With all the lingo in the senior living industry, it’s hard to keep everything straight. Two of the terms often used interchangeably are ‘nursing home’ and ‘senior living,’ but in reality, they are drastically different environments. Understanding those differences – from lifestyle to care to accommodations -can help you truly find the best fit for yourself or your loved one. As well as how those differences also help senior living to better reduce exposure to COVID-19.

Scratching the Surface of Senior Living

On the surface, it’s easy to see why senior living and nursing homes might be seen as the same thing. They both offer care and housing to seniors, right? But you may be surprised to learn that senior living actually encompasses a continuum of care.

Independent living is what you might consider the entry point of the continuum and is designed for seniors who need little to no support with daily tasks. Rather, they want more social options along with a carefree lifestyle that includes a range of activities and amenities as well as freedom from the worries of homeownership.

Next on the continuum is assisted living which still empowers seniors to be as independent as possible, but also offers the support they might need with onsite care to help with daily tasks such as dressing, bathing, and medication management. You’ll also find similar amenities, activities, and social options as independent living here.

Senior living’s continuum also includes memory care which is specifically for those with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The environment is designed to be secure, yet comfortable and easy to navigate. It also includes 24/7 support from specially-trained staff as well as therapy and activities tailored to the abilities and needs of each resident.

Some senior living communities may offer only one type of care on the continuum, however, most offer multiple levels of care on the same campus.

How do Nursing Homes Compare?

Regardless of where you or your loved one are in senior living’s continuum of care; nursing homes not only serve different needs, they offer a much different experience including:

Round the Clock Care – Unlike senior living, nursing home residents require 24/7 care and/or specialized care such as IV therapy, injections, catheter care and wound treatment. Onsite nurses also regularly monitor vitals and medical equipment.

Lack of Privacy – Nursing homes are primarily a medical setting which means you’re more likely to share a room, and in general, have less personal space than the most private accommodations found in senior living. What’s more, that extra privacy and space make it easier for couples to stay together in senior living.

Less focus on Lifestyle – Senior living focuses on lifestyle and overall wellbeing whereas nursing homes, by nature of resident needs, focus on the clinical – which is why it feels more like a hospital setting! There may be some level of activity programming, but nothing like the range of activities, outings, clubs, and classes offered in senior living.

Lack of Independence – Because of their needs, nursing home residents simply don’t have the same level of independence as senior living residents. For example, senior living accommodations may feature a kitchen or kitchenette so you can cook if you wish. Residents can also choose how they spend their time and the amenities they want such as private transportation and concierge services, for example.

COVID-19 Concerns

As you likely know, seniors are at higher risk for more serious complications from COVID-19 and nursing homes have had tragic challenges in containing the spread among residents. On the other hand, a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found that senior living communities “may be in a better position to contain the spread of the disease” compared with nursing homes.

Here’s why:

Less Interaction with Healthcare Providers – As we noted earlier, senior living residents simply don’t require the level of medical support as those in nursing homes which helps these communities better contain the spread of COVID-19.

More Opportunity to Social Distance – Not only is senior living more likely to have private accommodations, but these large campuses also feature ample outdoor space to enjoy as residents are typically more mobile. The smaller, more cramped space in nursing homes makes social distancing much more difficult.

For more information on our senior living community, contact us today to schedule a virtual tour.

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