Decisions about elder care can be one of the most challenging things we’re called upon to do for our loved ones. Determining that a parent, grandparent, or other senior loved one is no longer able to live independently is incredibly trying. We want to ensure that our loved one receives the very best care available, and that the people to whom we are entrusting their well being are qualified.

But standards of care are the tip of the iceberg. It’s also a high priority to make sure a loved one enjoys continued quality of life, and it cannot be denied that some places are better than others. When embarking on research into this complex subject, there are a few touchstones to keep in mind.

Assisted Living vs Nursing Home: How to Know What is Right for Your Loved One

What is a Nursing Home?

Although the layperson might use the two terms interchangeably, there is actually a significant and important difference between an assisted living facility and a nursing home. When helping a senior citizen in your life make choices for the future, it’s important to understand that difference.

A nursing home has its primary function in the title—it is a facility for seniors who require medical support. Residents of a nursing home benefit from physical, occupational, and speech therapy in addition to medical support, and they have access to a 24/7 staff of nursing professionals.

Some nursing homes are set up like hospitals, with a nurses’ station on each floor, but others strive to promote a more homey atmosphere. The Green House Project, which caters to people with dementia, offers open kitchens and the familial experience of a shared dinner.

What is Assisted Living?

The key difference between nursing homes and assisted living communities is that the assisted living community is not required to keep a nursing staff. Many communities do elect to have an on-site clinic or a resident nurse, but the purpose of assisted living is to help seniors with day to day tasks that are not medical in nature. This means residents have the option of more privacy, which is great for those seniors who are still relatively independent but may need a little help here and there.

Assisted living communities also function more as communities, generally speaking. Many residents of nursing homes are unable to be very active. Residents in assisted living communities, however, might take part in such activities as movie nights, excursions to the mall, or group yoga.

Colorado Assisted Living knows that food is a great way to keep in touch with memories and to reminisce with new friends. That’s why their list of available activities for residents includes cooking, and why they serve three home cooked meals a day with snacks in between. They also offer family picnics and barbecues. Many other assisted living facilities share this perspective and provide similar offerings.

With careful planning and considerate family discussion, you’ll be able to find a place where your loved one will be happy and well cared for.