According to reports, more than 50% of middle-aged Americans are sandwiched between taking care of their children and assisting an aging parent who’s over 65.

One of the most challenging situations you can face is determining the right elderly care for an aging parent. It’s critical that you help them identify the best senior living solution.

Two of the primary options are retirement homes and nursing homes.

If you’re not sure what the difference is between a retirement home vs a nursing home, stay with us. In this guide, we break down the differences and outline some of the things to consider when choosing between the two.

If neither of these options is suitable, we also outline the benefits of assisted living.

The Differences Between a Retirement Home vs a Nursing Home

Retirement homes and nursing homes both offer elder care, but at different levels. Retirement homes cater to seniors who can still take care of their basic needs. Nursing homes are equipped to offer intensive senior care.

Retirement Homes

Retirement living communities cater to seniors who are still independent and active. They’re suited to seniors who can still handle most daily activities. Such as bathing themselves, preparing light meals and snacks, and managing basic life management.

The primary focus of most retirement homes is to provide a safe, stimulating environment for seniors. Services usually include things like:

  • Communal dining
  • Housekeeping
  • Transportation
  • Recreational activities

Retirement homes also tend to offer socialization opportunities. Most retirement living environments consist of separate units, such as townhouses.

Retirement homes typically have a team of basic medical staff, such as onsite nurses. However, these nurses aren’t there to provide round-the-clock care. Their role is to assist seniors who experience unexpected medical issues.

In short, retirement homes don’t exist to offer ongoing care to seniors. They may have access to healthcare providers, but these communities aren’t designed to support residents who require 24/7 nursing and assistance.

Instead, retirement living homes aim to make independent seniors’ lives more comfortable and fulfilling.

Because there isn’t an intensive level of medical assistance available, retirement home costs tend to be cheaper than nursing homes.

Nursing Homes

Nursing homes have attracted a stigma as places that elderly people go when their family doesn’t care about them. This is not necessarily true.

If your elderly parent has complex medical issues and intensive care needs, a nursing home might be the best option.

Nursing homes are skilled medical nursing facilities. They are for seniors who need ongoing medical supervision due to either physical or cognitive ailments, like living with dementia.

Nursing homes offer extremely high levels of care. If you place your aging parent in a nursing home, you can expect the facility to assist them with all needs, including:

  • Bathing
  • Toileting
  • Eating
  • Taking medications
  • Mobility
  • Dressing

Nursing homes typically handle all areas to do with meal preparation, housekeeping, and laundry.

Nursing homes usually have a large contingent of medical staff as well as certain medical equipment. They are equipped to monitor health conditions and respond to medical emergencies.

Some nursing homes also specialize in certain areas of senior care, such as dementia. These nursing homes may have dedicated wings for seniors living with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

They may offer rehabilitative programs like:

  • Speech therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Physical therapy

Some nursing homes also offer hospice care. The main focus of hospice care is to provide quality of life to seniors undergoing advanced, life-limiting, and terminal illnesses.

Because nursing homes offer more intensive medical care, they are usually more expensive than retirement homes.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between a Retirement Home vs a Nursing Home

Now that we’ve covered the key differences between a retirement home vs a nursing home, you might already have some insight into which option is best suited for your parent.

But choosing the right senior care facility can still be tough. Here are a few factors to consider that can help you identify whether your parent should be taken care of in a nursing home or join a retirement home.

Short-Term Health Needs

Nursing homes typically cater to older seniors who need ongoing assistance and medical supervision. However, nursing homes also offer elderly care for seniors who have temporary or short-term medical issues.

For instance, if your parent has had a fall and injured themselves, they might not be able to stay in their home unassisted. However, if they can make a full recovery from their injuries, they may be able to return to their current living arrangements.

In the meantime, a nursing home can offer them specialized, round-the-clock care that they can’t access at home.

Nursing homes can bridge the gap between hospital care and full recovery. If your parent has undergone surgery, there might be a period during their recovery where they can’t remain in hospital, but also aren’t able to return home. Nursing homes offer rehabilitative care that can give your parent the best chances of full recovery and healing.

Advanced age can significantly slow down the healing process. Elderly people are also less mobile. Completing basic tasks at home while recovering from surgery can put them at risk of accidents.

The Age and Vitality of Your Parent

Another thing to consider when deciding between a retirement home vs a nursing home is the age and overall vitality of your parent.

Statistics show that over 83% of nursing home residents are older than 65. Those younger than 65 are usually there temporarily to heal from injury or illness, or have a debilitating disease that requires constant care.

If your parent is under 65, and in relatively good health, they most likely don’t need the constant medical supervision that nursing homes offer.

However, if they are advanced in age, very frail, or have a chronic health issue, a nursing home might be the safest option. A nursing home might also be a wise choice if your parent is suffering from severe cognitive decline.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease can progress rapidly, leaving seniors unable to live safely on their own. Retirement home environments usually aren’t equipped to offer comprehensive care for advanced cognitive decline.

