What is the Difference Between Assisted Living, Memory Care and Skilled Nursing?

Difference between types of care at a senior living home

When thinking about assisted living, memory care and/or skilled nursing so many of us conjure up images from when we might have visited our mom or grandmother in a senior living facility or nursing home, but senior living has changed significantly over the past few years. Communities today are simply not what they used to be.  Most senior living options are beautiful, friendly, homelike, and comfortable.

You may be wondering, what is the difference between assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing.  This may help you…

Assisted Living

When you need more care, choosing a new place to call home can be a challenge in the best of circumstances. When looking for a place that can accommodate specific health and daily living needs, the challenge can become even more daunting. You want a place where you can still be independent and enjoy life, while receiving the assistance you need to live a healthy life.

Senior assisted living communities should provide, for a fee, activities of daily living such as the following. These can typically be added as a person’s care needs increase.

  • Bathing
  • Dressing
  • Personal hygiene
  • Eating
  • Maneuvering in and out of bed and/or walking
  • Incontinence

Questions you should ask when looking for a superior assisted living community:

  1. Do the residents look happy and well cared for?
  2. Is the senior living community clean?
  3. Does the staff look happy?
  4. Are there common areas that help make the community look and feel like a home?
  5. Are the grounds well-kempt and are there areas for residents to walk and stroll?
  6. Does this community provide the services I or my loved one needs?
  7. What is the ratio of staff to residents?
  8. Does the community offer additional services or have a skilled nursing facility on-site should care needs change?
  9. What amenities and activities does the community provide?
  10. What are the dining options and are special dietary restrictions honored?

Memory Care Community

Perhaps no form of care requires more patience, compassion or skill than caring for seniors living with memory loss. Finding the right community is essential in helping ensure a life of purpose and fulfillment for your loved one.

Assisted living and memory care offer many of the same services, including housing, meals, and help with activities of daily living (ADLs), like bathing, grooming, and using the toilet. However, memory care also specializes in caring for seniors with memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease, and other forms of dementia. Memory care facilities and staff are well-equipped to help seniors with dementia, maintain cognitive skills, a sense of self, and quality of life for as long as possible.  It’s best to find a facility that has a separate neighborhood for memory care where the staff receive specialized training for working with this population.

Questions you should ask when looking for a caring memory care community:

  1. Is it a secure neighborhood that specializes in memory care?
  2. What specific services does the community provide?
  3. Does the staff receive specialized training?
  4. What level of personal attention and assistance can residents expect?
  5. Does the community have a special dining program that uses various techniques to address the specific challenges people living with dementia have while eating?
  6. What programs are offered to stimulate the mind, exercise the body and provide socialization opportunities?
  7. How does the community handle medical emergencies?
  8. What is the ratio of staff to residents?
  9. How does the community communicate with families about a resident’s well-being?

Skilled Nursing

No one likes to think about skilled nursing, but there comes a time when many of us may need more care than we can get from family members, or even in an assisted living community or memory care facility. Skilled nursing care facilities, or nursing homes, are licensed healthcare facilities that are inspected and regulated by a state’s Department of Health Services. They offer long and short-term care for seniors who need rehabilitation services or who suffer from serious or persistent health issues.

Skilled nursing facilities are staffed 24 hours by Registered Nurses, Licensed Practical Nurses, Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant, Certified Nurse’s Aides, Restorative Aides and Social Workers.  Many skilled nursing facilities also offer activity coordinators that round out the active and engaging, yet peaceful and practical environment of quality care.

Skilled nursing care facilities also provide:

  • pharmaceutical, laboratory and radiology services
  • social and educational activities
  • laundry services
  • limited transportation
  • end-of-life or hospice care
  • respite care

Not all nursing homes offer these services. Families should visit several facilities to find the one best suited to their loved one’s needs.

When choosing a retirement community, whether you want to live independently or need care, be sure to visit several.  Each community has its own personality, and each senior living community has a variety of offerings that may or may not fit what you are looking for.  Make sure to take a full tour of the community, have a meal there and even participate in an activity or two to see how each community feels to you. You will find one that fits your wants, needs, desires and budget!

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