Assisted Living vs Nursing Home Care: An Elder Law Attorney's Perspective

assisted living nursing home Jul 05, 2023
Assisted Living vs Nursing Home Care

This article about the difference between assisted living, vs. nursing home by Michigan elder law and estate planning attorney Nicole Wipp and the Family & Aging Law Center PLLC is not intended to be, and should not be construed as legal advice. It is for informational purposes only. For advice specific to your legal situation in Michigan, contact us today.

As our loved ones age, providing them with the level of care they need can become challenging. At some point, you may need to consider long-term care options like nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

As an elder law attorney, I have worked with hundreds of clients and their families that are facing this next step. While most people would, understandably, far rather choose assisted living over nursing home care, it can be a major mistake. In many cases, going to a nursing home is a far better option, so it pays to be informed.

That being said, moving your loved one to a nursing home or assisted living in Michigan is not easy. You may feel overwhelmed by the numerous options and advice about those options.

In this blog post, I will discuss the differences between choosing assisted living or a nursing home, the level of care each provides, and the pros and cons to help you decide.

The Best Thing to Do, Right Now

That being said, the absolute best thing to do is to schedule an appointment with our office to discuss your options!

A major difference between working with us compared to speaking to facilities, senior living advisors, placement specialists, or other people within the industry is that we don't get paid based on what you decide, and I am legally obligated to act in your loved one's best interests.

No other person in the elder industry can say the same!


Choosing the Right Care for Your Loved One

Choosing long-term care for your loved one is an important decision that requires careful consideration.

Assisted living and nursing homes offer a range of services to meet the needs of seniors who require assistance with daily activities.

However, the crucial difference between the two is the level of care required. Assisted living is ideal for low-medical needs seniors who wish to maintain a level of independence and can actually do things for themselves, while skilled nursing facilities provide comprehensive care to seniors with complex health and extensive medical needs and who cannot manage their daily activities alone.

Consider the pros and cons of each option and assess the needs of your loved one before making a decision. Ultimately, you want your loved one to be comfortable, safe, and happy in their new home.

5 Key Differences Between Assisted Living Communities and A Nursing Home

  1. How independent is a person on day-to-day tasks?

    Assisted living facilities are designed for seniors who need assistance with daily living activities but can still help themselves dress, bathe, eat, and move around somewhat independently.

    On the other hand, nursing homes are designed for seniors who need more extensive medical care and supervision.

  2. How separate should a person be from others?

    Assisted living communities typically offer private rooms or apartments.

    Skilled nursing care facilities provide 24-hour skilled nursing care, meaning most residents share a room with at least one other person.

  3. What level of social interaction is needed?

    Most assisted living facilities offer various social and recreational activities to keep residents engaged and connected.

    While nursing homes also offer leisure activities, the focus is primarily on daily care.

  4. How much daily medical care is needed?

    The level of care provided in an assisted living facility versus a nursing home differs significantly.

    Nursing homes provide services such as medication management, wound care, rehabilitation therapy, and assistance with activities of daily living.

    Residents in a nursing home receive round-the-clock care, specialized care units, and rehabilitation services. They have licensed healthcare professionals who offer specialized care to residents with varying medical needs.

    Assisted living facilities generally do not provide medical care, but some offer health monitoring and appointment assistance. If they provide medical services, it is often not as high of quality or as hands-on, and it comes at a steep additional price.

  5. What is your budget?

    Assisted Living Facilities differ depending on location, amenities, and service levels. The community usually charges monthly fees covering almost all services, including meals, activities, transport, and an apartment. The assisted housing system typically costs less than independent senior apartments but is considerably cheaper than nursing homes.

    assisted living and nursing

Level of Care Provided In Assisted Living Communities vs. A Nursing Home

Assisted living communities and nursing homes differ mainly in the quality human services and level of care they offer residents.

A nursing home is a long-term care facility that provides 24-hour skilled nursing care. Nursing homes are staffed by more highly-certified personnel who can assist patients with urgent needs.

Registered nurses and other healthcare professionals are available around the clock to manage complex medical conditions, including chronic diseases, wound care, and medication management.

Nursing homes usually offer rehabilitation services andhave specialized units that cater to residents with Alzheimer's disease, dementia, and other forms of memory impairment.

Conversely, assisted living communities provide less direct care yet still offer a high level of service, as quality care is not entirely tied to the quantity provided. It is important to note that a resident's level of care refers to the amenities provided.

Who Can Benefit From a Nursing Home?

A nursing home is advisable if you need full-time care and access to care comparable to the hospital.

Often a family will move a senior loved one from their home after a serious illness into another home or after an ongoing hospital visit. Because a skilled nursing facility offers extensive healthcare, the elderly are more stable.

