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AL Estate Planning & Elder Law Blog

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Skilled Nursing Home or Assisted Living Facility: Making the Right Choice for Your Loved One

Have you felt overwhelmed while trying to choose a senior living environment for yourself or someone you love? There are many different options, with a wide range of residence types, fee structures, and services provided. Two common categories of senior living environments are Assisted Living Facilities and Skilled Nursing Homes. Let us review six significant differences between them.

1. Level of Care. While both environments provide assistance to individuals, a skilled nursing home may be better equipped to meet the needs of people who need help with daily living, like bathing, dressing, and eating, in addition to providing mental health support, medication management, and social support. An assisted living facility, on the other hand, may provide meals and social activities, but would expect its residents to be more independent in their own care. 

2. Type of Setting. A skilled nursing home is comparable to a medical facility, while an assisted living facility is a residential facility. Skilled nursing homes often have shared rooms and feel more like a hospital, while assisted living facilities range from small stand-alone houses to high-rise apartment buildings. Newer skilled nursing homes are being designed to look and feel less like institutions and more like residences. Consider taking a tour if this is an important factor in your decision. 

3. Availability of Staff. With few exceptions, skilled nursing homes are required to have a registered nurse on site for a minimum of 8 hours every day, 7 days a week. For assisted living facilities, licensed practical nurses or registered nurses must be accessible and on-call, but are not legally required to be on-site. 

4. Length of Stay and Goal of Residency. Generally, skilled nursing homes were designed for short-term assistance, while recovering from an accident or incident, like a stroke. The goal of a skilled nursing home is rehabilitation, and a return to independent living. Assisted living facilities are designed to support residents living a normal life with help nearby when necessary, and are considered permanent residences. The goal is to provide sufficient support for the residents to live as independently as possible for as long as they desire. 

5. Level of Independence. Due to the goal of skilled nursing being to help individuals after hospitalization, it often involves round-the-clock medical care. A resident’s schedule may be more limited based on medical services needed. Residents of assisted living facilities, however, often enjoy selecting their own activities and deciding how often and to what degree they want assistance. 

6. Cost and Insurance Coverage. Skilled nursing care usually costs more than assisted living because of the level of medical care required. Medicaid or long-term care insurance can help cover the cost of skilled nursing care because it is medically required, whereas assisted living facilities are typically not paid for with health insurance or Medicare programs. 

If you are choosing a senior living environment for yourself or a loved one, be sure to talk with the dedicated legal team at our office. We can help you protect your assets and make sure that you qualify for Medicaid assistance, should you need to rely on it for long-term care. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment.

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