With so many different types of healthcare facilities in America, it can be difficult to understand the difference between certain terms. One common question people ask when looking for an appropriate home for a senior loved one is, “What is the difference between skilled nursing and assisted living?” Both facilities are designed to accommodate seniors and provide important services, but the types of services offered at these two living centers differ considerably.

What Is a Skilled Nursing Facility?

Skilled nursing facilities, also known as SNFs, focus on caring for patients who require medical supervision and physical therapy. The residents at a skilled nursing facility may stay for short periods if they are recovering from surgery. Some skilled nursing facilities offer long-term care as well. Many types of custodial care given at SNFs are similar to the types of services that are commonly associated with nursing homes (bathing, feeding, dressing).

People who stay at these facilities are generally recovering from an illness or surgery that necessitates constant care and attention from a nurse. The other population that relies on these services are people who require long stays of more than 100 days. Around 6% of nurses work in some form of retirement facility.

Skilled nursing facilities host various healthcare professionals, including doctors, registered nurses, and therapists. This high level of care makes them more expensive, but for people who need 24/7 nursing and rehabilitative care, they are often an effective option.

What Is Assisted Living?

Assisted living centers are for older adults who need help with activities like laundry, transportation, and meals. Assisted living centers are often vibrant and social communities where active seniors can plan out their days, attend on-site activities, and take transportation to and from nearby stores and doctor appointments.

There may be nurses and healthcare staff on board, but assisted living centers do not look like hospitals or healthcare clinics. Adults can stay for short periods or for much longer stays. Assisted living centers may offer activities and services like:

  • Visiting entertainers
  • Physical therapy
  • Music and art classes
  • Medication management
  • Dressing and bathing assistance
  • Laundry services
  • Transportation options

Assisted living communities may offer age-in-place hospice care so residents can stay in a familiar and comfortable environment while undergoing end-of-life care.

Which Option Is Right for Me?

If you or a loved one is still independent but needs assistance with activities such as bathing, dressing, grooming, and medication management, an assisted living situation could be ideal. One reason people turn to assisted living situations is due to cognitive decline. Assisted living communities may offer services that help with memory retention and other forms of therapy that can slow the progression of dementia.

Someone with more serious health problems may require the type of medical services that come from nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities. A nursing home environment has larger numbers of trained medical professionals on hand to help patients who require more intensive supervision or round-the-clock care.


Q: Which Person Would Be the Most Likely Candidate for Assisted Living?

A: The most likely candidate for assisted living is someone who is older but still in relatively good health and needs help with basic things like laundry, medicine distribution, and possibly dressing. Seniors who have dementia but are otherwise healthy are one example. Assisted living centers are ideal for seniors who just need a little help with day-to-day necessities but do not need intensive medical supervision.

Q: Do Assisted Living Centers Ever Offer Memory Care?

A:  Not all assisted living centers offer memory care. Those that do may have varying levels of resources put into slowing the cognitive decline of guests. Advanced age comes with a higher risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s. Even if you or a loved one does not currently need memory care services, finding an assisted living center that offers those services can help you slow the progression of cognitive decline.

Q: How Does Assisted Living Differ From Other Levels of Care?

A: Assisted living arrangements differ from other levels of care due to the home-like environments that assisted living affords. Skilled nursing centers and traditional nursing home environments can look like hospital settings. This may be fine for someone seeking short-term rehab, but it may not present the most inviting environment for longer stays.

Q: Can Assisted Living Centers Offer Long-Term Care?

A: Different assisted living centers offer unique services and varying levels of care. Even within one assisted living facility, there may be different wings of the building that offer different levels of care for different stages of life. Some facilities cater to people who are physically independent yet offer aging-in-place hospice options as well. When researching care centers, consider options that can accommodate all stages of life after 60.

Q: What Is the Difference Between Skilled Nursing and Rehab?

A: The difference between skilled nursing and rehab can be subtle because the two terms are often used interchangeably. Both skilled nursing and rehab services are crucial for patient care, often overlapping, but each serves distinct roles in the healthcare continuum.

Rehabilitation refers to therapies designed to help patients recover from injury, surgery, or illness and improve their physical, occupational, or speech abilities. Skilled nursing focuses on providing comprehensive medical care, which could include rehab.

Schedule Your Assisted Living Center Visitation Today

At Rocky Mountain Assisted Living, we strive to exceed the standard offerings of other care centers. Our services feature visiting entertainers, scheduled outings, and nighttime checks. Additionally, we offer extra amenities such as personalized meal plans and salon services for an additional fee.

Although we are an assisted living center, our guests still have access to medical professionals. We handle the distribution of medications for our guests, and we offer comprehensive memory care services that can slow the progression of memory loss and cognitive decline. Many families entrust us to take care of their loved ones, and we would be honored to do the same for you. Contact our team today to schedule a visit to one of our locations in and around Denver.