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Assisted Living vs. Skilled Nursing

On the surface, Assisted Living and Skilled Nursing may seem similar. However, there are some distinct differences in levels of care each provide, as well as the payment options and community environment. Below please see an outline of each, so you can choose the best option for you or a loved one. 

How is assisted living different from skilled nursing?

While many seniors prefer to “age in place” at home, it’s important to remember this may not always be a viable option. Whether it’s becoming more forgetful or a life-altering event, many seniors move into senior living communities because it’s no longer safe to live alone. The decision to move from your established home to a skilled nursing or assisted living community can be challenging for many older adults to make, so it’s important to understand what the key differences are.

One of the biggest differences between these two care options is the amount of medical care provided for residents. Assisted living residents may only need a moderate amount of care, such as help getting dressed or assistance with medications. Often, assisted living residents just want the peace of mind knowing someone’s there to help if needed. In contrast, skilled nursing patients require 24-hour nursing care and medical supervision. Care is provided by professional caregivers. Skilled nursing is typically for those with acute and complex health care conditions that require ongoing nursing care and therapy.

Assisted Living (ALF)

If a person still has good mobility and is transitioning from an independent living setting, Assisted Living may be the most appropriate next step to help simplify household management and be in a community of peers. Most Assisted Living facilities also offer different levels of care and have caregivers on staff to offer help with daily living activities. However assisted living facilities typically are not staffed to provide 24/7 care. While Assisted Living facilities may accept payment from long term care insurance policies, you will need to explore which payor sources are accepted as most only accept private payment.

  • Assistance with daily living activities, such as bathing, eating, hygiene, help with medications or assistance getting around
  • Utilities, meals and activities included
  • Covered some by Medicaid but most communities are private pay only
  • Residents must be able to walk and stand independently
  • Residents must not have severe cognitive issues
  • Does not include 24/7 nursing care

Skilled Nursing (SNF)

Skilled nursing care would be most appropriate following a hospitalization or a decline in health that requires 24/7 nursing assistance.

Offering physical, speech and occupational therapy services, a skilled nursing facility offers a more intensive option to help someone regain mobility or recovery after a significant health event while also offering a community setting to be with others who share a similar phase of life.

Skilled nursing services also can be paid for through most insurance providers, as well as through Medicare and Medicaid sources or private payment.

  • Requires 24/7 nursing care
  • Needs assistance walking and standing
  • Needs physical rehabilitation services
  • More complex medical needs
  • Most facilities accept insurance, Medicare and Medicaid

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