In most nursing homes, hospice provides palliative care for seniors nearing the end of their senior life.

nursing home costs

When Is It Time for Assisted Living?

The assisted care community can provide excellent support if you have health issues or need assistance with tasks such as bathing and clothes. Some of the people choosing assisted life remain independent except for some everyday duties.

Often assisted living residents have their own car, prepare their own meals or come and go according to their schedules. The assisted living community offers individualized care and improved independence. Every resident has individual needs that create diverse communities.

Assisted Living:

An assisted living facility is a residential option for seniors who require minimal help with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as bathing, dressing, and using the toilet. Residents live in their own private room or apartment, and the facility provides housekeeping, meals, social activities, and transportation services. Assisted living offers a residential setting for seniors who need assistance with daily living activities but not round-the-clock medical care. It provides a home-like atmosphere and a level of independence for seniors compared to skilled nursing facilities.

Assisted living facilities offer various services, such basic services such as meal preparation, medication management, housekeeping, and transportation. Residents typically have studio or one-bedroom apartments or shared units. Assisted living facilities in Michigan must be licensed by the state.


Many assisted living communities provide activities for seniors to stay engaged

What Is A Skilled Nursing Facility?

A nursing home is a skilled nursing facility. They are also called long-term care centers.

They offer daily care that is more similar to a hospital. Most seniors usually shift to such premises after their surgery, requiring specialized and 24/7 care to help them recover.

Although some residents may be bedridden or incontinent, they are provided professional care to ensure a speedy recovery. While some only spend a short period to recuperate, others may remain on longer admission if they need 24-hour, medical assistance and attention.

residential facilities

Nursing homes provide nursing care 24/7 to seniors requiring significant medical attention and support for daily activities. Nursing homes have trained medical personnel to serve seniors and a medical director to supervise the staff.

Nursing homes provide medical care, including medication management, physical therapy, and wound care. They offer larger facilities with shared or private rooms.

Michigan nursing homes require licenses to operate, and the state regulates them.

Seniors who cannot perform daily activities and may require significant medical attention due to chronic illness, frailty, or dementia are ideal candidates for nursing homes.

Physical Layout of the Facility

The design of a building is paramount to providing optimal care for patients. Nursing homes, for instance, are purposefully crafted to swiftly attend to patients while ensuring the highest levels of comfort.

While nursing homes may lack homely vibes, they compensate for it with a professional medical atmosphere emphasizing resident safety.

Conversely, assisted living communities are more open in nature and promote an inclusive social atmosphere.

When to Move From Assisted Living to a Nursing Home

Choosing a nursing home can be extremely personal to you. Many people feel that they are experiencing an enormous loss of freedom that is often unassured to them.

Several factors affect your choice to move from an assisted living facility to a care facility; the most important is often a safety issue. Check out the following signs to indicate that you need a new level of medical attention:

Cost of Skilled Nursing Facilities

Skilled nursing facilities typically cost more than assisted living centers because they have more services. In Southeast Michigan, the average cost in 2023 is between $9,000-$14,000 a month.

That being said, unlike assisted senior living options, in a nursing home, you can get Medicaid coverage for the cost, which ultimately makes it a more affordable option.

Want to learn more about accessing nursing home Medicaid? Click here

A Recap - The Pros and Cons of Assisted Living vs. Nursing Homes

Pros of assisted homes include:

  • A level of independence for seniors compared to nursing homes

  • Home-like atmosphere

  • Some assistance with daily living activities

  • Usually, more socialization opportunities

Cons of assisted living include:

  • Little to no governmental benefits to help pay for care

  • Lack of medical support for seniors with complex medical needs

  • What seems like a lower cost at the beginning can quickly add up, if an individual has an additional need for services

  • Residents usually need to move to a nursing home if their health declines - additional moves are stressful on the elderly

Pros of nursing homes include:

  • Skilled medical staff available 24/7

  • Assistance with daily activities and personal care for seniors unable to manage alone as part of the cost - not add-ons like assisted living

  • Structured activities and socialization opportunities

Cons of nursing homes include:

- A less personal, hospital-like atmosphere

- Lack of independence for residents compared to assisted living

- Higher costs (if you don't have a great elder law attorney!)

Making The Decision Can Be Difficult, But We Are Here to Help

Choosing between assisted living and nursing homes depends on your loved one's health and daily needs. Assisted or independent living might be the better choice if your loved one needs assistance but can still function independently.

However, nursing homes are the best option if your loved one requires 24-hour medical care.

In either case, remember to tour the facilities, assess the level of care provided, and talk to staff members and residents to make an informed decision. Whatever you choose, make sure you stay involved in your loved one's care and continue to advocate for their well-being.

Learn more about Michigan Medicaid Applications here. 

If you are wondering how to pay or preserve assets, that's really the next step - and contacting us is your best choice!