People today live longer, healthier, more active lives than ever before. But, sometimes, in spite of preventive measures, injury or illness can undermine health conditions, and professional assistance or nursing care becomes necessary. If you or a family member need this type of care, there are different options to consider.

Your local Area Agency on Aging can help you determine what types of services you need. This evaluation is called a functional assessment. (Private agencies may charge a fee for these assessments; be sure to ask about any costs up front.) If a little help with daily living tasks is all that's required, assisted living or personal care may be a good choice. If 24-hour care and attention are needed, a skilled nursing facility may be more appropriate.

Assisted living and personal care provide help with simple, routine tasks such as:

  • Bathing or dressing
  • Taking medicine
  • Shopping, housekeeping and laundry
  • Getting around the community

Services are tailored to individual capabilities, providing as much or as little assistance as needed to support and encourage independence. This type of help enables many people to stay active and in control of their own lives.

Assisted living and personal care offer the reassuring benefit of having trained professional staff - such as registered nurses and licensed practical nurses - available 24 hours a day. Knowing that help is readily available if needed provides immeasurable peace of mind to both residents and families.

Services are provided in a variety of settings, such as Life Plan Communities or Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) and in stand-along communities. Many communities offer an attractive, home-like environment that respects individual privacy, encourages companionship and helps residents feel secure and comfortable. Accommodations can range from single rooms or studio-style apartments through larger options like a garden-style or single-family villa depending on individual needs, preferences and budgets. Often, there are common areas, such as recreation rooms, lounges, libraries, courtyards and gardens.

In addition to care, assisted living and personal care residences usually provide opportunities for recreation, social interaction, and enrichment. In CCRCs, assisted living and personal care residents have access to many or all the same services, amenities, activities and conveniences as independent living residents. In stand-alone communities, services typically include meals, housekeeping, planned activities, spiritual programs, transportation, scheduled trips, and other similar services.

Nursing care facilities provide nursing care, personal care and medical services for individuals who need this type of care around the clock. They also offer different types of therapies to assist in recovery from an illness, fall or surgery. Some nursing care facilities and Life Plan Communities / CCRCs offer memory support for people with mild to moderate memory loss due to Alzheimer's or dementia.

Nursing care can mean a short- or long-term stay, depending on the level and type of care needed, and is provided in Life Plan Communities / CCRCs and stand-alone facilities. Today, many of these communities are designed specifically to create a relaxed, more home-like environment. Cozy family rooms, cheerful dining rooms and outdoor courtyards are some of the features included that help residents feel comfortable and more at home. Shared living space allows for interaction and camaraderie. Single and double rooms provide quiet settings for private moments.

Memory support is another option that is becoming increasingly more available. This specialized form of nursing care not only addresses health issues, but also exercises the mind, rekindles memory and encourages independence. Often art, music and nostalgia are used to spark and strengthen memory. Creatively designed floor plans provide easy monitoring, interaction, security and safety, frequently including secure outdoor areas.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Personal Care, Assisted Living or Skilled Nursing Care


  • Provides reassurance of 24-hour assistance, if needed
  • Is less isolated than one's own home
  • Offers more opportunities for interaction, activities and recreation
  • May be less costly than receiving care in the home
  • Relieves family members of worry and stress


  • Is not as familiar as home
  • Is less private than home

Ready to start comparing different communities? Take along and fill out this helpful checklist of questions to ask during your visits.





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