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What is the difference between a nursing home and an assisted living community?

Nursing homes are licensed health care facilities. They provide rehabilitative services as well as long term care for residents. These facilities can bill in various ways – privately (paid by the resident or the resident’s caregivers), through private health insurance, long-term care insurance companies, or through Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Assisted living communities are a new concept of elder housing which have become more common over the past 20 years. They enable older adults to live in a home-style setting with additional support systems provided. Assisted living communities are residential communities generally licensed by an Elder Affairs agency. In Massachusetts they are licensed by the Department of Elder Affairs. This licensing allows room, board, and personal services to be provided to residents.

Assisted living communities enable older adults to maintain a sense of independence; residents live in their own apartment or suite within a residential community with access to a variety of other amenities the community offers. Meals, housekeeping services including laundry and access to social activities are included. As residents within an assisted living environment may need a little help with daily routines, personal care services are available. Skilled nursing care may be available as needed, but generally residents of assisted living facilities can move about and eat independently.

What is an independent living community?

Independent senior living communities offer healthy seniors the independence of their own home with the social interaction that can be missing in a traditional neighborhood. Most independent living communities are multi-building campuses with interior connected walkways which enable residents’ access to all buildings without going outside. Residents reside in their choice of apartment-style unit, typically with one or two bedrooms and baths and full cooking facilities. Laundry facilities may be within the unit or on the floor in a common laundry room. One meal daily is served in a dining room to encourage comradery with other residents. A variety of activities are available, including social, educational and spiritual events.  Residents typically purchase their unit and pay a monthly fee to cover maintenance, activities and meals. Some independent living communities include rehabilitation, respite or assisted living facilities to enable residents to age in place.

Does health insurance cover assisted living?

Health Insurance, such as Blue Cross Blue Shield or Medicare does not cover assisted living. Generally, assisted living communities are private pay only. However, long term care insurance and veterans benefits can cover the portion of the charges associated with personal care services. Some communities built with taxpayer subsidies offer reduced rates for a limited number of units. These units are available to residents based on their financial situation.

Do veteran’s benefits cover assisted living?

If you are a veteran or the surviving spouse of a veteran, you may qualify for financial benefits that can be used for assisted living charges. We would be happy to meet with you to discuss your needs and eligibility requirements. Learn more about care for Veterans.

Do assisted living communities provide nursing care?

Residents of assisted living communities are not in need of complex medical care such as 24 hour nursing, specialized nutrition/feeding and continuous care. Most assisted living facilities offer assistance with activities such as medication management, bathing and toileting. As the level of support increases, additional charges are often assessed.

Are there qualifications to become a resident of an assisted living community?

While there are variations among assisted living communities, there are some requirements commonly applied for a potential resident:

  1. Residents must be reasonably ambulatory — able to walk independently or with use of an assistive device
  2. Residents cannot require 24-hour nursing care
  3. With the exception of specialized memory care units or communities, a limited amount of cueing (directed guidance) is available
  4. A resident should be able to eat independently
  5. The resident should not require continuous care with activities such as medication management, bathing, toileting, and specialized nutrition/feeding

What does an assisted living community actually look like?

It is a residential building or campus with both public and private space. The resident generally has their own apartment or suite including a bathroom. Typically, three meals are provided each day and housekeeping services, including laundry are provided. Various types of social activities are available to encourage residents to interact with others and stimulate a sense of community.

Personal care services are provided as needed, typically scalable based on need and available for an additional fee, to assist a resident with dressing, bathing, medicine reminders, transferring and toileting.

How do I choose an assisted living community?

Moving a family member from a family home to an assisted living facility can be difficult for all family members. While most older adults prefer to remain in their homes, there often comes a point at which residential care is necessary. Always Best Care Metrowest can help ease the transition with our free assisted living placement services. We meet with your family and guide you through the process, providing educated advice, support and guidance:

    1. Assessment: We help you to determine if your older loved one can afford to live in an assisted living community based on a variety of factors including their resources, the type of care they need, and their age.
    2. Location: We discuss which geographic area seems best for the potential resident. Today’s families often live in different areas, and we help you to consider various geographic alternatives for your older loved one.
    3. Level and type of care: We review the level of care needed now and in the future based on your older adult’s health. Not all communities offer the same level of services, particularly with regard to memory impairment and Alzheimer’s care.  Whenever possible it is preferable to choose a community where your loved one can remain for the rest of their life.
    4. Cultural fit: Leaving a lifetime home and moving into a community is a big transition. Cultural fit is an important consideration in addition to geography and services provided. Because we are familiar with the communities in Massachusetts and southern New England, we can help provide the best cultural fit as well.
    5. Tours: Based on these criteria, we arrange tours of communities and accompany your family. We provide feedback and follow up to help you select the best community for your older loved one and the entire family.

What is the cost for helping me to find the right assisted living facility?

Our independent and assisted living placement services are provided for free. We have strong relationships with area independent and assisted living communities and can help you to find the best match for your loved ones’ particular needs and situation — at no charge to you. We will guide you through the process of searching and assessing each community and accompany you on tours of local communities.