Learn How to Make the Right Choice Between Assisted Living Facilities, Nursing Homes, and Retirement Communities

Deciding between a nursing home, an assisted living facility, or a retirement community can be emotionally draining. You want the absolute best care for your loved one. These days, there are several living options for seniors on a wide range of family budgets. You should educate yourself about the different types of long term care in Virginia so that you can know which is the best option for your unique situation. Here are the fundamental long term care vocab terms and their definitions:

Nursing Homes

Nursing homes provide long term care for chronically ill patients. In VA, the term “nursing home” is often used interchangeably with “long-term care facility.” This type of care includes everything from help with daily living needs (food, medicine, hygiene) to more advanced physical therapy, such as rehabilitation after a heart attack or fall. Nursing home care is also common for patients with Alzheimer’s or other special needs. Trained help is on call 24 hours, but as I cover in another article, the level of training required might surprise you.

Nursing homes are perfect for people who need skilled care around the clock. If your parent is suffering from dementia or another mental condition that requires constant care, this is the type of care you will be looking at. Essentially, any situation in which an elderly person cannot physically care for themselves on a day to day basis requires nursing home level care.

Assisted Living Facilities

This level of care is less hands-on than a nursing home. Your parent will not have a nurse in his or her room around the clock (not even a nursing home can offer that), but staff will be there to remind them about daily tasks like taking medication. Seniors in assisted living facilities might liken it to a hotel: certain things are taken care of for them, like housekeeping, meal times, medication schedules, and activities, but they still have the freedom to live their lives as they would if they were living on their own.

Assisted living is like a personal aide, not a 24-hour nurse. It functions as a comfortable intermediate between full-time care and maximum freedom. Care is there when the senior needs it, but not hovering over his shoulder and micromanaging his life (which would be proper necessary in a nursing home environment.) Assisted living facilities should be taken on a case by case basis when analyzing your needs; some can provide more hands-on help and skilled care than others, so pay attention to your family’s particular needs to make sure they are covered.

Retirement Communities

On the other end of the spectrum from nursing homes are retirement communities. Here, seniors are free to manage their own homes and live their lives as they see fit. This is an ideal situation for folks who can generally take care of themselves on a day to day basis. A retirement community is simply meant to provide specialized housing and activities to cater to a senior community’s needs. These can also be called retirement centers or retirement villages, and the type of care is centered around personal freedom and the opportunity to live with other seniors in a community that’s familiar with your needs.

Be aware, knowing what to look for when choosing which type of Virginia long term care is right for you is a whole ‘nother beast altogether, which I fully cover in my new book A Family’s Guide to Choosing the Right Virginia Nursing Home for Your Loved One, but now you have the fundamentals in place for differentiating between types of care, and what is meant by these important terms and definitions in the world of elderly care.

Ben Glass
Ben Glass is a nationally recognized Virginia injury, medical malpractice, and long-term disability attorney