If you are unsure if your parent should enter a nursing home, you can seek advice from their healthcare providers. Their primary care doctor should be able to give you an informed opinion on their current and future medical needs.

Level of Daily Care Needed

Besides age and health, you also need to think about the amount of daily care your parent needs.

Can they dress themselves, make a sandwich, and take care of small tasks? If so, they probably aren’t ready for a nursing home. A retirement home will likely be the better option.

Prematurely entering a nursing home environment could rob them of years of independence and potentially speed up their decline. As the old saying goes, if you don’t use it, you lose. As long as your parent can still safely carry out daily tasks, they should be allowed to do so.

On the other hand, if bathing themselves, getting dressed, boiling water, or even moving around is becoming dangerous for them to do unassisted-it might be time to consider a nursing home.

Nursing Home Requirements

Because nursing homes offer more medical facilities than retirement homes, they often have a set of entry requirements. Just like you can’t be admitted to a hospital for mild flu symptoms or scratched knees, seniors in perfect health typically can’t be admitted to a nursing home.

As the American population ages, spaces in nursing homes are in high demand. Estimates state that by 2040, roughly one in five Americans will be 65 or older.

To ensure availability for those that most need it, nursing homes usually only accept residents who have a medical condition that requires ongoing supervision.

Medical Requirements

Depending on the nursing home, your parent might need to undergo a medical assessment. This will determine their mental and physical health status. Based on the assessment results, the nursing home will then evaluate whether the facility’s care is suited to their needs.

Most nursing homes offer various levels of care. These range from help with basic tasks, like getting dressed, to specialized nursing.

Some nursing homes also require applicants to have a doctor’s recommendation. In other words, your parent might need a referral from their healthcare provider stating that they need to be transferred to the specific nursing home in question. This helps to ensure that the nursing home’s facilities meet their needs.

Most nursing homes also assess applicants’ behavioral and cognitive states. This helps ensure that all residents are appropriately cared for.

Some nursing homes might not be able to accommodate residents who’re suffering from severe cognitive impairment.

Financial Requirements

Besides these medical assessments, most nursing homes also do financial assessments. This helps them determine the financial capabilities of the potential resident and their family. Nursing homes need to ensure that the residents they take can pay for the care they receive.

Financial assessments usually involve evaluations of assets, income, and things like Medicaid and other health insurance. If your parent is not in a financial position to afford the costs, you can include your finances in the assessment.

Assisted Living: The Perfect Blend

If you’re struggling to decide between a retirement home vs a nursing home, maybe your parent doesn’t quite fit into either.

Maybe they’re in relatively good health and don’t require the level of medical supervision and care that a nursing home offers. But, they also aren’t independent enough to live in a retirement home.

You may be worried that they’re taking their medication improperly, or aren’t able to complete certain tasks safely.

Determining the best solution at this point can be very tricky. You don’t want to rob them of freedom, privacy, and responsibility over small tasks they can still do.

But you also don’t want to put them at risk.

Combining Care With Independence

Assisted living can be the ideal solution. Assisted living facilities offer a middle-way solution between the freedom of a retirement home and the safety and medical supervision of a nursing home.

Most assisted living facilities are meant for seniors who need a certain level of assistance with daily activities like:

  • Bathing
  • Dressing
  • Medication management

Assisted living facilities also usually offer more meal preparation, personal care, and housekeeping services than retirement homes.

At the same time, assisted living homes usually have a strong focus on facilitating independence for residents. Assisted living facilities often offer services like group transportation for things like shopping trips, medical visits, and social outings.

They may also have organized social events. Being able to partake in social activities can be a huge driver of mental health and well-being. Seniors are vulnerable to feelings of isolation, and almost one-third of adults over 65 are socially isolated.

Isolation isn’t just bad for mental health. It can also impact the physical health of seniors. Research has linked isolation and loneliness to a variety of serious health conditions, including heart disease and dementia.

A lot of assisted living facilities try to promote decision-making from residents. Instead of having to give up all autonomy, residents have more control over their daily activities, meals, and social outings.

Here at Royal Garden Board and Care Homes, our driving goal is to make each of our residents as comfortable, happy, and fulfilled as possible.

All of the locations are beautifully furnished, and we offer a wide array of personalized services and assistance. Our teams of caring professionals are always on hand to assist with daily activities, including mobility, medication reminders, and more. We even allow small pets.

Is Assisted Living Right for Your Parent?

Retirement homes offer seniors a high level of freedom while providing basic care needs and services like meal preparation. Nursing homes are specialized medical facilities, equipped to care for seniors with serious health concerns who require high levels of assistance.

Not sure how to choose between a retirement home vs a nursing home for your parent?

Assisted living can be the ideal solution if your parent needs more care than a retirement home can offer, but isn’t ready for a nursing home.

If you’re looking for an assisted living solution in Los Angeles, Royal Garden Board, And Care Homes is the perfect option.

Contact us today to discuss a custom care plan that is tailor-made to suit your parent’s individual needs.