, environment, independence, staffing, and cost. The most important of these is medical need, as that is often the sole determinant of the choice that you’ll make. Still, all the differences need to be understood to make an informed decision with which everyone is happy.

  • Differences in medical needs.

Long-term care is identified as either skilled or unskilled. Nursing homes are the right option for those who need skilled care. Assisted living residences are best suited for those whose care needs do not rise to that level. Skilled care requires a licensed clinician such as a nurse to deliver wound care, intravenous injections or tube feeding, or administration of controlled substances for pain management on an as-needed basis. Non-skilled care can be delivered by aides and includes activities of daily living (ADLs), like bathing, dressing, eating, hygiene, transferring in and out of bed or a chair, on and off a toilet. This type of care is delivered in assisted living and memory care communities where teams of aides under the charge of a nurse are tasked with giving residents assistance as they need it.

  • Differences in setting.

Nursing homes are deemed sub-acute settings, just below acute settings like hospitals, because the care is weighted towards licensed medical professionals. A nursing home will have comfortable common areas, scheduled activities, and communal dining options but is primarily focused on delivering skilled care and has a layout and clinical feel similar to a hospital. Furnishings are austere, and the design is geared toward making the delivery of care easier, sometimes at the cost of privacy. An assisted living or memory care community is designed to foster as independent a lifestyle as possible, with private apartments and a scheduled care plan.

  • Differences in levels of independence.
    Residents in assisted living facilities have a great deal of autonomy and flexibility. They can access community transport to go to town, have lunch with friends, or shop. If      they do not need constant observation or care, they can come and go as they please. In contrast, a nursing home resident’s movements are more regulated and need approvals.
  • Differences in staffing.

Nursing homes are staffed to handle treatments that require skilled care, such as wound care and intravenous administration of medicine or nutrition. That means more RNs, LPNs, and medical technicians. Assisted living communities focus on the activities of daily living (ADLs) mentioned above and foster independence limited only by desire and capacity. Thus, these facilities have many aides, recreation staff, large common and dining spaces, and housekeeping staff to nurture and encourage a higher quality of life.

  • Differences in cost.
    Nursing home care is more costly than assisted living due to the focus on skilled care. As a result of that higher cost, many long-term residents of nursing homes exhaust their financial resources and apply for Medicaid. Some assisted living facilities will accept Medicaid reimbursement for services but are largely private pay. Their lower rates allow a resident’s financial resources to last longer.

Finding Senior Living Facilities Near You

A first step you will want to take when you and your parent consider what comes next is scheduling a conversation with your parent’s doctor. At that point, you can discuss what level of medical care is needed. That conversation may make your decision relatively easy if the answer is “skilled care.” If you are not sure which option is best for your loved one, Oasis Senior Advisors can help you. Reach out to us for a free consultation. We can walk you through everything and make ourselves available to you through your process – all at no cost. We know how difficult these decisions can be because we were in your shoes not long ago. It’s easy—just fill out our online form or call us at 475.619.4123 or 914.356.1901.

Oasis Senior Advisors


are here to help

Paul and Susan Doyle

Certified Senior Advisor®

Contact Us Today