Key Differences Between Nursing Homes and Senior Living Communities

Just a few decades ago, the term “nursing home” covered every type of senior living option, but that is no longer the case. Today’s senior living communities are designed to provide an active, vibrant, and fulfilling lifestyle for older adults while offering different levels of care. To understand which is the best choice, consider these key differences between senior living and nursing homes.

Differences in type of care

Nursing homes are just that; homes where people (old and young) go to get short or long-term nursing care for a broad range of physical conditions. Often called Skilled Nursing, they commonly provide medical care after a hospital stay for surgery or an illness, such as ongoing physical or respiratory therapy, wound care, IV therapy, and other post-hospital recovery needs. Other residents may have long-term chronic health conditions that require nursing care.

Senior living communities with Assisted Living and Memory Care also provide care, however, it is more along the lines of help with activities of daily living like personal hygiene, taking care of housekeeping and laundry, dispensing medications, and other tasks that are too difficult for the resident to manage alone. It should be noted, however, many senior living communities also work with resident’s physicians to plan therapies and activities that help them stay as active and independent as possible. Many older adults decide to move to a senior living community when they leave a nursing home to continue to get the daily assistance they need.

Differences in length of stay

Although many nursing home residents are there for a relatively short stay, those with catastrophic injuries or some diseases may remain there for years because their medical care needs never lessen but may even increase. In senior living communities, residents are often there for the rest of their lives because they know they can age in place safely with the option of upgrading their level of care as needed. Since senior living communities offer so many care choices, many seniors move there simply because they have everything they need right on campus. Learn more about levels of care to expect in senior living communities in our blog, “A Look at the Care Options in Senior Living Communities.”

Differences in lifestyle

Nursing homes mainly provide care for residents who are bedridden and/or require extensive help with activities of daily living, mobility, and medical care. Thus, the lifestyle is often a slow-paced one that provides the time for residents to rest and heal while undertaking activities that are essential to their care plan and recovery. 

On the other hand, senior living communities are not unlike all-inclusive resorts offering an active and fun lifestyle that includes daily activities and events, games and sports, classes like exercise and yoga, and plenty of opportunities to take trips, visit with friends, and make the most of retirement. Find out what it’s really like in our blog, “A Day in the Life of Older Adults in a Senior Living Community.”

Differences in cost

Nursing homes provide medical care and as a result can be substantially more expensive than senior living communities. According to the seniorliving.org blog, “Nursing Home Costs,” nursing home care costs vary from state to state, and according to the type of room and level of care needed, ranging from an average of $5,000+ per month to more than $37,000 per month for a semi-private room. On the upside, Medicare will help pay for short-term nursing home care under specific conditions as described in the medicare.gov article, “Health care & prescriptions in a nursing home.”

Senior living communities also vary in costs according to location, amenities, care provided, and housing choice. Since senior living communities aren’t generally medical care providers, costs will also often be less than for a nursing home. Senior living communities offer a variety of amenities designed to enhance the lives of residents and help them reach all their retirement goals with ease. For a rundown of how to assess senior living costs, the Investopedia blog, “The Cost of Living in a Retirement Community,” is an excellent guide. 

At Thrive Senior Living, we offer different levels of care all designed around communities that are focused on living well. We value independence, socialization, and fun because we know how important each is to our residents’ well-being. For more about choosing the right senior living community, download our Family Decision Guide. Learn more about Thrive’s communities, housing choices and amenities by contacting us today! 

Thrive Family Decision Toolkit Guide